In my early days at Ziff-Davis, the most important buyer to engage were the early adopters and the influencers. Those buyers could have a dramatic impact on the success of a new tech product. The early adopters were the ones who let us know what the "next big thing" would be; the influencers could persuade others to purchase it. These are the audiences we would woo because they meant the most to our business in the long term.

In our data-driven world, we can now take this one step further and segment our audiences. Rather than reach influencers with your targeted message, you can now segment your audience and find the exact buyers that are currently in-market for your product. 

Consumer marketers figured this out a long time ago. For example, using retargeting techniques and programmatic buying, consumer marketers can easily find a user that is currently in market for a hotel in Barbados or a flight to Hawaii. However, in the consumer world that user may or may not be in market for that product again any time soon, if ever.

Business buyers are different. Their job is to be in market; they are always in market for something. It is just a matter of what and when. Take our CTO for example. He is signing a two-year contract for a new analytics software provider. During the next two years, he will likely be dormant for this product, but in 12-18 months he will likely begin actively researching the latest and greatest again. He is in market once more!

The question is: How do you know when this is going to happen and how do you reach this CTO at the right time?

Because we treat B2B as a separate discipline from B2C, it's easy to forget that there are actual people behind those businesses. Those people must be guided along the customer journey, the same as if they were purchasing consumer goods. So often in the B2B world, we rely on messages that we want our audiences to see, but I think it's time for us to take a page from the B2C playbook and focus more on offering messages relevant to their unique needs within their organizations.

Of course, B2B marketers are faced with the challenge of having to promote "less sexy" offerings. It's more exciting to market "Grand Theft Auto V" than business accounting software. However, that is the main reason why appealing to B2B audiences as representatives of their organizations and as individual consumers is so important. The product may not be something executives camp outside the store to buy on release day, but if you listen to them and appeal to their specific needs, you can still build excitement towards your products and drive significant revenue.

No matter the product, the key to B2B success lies within the relevance of your messaging. Not only does your messaging have to educate audiences about your product, its features, and its benefits, but it must speak to each decision maker on an individual basis to clearly define why he needs your particular product for their unique business needs. It's the B2C-esque focus on the individual that enables truly relevant B2B communications.

Furthermore, the key to identifying what is truly relevant to your audiences is intent. If you examine your B2B prospects’ consumer data with an eye toward their individual needs, you can learn everything you need to know about how to communicate with them. Accompanying your customer on their buying journey enables you to identify what they need at each stage, and tailor your communications to those needs.  Surprising them with a sales pitch the moment they download a whitepaper or sign-in to a webinar can be overly intrusive; however, easing them into the journey via longer-term, higher touch, and more appropriate communication ensures they are more likely to allow you to engage them.

During this period, sometimes referred to as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), you can educate your prospects about the benefits of your product, specifically as it relates to their needs, by providing messaging geared toward their exhibited pain points and interests. Additionally, you can also pinpoint the moment they move from idle research to actual purchase intent. That phase, when a prospect is ready to become a customer, is when you must focus your efforts on differentiating your company and offering from the rest of your competition.

Granted, B2B marketing is a different beast than B2C. In addition to different product suites and often higher stakes, there is a lot more process and more people involved in the research and purchase decision, and those factors must be accounted for. However, it is important to remember that the recipients of your marketing messages are not just faceless organizations as a whole, but they are people as well, with their own unique responsibilities and needs within that organization.

Instead of adhering entirely to the B2B guidebook, consider augmenting your marketing plans with strong listening skills and engaging your leads and prospects with meaningful dialogue.

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Understanding the Power of Intent Data in B2B Marketing

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image of Erik Matlick

Erik Matlick guides corporate strategy and vision at Madison Logic Data, bringing over 15 years in founding, board, and executive management experience.

LinkedIn: Erik Matlick