Success in Business-to-Business Advertising Depends Heavily on Choosing the Right Audience

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Business-to-business advertising can seem like a trainwreck just waiting to happen.business-to-business advertising — man and woman split down the middle

Have you ever seen a trainwreck? This mountain of a vehicle comes barreling along the tracks. Everyone is cool in the minutes leading up to the wreck because

  1. Trains drive all the time, and
  2. Those people don’t know it’s all about to go off the rails.

But some people are nervous — in their gut, they know something’s wrong, and they understand the inherent danger of trains themselves: There’s a lot of weight, a lot of momentum, and a lot of money coming down the tracks.

If it’s off even a little bit, it’s gonna be bad for everyone.

And then, POW! The train hits whatever it hits, and all hell breaks loose.

Business-to-business advertising is a trainwreck waiting to happen. It takes an experienced, dedicated engineer to make sure that train stays on the rails.

When It Comes to Business-to-Business Advertising, There’s a Lot on the Line

Though business-to-consumer advertising generally costs a lot more and happens on a larger scale, business-to-business advertising has a lot more on the line than most B2C campaigns.

You see, because B2B generally targets a small, niche audience of (generally speaking) intelligent, influential, successful people, it has to be done right…

Because your audience probably won’t give you a second chance.

B2C, on the other hand, can miss, and miss massively, and still make a comeback fairly easily (or simply not lose that much ground).

We see examples of this everywhere. Pepsi did a big swing-and-a-miss with their ill-advised commercial, involving a Kardashian of some sort, early in 2017, but people are still drinking Pepsi.

Business to business is different. If you alienate or upset your tiny group of potential clients, there may not be enough people left to do business with.

And losing even one client can be devastating to a B2B business.

Business-to-Business Advertising Can’t Afford to Miss the Mark on Audience

When your pool of potential clients is in the thousands, when your entire business model depends on a handful of existing clients (or even just one client, which is more common than you might think), your advertising needs to count.business-to-business advertising — two people talking

B2B advertising cannot afford to miss the mark anywhere, really.

But it all starts with your audience.

The first questions you should be asking yourself are these:

  • Who is our audience?
  • Why are we targeting them (and not someone else)?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they need?
  • What can we offer them?
  • Why would they consider our product or service at all?
  • What is the most effective method to reach them?
  • When and where and how would they like to be contacted or approached?
  • Is a business-to-business advertising approach the right approach for this product or service and this audience?

And that’s just a beginning — a very rough beginning. You generally need a customer persona to even think about getting started.

Really Effective B2B Advertising Fleshes Out Audience Extensively

To really do this right, you need to do some market research, but the truth is, that’s rarely something a business is willing to pay for.Business to business advertising — question mark in the middle of a network of dots

I urge you to think otherwise — this is an investment that can pay dividends far beyond the cost.

Think of it like this — when the potential payoff for your advertising or marketing campaign is an account worth tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars (or much, much more), when the cost of the campaign itself is going to be well into the tens of thousands of dollars, is it really a good idea to spend zero time figuring out who these people actually are that you’re targeting?

Even a kid knows the answer to that.

(Hell no — the answer is hell no.)

So you need to do some market research, but again, few businesses are willing to make that investment on top of the cost of an ad campaign (despite the potential for a massively higher payoff…).

OK, fair enough, but surely there’s a middle ground between robust market research and nothing.

The Next Best Thing Is a Customer Persona

Though obviously we place market research at the tippy top of the pyramid of best ways to flesh out and think about the audience for a business-to-business advertising campaign, the next best thing is to build a customer persona.

This is a recognized method to build out segments in a market and think about who should be targeted, and why, and how, and it’s much more effective than flying blind.

And truthfully, it’s probably impossible to do any sort of B2B marketing without spending at least a little time considering the audience.

So you build a customer persona (or a dozen of them, really), and you spend a good deal of time thinking about

  • Who these people are that you’re trying to target,
  • What those people need,
  • Where they spend their time,
  • What they’re most interested in,
  • What messages and channels are going to be most effective in reaching them…

You get the idea.

If you don’t have the budget (or time) to do extensive market research, download one of our Customer Persona Templates today and start fleshing those markets out.

You can buy the Ultimate Customer Persona Template here for about ten bucks:

Get the Ultimate Customer Persona Template

Or you can get the free version here:

Download the Free Buyer Persona Template

Good luck out there, marketer.

Adam Fout

Adam might be a little crazy, but we love him anyway.   Weaving beautiful paragraph-baskets into blog posts ain’t easy, but we couldn’t think of a better job for a recovering tech writer.   Follow him on Twitter @adamfout2, LinkedIn, Facebook, or our blog if you like valuable information accompanied by snarky simplifications of complex subjects. Check out his website at adamfout.com

2 Comments

  1. Clement Lim on July 21, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Hey Adam

    You make a very good point that we can’t afford to miss when it comes to B2B marketing.

    One lesson I learned from the great copywriters is the importance of understanding your audience. This applies to all aspects of marketing. Great marketing is about creating messages that resonate with your audience.

    How can you do this if you don’t truly know them?

    If you’re advertising is missing the target, it’s because you don’t know your audience, your product, or your competition.

    Clement

    • Adam Fout on July 24, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      You’re absolutely right Clement — and thanks for commenting, by the way.

      I think it’s really easy for anyone to miss the target when it comes to their audience. It’s so easy to write what we think we want and to totally forget what our audience wants. We are inundated with thousands of marketing messages a day — only the ones that resonate are going to have an impact.

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