When you arrive early at a conference session only to find that the room is already packed, you know you’ve chosen well. I was lucky to get a seat at Matthew T. Grant and Andrew Moravick‘s popular “Are You a Marketer or a Mind-Reader? How to Know What Your B2B Buyer Is Really Thinking” talk, and I’m sure glad I squeezed myself into a spot. These Aberdeen Group pros had tons of great advice for B2B marketers.
If you’re wondering why you can’t figure out what your customers are up to, it’s probably time to move beyond the standard B2B marketing approach to learn more about your buyers’ particular needs. [Tweet This] Luckily, you don’t actually need a crystal ball to do it.
The Problem With Business as Usual
Pop quiz: Do you follow the classic buyer’s journey to create your content? It’s crucial for B2B marketers to meet their customers at several steps along this path to “get them to do our thing,” as Matthew put it. That’s different from B2C marketing that’s focused on creating a need — B2B is all about fulfilling an existing need, and Andrew has a whole pile of research that shows that “buyer-aligned content works better to generate leads” than random, spaghetti-at-the-wall stuff.
The trouble with sticking too closely to the buyer’s journey is that humans don’t always act in a predictable, linear fashion. In the real world, buyer panic and business chaos pull buyers off the path you’ve created for them, so you need to be flexible about your assumptions and agile in your response to those curveballs.
How to Find Out What Your Buyers Are Actually Thinking
Your buyers don’t care about your prescribed buyer’s journey. Here’s how to meet them where they’re at — instead of clinging to a model of where they “should” be.
1. Ask Them What They Think
It seems obvious, but Andrew pointed out that only 46 percent of marketers regularly check in with buyers. Crucially, 77 percent of the most successful marketers interact directly with buyers to find out what makes them tick. Here’s how to do it:
- Talk to Sales: Your sales team has direct contact with your buyers and are positioned to understand their problems and needs, so pick their brains. In particular, get their opinions on your content to see if it’s answering the right questions.
- Talk to Buyers: Whether they’ve said yes or no to your product, try calling your buyers to chat about what’s going on in their world and where your business fits in. If they still have questions or concerns, you can turn the answers directly into useful content.
- Try Field Research: Sometimes just observing your product in action with a willing user can point out where you need to drive content. If there’s an aspect that’s confusing or underused, create a guide. If there’s a part that’s frustrating, use that information to make product improvements.
2. Use Your Data
B2B marketers have more data than ever at their disposal, and the best ones use data to fix problems. “You need to track the right information,” Matthew explained, “not more information.”
The trick is to focus squarely on the benchmarks you can control. Look for patterns in customer behavior as they interact with your content. Keep an open mind about what’s actually happening — not what you think should be happening. Start by answering these five questions:
- Is there content that everyone touches?
- Is there content that everyone ignores?
- What searches are leading buyers to your website?
- What searches are buyers making on your website?
- What do your best customers have in common?
The answers will help you create a unified view of the customer and lead you to create the content they actually want — which in turn will keep them with you and encourage them to buy what you’re selling.
3. “Write Their Minds” Instead of Reading Them
Instead of thinking of content as a fishing expedition, B2B marketers would do well to get a little aspirational. If Harvard could engineer a marketing campaign that saved lives by introducing the concept of the “designated driver” to the culture, surely you can get buyers to think the way you want them to about the buyer’s journey you’ve laid out. Here’s how to change the conversation:
- Create a New Category: Visualize your industry and all its parts. Are you doing something so different it needs a new category? Name it, claim it, and start educating your buyers about it.
- Create an Industry Standard: Can you corner the market on your niche with great content about best practices? Try setting new expectations for your buyers instead of clamoring for a slice of an old model — and write about it.
- Be Where the Buyers Are: Unless you’re really innovative, someone else has probably already aggregated your audience. Publish there!
In the end, Andrew and Matthew recommended a three-step process to get into the heads of your customers:
- Analyze your assumption about the buyer journey.
- Talk to customers to test those assumptions.
- Refine and complete your view with data from your existing content.
Once you’ve done the analysis, level-up your content and drive your next steps with this question: If you could write your customer’s mind, what would you write? [Tweet This]
Ginna Hall is the Director of Marketing at WriterAccess. An experienced marketing writer and editor, Ginna has helped corporate, academic and non-profit organizations develop strategic messages and roll-out content that connects with audiences of all types.
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