16 Ways to Get to Know Your Target Audience to Ensure Your B2B Copy Always Hits the Mark

It's no secret …

Whether you're speaking in front of a group, buying someone a Christmas present, or attempting to persuade people with your copy …

 … the better you know your target audience, the more successful you'll be.

And, unlike Business-to-Consumer (B2C) copywriters who just have to appeal to the personal wants and needs of individual consumers, as a Business-to-Business (B2B) copywriter, you must satisfy both your prospect's personal needs and their desire to do the right thing for their company.

B2B expert Steve Slaunwhite says when he writes B2B copy, he mentally puts himself into his business buyer's shoes and asks himself the following two questions:

What's in it for the business?

What's in it for me?

To effectively answer these questions, you have to understand how your prospect thinks and feels so you can reach him on an emotional, personal, and intellectual level.

You have to be tuned into their industry and the day-to-day challenges they face. You have to know what causes them pain and what motivates them on both a business and personal level.

Fortunately, getting to know your client's prospects is not as difficult or as complicated as it might seem at first glance. To help you, I've put together a list of 16 techniques you can use to quickly and easily uncover insights into what's important to your target audience.

  1. Review existing marketing material — Go through your client's existing applicable marketing materials such as white papers, brochures, press releases, website pages, articles, sell sheets, media kits, and case studies. Also study any equivalent competitive material you can lay your hands on. Two sites that might come in handy are KnowledgeStorm.com and findwhitepapers.com.
  2. Read what your prospects read — Get tuned into the publications and websites that your audience consistently reads. This will help you keep on top of the latest industry trends and innovations so your copy is always current and relevant.
  3. Keep on top of industry blogs — Blogs are a key source for the latest information and opinion. This makes them a fertile resource for relevant quotes and statistics that you can use in your copy. Here are some sites that will aid you in your blog-monitoring efforts: Technorati, BlogPulse, and Google Blogs.
  4. Participate in and monitor forums — Becoming a member of relevant forums is a good way to keep tabs on the hot issues affecting your client's customers. Here are three "forum tracking" tools you can use to assist you: BoardReader, BoardTracker, and BigBoards.
  5. Track comments — CoComment is a handy site that helps you manage and research online conversations. It allows you to keep track of your comments across any site and get notified when you receive a response.
  6. Get plugged into social media sites — Social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a good source for insights and finding out what's on people's minds.

    Fortunately, there are some pretty nifty sites available that will save you time and effort with your social media monitoring efforts: 48ers.com is a "Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, Digg, Delicious" search engine; Facepinch is search engine for Facebook (of course, Facebook has their own search device); Backtype and Feedera will help you monitor Twitter.

With LinkedIn, you can join related groups within the LinkedIn site where you can ask questions and view answers. It's an excellent tool to learn what your prospects are thinking and asking about.

  1. Pay attention to seminar descriptions — Steve Slaunwhite mentions this in his Secrets of Writing High Performance B2B Copy program. He says it's a technique that has worked very well for him. The reason is that seminars often address the most important concerns of your target audience. (He notes that if they didn't, nobody would attend them.) To keep on top of what industry seminars are being offered, search Google, set up a Google Alert (or a Yahoo! Alert), and subscribe to the RSS feeds of websites that frequently offer seminars.
  2. Talk to some of your client's sales representatives — Your client's sales representatives are a wealth of information. They hear on daily basis what's important to their clients and what's not. They know what obstacles their clients are facing and the kinds of solutions they are looking for. Plus, every good sales representative knows they also have to appeal to their prospects personal needs, so talking to them is an excellent way to expand your knowledge of your prospect's personal hot buttons.
  3. Go out on a sales call with a sales rep — Geographically this might not be possible, but if it is, it's well worth the time. Not only will you get to pick a sales rep’s brain on a more personal (and hopefully frank) level, you'll get to hear directly from your target audience regarding their concerns and what's important to them.
  4. Speak to Customer Service — Your client's customer service representatives are another potential wealth of helpful information. They are on the front lines when it comes to concerns and customer problems. This gives them very valuable insights into the mind of your target audience.
  5. Speak with customers directly — If possible, talk to your client's customers directly. It's always beneficial to get industry insights straight from the horse's mouth (so to speak).
  6. Join Trade Associations — There are over 3,000 trade associations in the United States (according to Marketing Sherpa's 2008 B2B Lead Generation handbook). There's usually a cost to joining, so you have to gauge whether it makes sense financially. But, they are a great source for news, information, facts, and figures related to your audience. Plus, they are a great way to identify new prospects for your services.
  7. Contact the editors and sales reps of trade publications — You can get great marketing tips from people who live and breathe what's going on in your client's marketplace every day. Contact them and ask them for a few minutes of their time. The worst thing they can say is "no."
  8. Attend Trade Shows — There are trade shows for just about every professional interest out there. Attending them is a great way to meet key people in the industry and find out about new products, services, innovations, and ideas that could impact your marketplace.
  9. Website information — Websites, of course, are a wealth of information you can quickly access. But, you should also ask your client what terms people are inputting into the site's search box. Plus, ask to speak to the person who handles the questions and comments coming in through the website. This will give you a pretty good idea about which issues are top of mind in the industry.
  10. Customer Survey Information — Ask for the results of any relevant customer surveys they've done recently. If there is no information available, ask your client if they'd be willing to put out a survey to their customers and/or prospects.

Knowing your target audience better than your competition does is a great way to elevate yourself above the copywriting crowd in the eyes of your client. Use a combination of these sixteen techniques and I'm confident you'll always have the information you need to write B2B copy that compels clients to hire you again and again.

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Published: December 20, 2010

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