“You talk too damn much and too damn much of it is about you.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
It must be my love of classic hardboiled detective novels, but seeking out the clues and puzzles that underpin modern B2B content marketing is one of my favorite parts about working in this rapidly-changing field.
But for a lot of marketers, sussing out who your buyers are isn’t likely the most glamorous part of of their job. You might prefer to be strategizing for a new social media campaign or dreaming up taglines.
Here’s the rub: Creating content is pointless when you don’t know who’s going to read it. It’s especially pointless if you use it as a vehicle to incessantly self-promote. It’s like trying to buy a gift for someone you’ve never met. The gift will likely reflect your interests rather than theirs and you’ll be insulted when it’s not appreciated.
So before you invest in writing, design, and production, make sure you know who you’re talking to – and where in the funnel you want them to hear it.
If you’re like a lot of marketers, you may not be exactly sure whose problems you’ll be solving. But it’s not an impossible task, you just have to become a buyer detective.
Deepen Your Buyer Personas
If your personas consist of just an industry and job title, it’s time to get serious about data. That sort of approach is like saying you’re looking for a suspect wearing a shirt and pants. You want to target buyers with meaningful content, which means you must understand their triggers and goals – you have to move beyond their role.
Let’s start calling buyers what they are: people. When they walk into an office they don’t shed their human nature. As marketers, we need to get to the heart of what makes people, tick – emotion. How do you figure that one out, Jack? By looking at interest and attribute data to glean precise customer insights. It’s the same thing as calling in the Feds to build a profile of the perp you’re after.
Things to ask yourself include: What social media do your buyers prefer? What are their daily struggles and long-term aspirations? Does their content consumption point to a specific challenge?
Map the Buyer Journey
Just like every criminal has a different play, don’t assume every buyer follows the same path. Persona A might have a certain obstacle that keeps her stuck at a certain stage of the funnel, while Persona B may have an urgent pain point that speeds him through much faster or urges him to take different steps.
The way to address this is by using responsive nurture tracks that shift leads to different segments based on their behavior – and be aware that what seems like a hot lead can be a dead end.
The best detectives keep their wits sharp, knowing that a case can break wide open at any time. The same applies to you: your buyer personas and content programs should be dynamic, not static.
Always keep evaluating and adapting, and stay nimble so you can modify as needed. By monitoring campaign performance and incorporating new insights, you’ll identify new audiences and hone in on your buyers like a cop in hot pursuit.
Tap Sales and Customer Service
Once the suspect’s description has been nailed, it’s time to put out an APB to your team. Surveys are all well and good, but the best feedback comes right inside your company.
Ask your sales team what challenges or concerns your business successfully solved for new customers. Ask customer service reps the complaints and questions they hear every day. Then, use that knowledge to update your personas and create content that addresses the most pressing objections, challenges and goals.
This might seem like a conundrum: How you can engage with customers before you find out who they are? Ah, but you can. The idea is to begin broadly, then narrow your focus.
Start by soliciting input and questions on your blog. Use Twitter polls. Cultivate a thriving social community and see who your brand evangelists are. Involve customers in your product and service creation They’ll feel valued and you’ll get priceless, real-time data to shape your strategies.
Remember, everyone wants to feel connected to their favorite brands – and the customers who respond to your initiatives will provide a treasure trove of audience insights.
Too many businesses are stuck in one-way marketing programs that are more like a monologue than a dialogue. We’ll depart from the detective analogy here to say that your marketing efforts shouldn’t look like an interrogation.
Marketing is more like dating: talking about yourself all night usually means you don’t get a second date. To keep your customers coming back, you have to be a good listener. Instead of ignoring online comments and reviews, pay attention to who’s leaving them. Monitor social conversations and find out what people are saying about you. You might be surprised by who’s interested and who’s not – and you’ll probably think of a few ways to convert indifference into curiosity.
Too many companies pump out one-size-fits-most content and expect it to attract leads and drive sales by brute force. A buyer detective knows there’s a time for that, but there’s also a time for finesse. But to really build a supercharged sales and marketing ecosystem, you have to put on your detective’s fedora and know exactly whom you’re chasing.
We live in an era rich with data – so stay on the beat, keep drilling down into your buyer details and you’ll be able to solve any “case” that comes your way.