Audience Segmentation in Research-Based Content Marketing
Original research can fuel effective content marketing campaigns. B2B audiences, in particular, value original research because it offers that rare but high-impact form of persuasion: objective, independent, third-party, peer-based opinion. The subtext of almost all B2B marketing is, “Don’t take my word for it.” Most savvy buyers don’t take the marketer’s word for anything. However, if a peer expresses a point of view, that carries weight. A well-constructed market study delivers insights about trends, peer preferences, and behaviors.
Buyers also want to be better informed, and original research can educate customers. To work, however, research has to be relevant. Though the research creates the content, you still have to do all the initial segmentation, messaging and persona development that you would conduct with any other content-based campaign. In other words, if you want to offer something to a specific audience, it has to be put in the context of information that is interesting and relevant to those people, while still linking back to your product or service. The research statistics created need to do this just the same as any other marketing content created, and without being too overtly pushy. For instance, if you want to market a particular type of technology to IT managers, you need to offer research-insight that is meaningful to this audience and relevant to what you are offering, but without blatantly plugging the brand and offering.
Getting your “dentists” straight – how to effectively break your personas down
The process brings to mind one of the most famous research-based advertising campaigns ever done in the US, which was the classic “4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum.” These ads, for Trident, were so popular that they were immortalized in the hit show, Friends, when Chandler wondered if, “The 5th dentist caved and now they all recommend sugarless gum.” That’s what we call a successful use of research in marketing.
Trident understood its target segment, which was parents of children who liked gum. They created confidence in the brand by demonstrating that professionals endorsed the idea – but they did so in a way that people could understand. They didn’t say, “4 out of 5 periodontists surveyed recommend gum from Trident with Acesulfame Potassium to their patients who chew gum.” That sounds pretty obvious, but this is a mistake many have made in research-based content. When we do this, we create a research product that misses the target.
If you do research-based marketing, you have to keep your “dentists” straight. We recommend using a buyer persona breakdown as a precursor to research design. Whatever the company is selling, it will look like this:
- What are the business objectives for doing the research?
- Which buyer personas are critical to the purchase decision?
- Who are key influencers?
- Who are the gatekeepers and what are their misconceptions?
- What are each persona’s personal and business problems?
- What is the information appetite for each persona?
- How do they consume information – how will the findings be disseminated?
- How can we match the research design and final report(s) to be relevant to each persona’s individual information appetite?
Aligning personas to information needs
The table below takes the example of the technology sale and shows how the personas might align with information needs. The CTO, for instance, wants to deliver high-performance computing. He or she probably has to make a business case to the management team and to the CFO for investment in any new infrastructure. They will have issues in their organization that can be solved by technology and they will be interested to hear about problems other companies are having to see where their organization fits in to the scheme of things. The CFO and the Board, in contrast, are more concerned with the economics of any purchase decision and the impact they will have on their business and the users. The research data should speak to each persona’s personal information needs, concerns and personal / business objectives.
|Persona||Individual Work/ Career/ Business Goals||Information Appetite||Relevant Information to research|
|CTO||Deliver high-performance computing to make a difference to the business and its users.||What are the most economical and best performing technology solutions out there and how can I justify buying them?||Problems companies are having, what people are doing to solve them, and the current priorities people have, along with opinions about relevant market issues|
|CFO||Keep IT spending level to a minimum.||Do we really need to spend this money?||Problems companies are having, the financial impact on the business of such problems.|
|The Board||To make the business competitive and improve profitability and shareholder value||How much should the company invest in any particular technology?||Significance of the problems companies are having, what people are doing to overcome them, and the risk to share price of not changing the business|
In an ideal world, a company and its communications agencies should be able to create something similar to the above table that reflects their market and information needs. If it has gaps in its knowledge, it would be better to invest money in answering these fundamental strategic questions before spending any money on research to create content.
Hugh Taylor is the President of Taylor Communications, a firm specializing in long form content for technology companies and the author of the book “B2B Technology Marketing”. You can follow Hugh on LinkedIn.
Cherry Taylor is Managing Director of Dynamic Markets Limited. A quantitative research expert, with a PhD in Science, Cherry has spent 20 years as a market research consultant creating robust, relevant market research that is used as content by blue chip clients. The data is used across a company’s sales and the full marketing mix to enhance their brand, grow the company and launch new products. Clients include Experian, Legal & General, Salesforce, Avaya, Fellowes, Microsoft, Oracle, Google, HSBC and many others. You can follow Cherry and Dynamic Markets on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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