If you start and end with the premise of the above headline, every decision made on your brand journey to growth will define how to find and engage the right audience. Ultimately, it comes down to how you focus on being seen and heard in the noisy world of online digital creativity and multiple media platforms.
To put it into perspective, in January 2023, stats released by We Are Social in its Digital 2023 report showed the number of active social media users was circa 4.76 billion (59.4% of the global population) and growing at +0.5% or +23 million quarter on quarter. Of this, 46.3% are female users and 53.7% male, with 77.8% being 18+. It shows online audiences are continually growing.
Future buyers are rapidly moving to dynamic and creative digital searches and use an average of 7.2 different platforms a month. So, while Google remains the #1 search engine, social media is also influencing buying decisions.
Not only is there a multigenerational workforce, varied working styles, preferred tech platforms and tones for communication to contend with, but there is also a notable shift in procurement. Trying to attract the right buyers is now an even greater challenge because the individual carrying out the procurement/searching is often not the decision-maker or the person paying the invoice – but has the most influence.
Knowing how your market has changed and how it will transform helps to understand the emerging audience, how to engage it and for how long you will appeal to it. It allows an organisation to better visualise and develop a product/service offering, marketing and selling strategy to meet customer demands.
We know motivation and perception occupy a critical role in shaping purchasing decisions. People are influenced by social groups – professional and personal – and have values and beliefs shaped by cultural factors that affect their buying. Personal attributes such as age, income, occupation, company and lifestyle, coupled with the elements of a stable or unstable economy, impact every decision – consciously and unconsciously.
Post-Brexit and pandemic, buyers have become more astute and selective in their spending. Add in the need for brands to be seen as sustainable, equitable, diverse and inclusive, and messaging and marketing have never been more important or harder!
Moving forward, companies need to take a step back and realise it is all in the planning and the activation, based on the customer journey and the user experience. Getting this strategy right to future-proof your business can be boiled down to three elements – 1. Message. 2. Market. 3. Media.
What do you wish to say? What is at the heart of your brand and its purpose? What experience would you like the customer to have? What delivers the experience? What is the ‘so what’ of the experience/call to action? What happens next?
All companies should have a strategic mission aligned with their purpose, brand equity and the values of their customers. Messaging must come from the heart of the business, producing a clear vision, language and common goals which can be shared with the whole leadership team, employees and purchasers.
Clients don’t just seek transactional product sales marketing anymore – you must engage with them and share your values and purpose. Present a reason to buy.
People desire consistency, continuity and transparency; to identify themselves in the face of the brand and that it can solve their problems. Understanding a buyer’s attitude and beliefs becomes useful for marketers to design campaigns. This is where diversity, inclusivity and unconscious bias need to be embraced positively in marketing, messaging and visual brand representation.
Who are you talking to? Once the purpose is decided and what you want to say, define and align the audience. Check the purchasing data
to identify customer behaviour, research to pinpoint the target market and narrow it down as much as possible.
Consider demographics such as age, gender and location, remembering that these and the buying needs of the decision-maker, business owner or procurement manager may differ from those of the intern doing the research.
Once there is a solid idea of the audience, it really pays to build a clear profile – what is important to them, what they love, what their interests are, where they hang out, what they read, and what their attitudes are. Ideally, develop this into a profile, building a persona or avatar with a name and photograph to represent them.
When the persona is ready, you can unify the sales and marketing strategy and messaging to the target audience. Build the customer journey around them and amplify the brand outreach and engagement to generate interest and result in inbound leads.
How are you going to reach the target audience? Once the values and purpose are established, you know what to say, have defined the target market and developed detailed audience profiles, you are ready to build the customer journey and decide how to ignite your brand.
When we started talking about ‘touchpoints’ decades ago, a sales team likely required three to close a deal – a cold call, a face-to-face and a follow-up. According to True List’s Sales Statistics 2023, 98% of cold calls are rejected and 50% of prospects are not the right fit.
In addition, before buying, 82% of purchasers view five more content items from the winning vendor, while 60% of B2B tech buyers are millennials and 60% of clients state “No” four times before saying “Yes”.
Linking the sales and marketing strategy to the target audience and developing the customer experience helps identify the combination of multichannel campaigns that really hit the mark. When engaging with the market, you can build an understanding of exactly when and where to promote carefully crafted messages for the greatest impact.
Study the specific platforms used by clients and identify critical timings through A/B testing. Look at the type of device, as most searches are done on mobiles now, even in the B2B world. Examine browsing behaviour and analyse the user experience and interaction on your website and landing pages and ensure mobile compliance.
Quantify the reach and engagement of every campaign to test and adjust the marketing strategy and fine-tune each one. Set clearly defined targets and goals against ROI but remember the value of each engagement and the buying decision process. Ensure those average five pieces of content are good enough to support this.
The bottom line
Customers’ needs and buying behaviours are becoming increasingly complex as they access more information and content. Step back, keep it simple and focus on message – market – media and you will be able to cut through to what is important to the customer.
When purchasing research is carried out, you need to rise above the noise. Defining what to say, who to talk to and how to reach them, enables you to determine exactly where to invest the marketing resources to ignite your brand and support sales. Follow that up with sound analysis to grow the bottom line in the complex purchasing world where everyone wants to buy but nobody wants to be sold to.
Vida Barr-Jones is CEO of brand-led growth agency Focus7