December 4

Your B to B Target Audience Definition Is Wrong

If your business to business strategy is based on positioning your product or service as best in class then I’ll bet you’re targeting the wrong audience with your marketing.

That’s right, I’d like to make a little wager with you. I bet by the end of this post I can convince you that your current B2B marketing target audience definition is missing a key stakeholder audience.

In fact, I’m so confident that I’m right, I’ll even go so far as to say, by the end of this post, you’ll actually agree that your Aunt Jenny’s friend Mona is one of your KEY audiences.

So what do you think? Are you up for the bet? Are you confident enough in your B to B marketing strategy to read on?

The Obvious B to B Target Audience

Ok, so now that you’re still here, let’s get the obvious out of the way. I’m going to assume that you’ve done your target audience research. You’ve analyzed your site traffic, mapped your click-thrus, analyzed your sales calls and in general done all the things B2B Marketers do to define and target the right sales prospects.

And that would be enough if your brand was just a brand.

But remember, you said you were different. You command a price premium… you fancy yourself best in class and I’m guessing expect to achieve the pricing elasticity and margins enjoyed by best in class brands. Hell, you might even say you’re an aspirational brand.

Are you…are you an aspirational brand? Do you want your customers to be proud to say they use your product or service? Do you leverage and monetize that pride?

Ok, if you do, then it’s time for me to win that bet.

Your Missing B to B Target Audience

Think holistically about your target audience for a moment. And think about how you’re an aspirational brand… and how proud your customers are to say they use you.

But what is Pride?

According to Wikipedia, “… pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”

So then, would you agree that pride is an emotion that is largely the result of what others think of our decisions versus what we think of our decisions independent of others’ viewpoints?

So if pride relies on the opinions of others, would it not then make sense (when trying to create an aspirational or “best in class” brand) to target the friends of our target audience as much, if not more than, our target audience themselves?

Now your first reaction might be that to do so would be wasteful. But think about it.

If you want your brand positioned against your target audience as best in class or a aspirational brand, it will be important to ensure your prospects’ colleagues understand and believe this proposition.

To put it in B2C terms, let’s say 90% of adult car buyers don’t really understand automotive engineering well enough to truly know if a BMW is the ultimate driving machine or if it is worth 3 times what a Hyundai is worth. Yet, the BMW commands a price well above the Hyundai and folks are proud to have paid it.

Why? Is it just because BMW owners believe the car is worth more than other cars? Is that singular belief strong enough to reduce pricing pressures and allow the BMW to be sold for significantly more than a Hyundai? In other words, is a BMW the ultimate driving machine because you say it is or because of of your friends say it is?  Wouldn’t this suggest that there is there something else going on in the equation?

I’d argue it’s the latter. For an aspirational brand to be aspirational, everyone (prospective customers and non-prospective customers) must be aware, understand and believe the brand promise. Otherwise, in the case of BMW, it’s just another car versus the ultimate [high priced] driving machine. Thus, the true BMW branding target audience is their prospective customer AND his or her friends.

The same dynamic holds true in business to business branding — maybe even more strongly when you consider certain types of complex business to business sales. Think IBM — the old saying, “no one ever got fired for hiring IBM” is a classic example. If you go back and examine IBM’s products during IBM’s heyday, you’ll find it’s products were more expensive, took longer to deliver and generally were not any better than the competition.

Yet, IT Managers felt comfortable recommending IBM to their CEO’s. Why? Ahem…

So while your B to B sales strategy will likely focus squarely on reaching your true target audience, think twice about focusing your B to B marketing strategy so finely.

All B2B Sales Are Emotional

But what about your Aunt Jenny’s friend Mona?

Remember, I bet you that I could convince you that she was a viable target for your B to B brand marketing.

Thinking that B2B Sales are logical, measured, and rational is probably the biggest mistake B2B Marketers make today. And that’s where your Aunt Jenny and her friend Mona come in.

I’d argue that B to B Sales are probably the MOST emotionally driven decision a person can make. Would you agree with that? Would you agree that publicly attaching your name to a purchase recommendation for your company is decidedly personal and thus emotional?

Before you answer ask yourself this… do you like to be wrong? Do you like it when others know you’re wrong? Or how about when you have to publicly acknowledge that you’re wrong? Let’s face it, crow tastes like crap, which is why you don’t find it on too many restaurant menus.

We’re all a bit proud… we’re all human. We want our mommas to be proud of us and yes, we actually care what Aunt Jenny and her friend Mona think about the decisions we make, even when we disavow the very thought.

And that’s why it is imperative to target not just your B to B Sales Target but also their friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Because you’re not a best in class solution when you say so. You’re a best in class solution when others say so — even if those others don’t have a friggin idea what you do or even what class you’re in.

So, did I win the bet?

photo credit:makelessnoise

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About the author

Tom is 30 year veteran of the sales & marketing industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and showing others how to combine the power of digital platforms and technology with the science of persuasion to turn conversations into customers.

He is the founder of Converse Digital, a former contributing writer for Advertising Age, and author of The Invisible Sale regarded by readers as a "must-read for any marketing and sales team."

The Invisible Sale has been described as: showing the reader how to rip down the communication barrier between sales and marketing teams in an easy-to-digest look at how both teams can work together to attract, measure, and close prospects in today's online landscape.

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And for those seeking to learn more about the art and science of persuasion, modern digitally oriented prospecting, effective lead nurturing without becoming a nuisance and closing more business deals, Tom has authored hundreds of articles available via his Painless Prospecting Newsletter Archives.

He is also a highly sought after sales & marketing keynote speaker who has graced stages in 52 cities, 27 states, and 7 countries spread across 4 continents.

He primarily speaking on topics of sales, business development, social selling, social media and the power of consumer experiences shared via social media as the ultimate form of advertising.

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  1. OK, so i love this article Tom. Well worth sharing and you have me convinced but I have a question. Well, maybe two.

    1. If you are a challenger brand and not huge in the industry how do you create that allure? For instance in the consulting world I’ve heard figures like McKinsey and Boston Consulting group actually control a huge portion of the market and demand the highest rates.

    2. Again, as a startup company we know that we provide ‘best in class’ market research solutions. Our company is built around speed of service and affordability. Do you think that affordability hurts us? and how do you see executing that you demonstrate that superiority? I could say we are ‘Best in Class’ but everyone claims that.

    1. Hey Keith,

      Great questions!

      As a challenger brand, certainly think you can create allure… think about Apple. Way back in the beginning it was Apple v IBM but IBM quickly made it a one horse race. So Apple (thankfully for them) focused on allure and built a tribe that interestingly agreed to pay a lot more to be an Apple than most folks paid to be a PC. Apple’s difference was “best in class” though they never called it that… instead folks that are Apples will say something about ease of use or “it just works” as their justification for being Apple.

      How can a start-up demonstrate best in class research? Another great question… maybe a few other readers will chime in on this one too — but my two cents is that you’d need to do great research and then talk about or share that research. Everyone loves free (usable) data and there is so little of it, that you’d be able to build an audience. I think Tom Webster is probably one of the best at this tactic. Between his blog, research reports that Edison creates and shares and his always funny and smart conference sessions — you can’t help but think those Edison boys sure are smart.

      Ok, so there is my first blush, what do you think buddy?

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