The Only Guide on B2B Audience Research You’ll Ever Need

Table of Contents

What is B2B Audience Research?

B2B (business-to-business) audience research involves understanding your ideal buyers to make informed marketing choices. While researching your audience, you should look for their:

  • Decision-making process
  • Challenges
  • Pain points
  • Needs
  • Goals

Finding them out results in hyper-targeted messaging, more efficient lead generation, and more reliable conversion process.

Unlike the often impulse-driven transactions in B2C sales, B2B tends to have longer sales cycles, multiple decision-makers, and a strong emphasis on rationality and return on investment (ROI).

According to CSO Insights, closing the deal in B2B can stretch out as far as 7 months(!)

During all this time, you have countless opportunities to engage your prospect with marketing. This will help you stay “top-of-the-mind,” address any objections that may appear, and reduce friction when the sales time comes.

Here are some key benefits of investing in B2B audience research:

  • Data-driven decision-making: Eliminate guesswork and make marketing decisions based on solid insights about your target audience.
  • Effective buyer personas: Develop detailed profiles of your ideal buyers, making personalized marketing campaigns possible.
  • Multi-touchpoint engagement: Researching your audience lets you engage with the customer multiple times before they make the final decision. It’s a tremendous trust-building opportunity.
  • Increased lead generation and conversion: Tailor your content and offers to capture the attention of your target audience and guide them through the sales funnel.

Let’s move forward and explore the different methods and techniques available to uncover those crucial insights about your B2B audience.

Primary vs. Secondary B2B Audience Research Methods

To gain a comprehensive understanding of your B2B audience, you’ll need to utilize a combination of primary and secondary research methods. Let’s break down what each entails:

Primary Research

Primary B2B Audience research involves collecting data directly from your target audience. Here are some of the most effective methods:

  • Surveys: Design questionnaires that focus on your research goals and distribute them via email, your website, or survey platforms. Tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Typeform can streamline this process. When analyzing results, look for trends, patterns, and common themes.
  • Interviews: Conduct in-depth, one-on-one conversations with potential customers or industry experts. This can provide rich qualitative insights into pain points, decision-making processes, and the buying journey. Prepare focused questions beforehand.
  • Focus Groups: Gather a small group of individuals from your target audience and facilitate a guided discussion about specific topics. Focus groups allow you to capture diverse perspectives and understand the nuances of collective opinions.
  • Online Communities: Tap into industry-specific forums, LinkedIn groups, or relevant social media platforms to observe conversations, identify pain points, and gather feedback directly from your potential buyers.

You can incorporate the primary research methods in two ways:

  1. Actively: This involves reaching out to potential participants of your surveys and interviews manually. If your questions are precise and will need a significant amount of effort from the participant to answer, it might be best to use this method.
  2. Passively: You can gather feedback from your audience by making your survey available as a website popup.

Also, you might conduct simple surveys using native social media tools on LinkedIn and Twitter:

Secondary Research

Secondary research leverages existing data sources. Consider these resources:

  • Industry reports and trade publications: Find niche market research reports, white papers, and articles that offer insights into industry trends, market size, and audience demographics.
  • Government resources: Explore data from sources like Statista or industry-specific government agencies for valuable demographic and economic information.
  • Competitor analysis: Examine your competitors’ websites, marketing materials, and social media presence. Pay attention to who they target, their positioning, and overall messaging.
Statista is a great place for B2B audience research

By combining primary and secondary methods, you’ll gain both quantitative data points and qualitative insights, allowing you to form a holistic picture of your B2B audience.

Now, let’s see how to perform B2B audience research effectively.

Conducting Effective B2B Audience Research: Step-by-Step

While B2B audience research can seem daunting, following a structured approach will streamline the process and ensure you’re gathering the most valuable information. Let’s walk through the steps:

1. Define Your Goals:

Before you start researching, clearly outline what you hope to achieve. Do you want to:

  • Identify new target market segments?
  • Understand your ideal customers’ pain points and challenges?
  • Track shifts in buyer behavior over time?
  • Uncover the most effective communication channels?

Setting realistic goals will guide your efforts (and help you avoid throwing spaghetti at the wall).

2. Choose Methodologies:

Decide which research methods best align with your goals and available resources. Consider:

  • Surveys for broad data collection with quantitative analysis.
  • Interviews and focus groups for in-depth qualitative insights.
  • A combination of these methods for a balanced approach.

3. Develop Research Questions:

Craft thoughtful questions aimed at uncovering the information needed to meet your research goals. Here are some examples:

  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
  • How do you typically research solutions for [specific need]?
  • What factors are most important when selecting a vendor/business partner?
  • What resources (blogs, industry publications, events) do you rely on?

4. Identify Data Sources:

Determine where you’ll find the answers to your research questions:

  • Internal customer data: Analyze your CRM and sales records to extract insights about existing clients.
  • Survey respondents: Create a targeted list of potential participants based on your ideal customer profile.
  • Industry publications: Identify relevant sources for secondary research.

5. Collect and Analyze Data:

Implementing your chosen research methodology involves:

  • Distributing surveys and collecting enough responses for statistical significance.
  • Scheduling and conducting interviews, taking notes, and transcribing recordings if necessary.
  • Carefully analyzing data – look for trends, patterns, and key takeaways. Use both quantitative analysis tools (for surveys) and thematic analysis to extract insights from qualitative data.

Remember, B2B audience research is an ongoing process. Market trends and buyer behaviors evolve. Revisit your research at least once a year to ensure your marketing strategies remain aligned with your audience’s changing needs.

Time to transform the gathered insights into detailed buyer personas for your B2B marketing efforts.

Creating Detailed B2B Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, built upon the insights you’ve gathered during your B2B audience research.

They are essential tools for guiding your marketing strategy and creating truly impactful campaigns. But you need to be careful—a few bullet points and a cute little avatar named ‘Marketing Mark’ won’t cut it.

Here are some essential elements to include in your B2B buyer personas:

  • Demographics: Job title, seniority level, company size, industry
  • Pain points: What problems do they need to solve?
  • Goals and motivations: What are they trying to achieve?
  • Information sources: Where do they go for industry news and insights?
  • Decision-making process: How do they evaluate and select vendors?

Now, all this data is great, but data alone doesn’t translate into an effective marketing strategy. Let me show you how to do it with a framework I created called DCI (Data, Context, Insight):

The DCI framework for B2B Persona Creation

DCI consists of three parts:

  1. Data: This is the raw stuff. Gather all the numbers, patterns, and responses in one place
  2. Context: See what all this data means to your business. Define:
    • Your Angle: What makes you different from competitors? How does that tie into the patterns you see in the data?
    • Your Goal: What do you want your audience to DO? It’s not just about who they ARE, but how they act.
    • Profit Potential: Are these people actually likely to BUY what you’re selling? Don’t waste time on a segment that’s just browsing, not spending.
  3. Insight: What is the next step you take after finding out the data? Will you adjust your marketing efforts, sales process, or customer care? How will you do this?

The DCI framework keeps your audience research actionable and ensures no data point slips through the cracks.

Why B2B personas are different than B2C personas?

Let’s explore why buyer personas are crucial in the B2B world and how they differ from B2C personas:

  • Understanding decision-makers: B2B buyer personas often include multiple decision-makers, influencers, and gatekeepers within an organization. You need to understand their individual roles, needs, and pain points.
  • Focus on industry-specific challenges: Identify challenges unique to their industry sector and how your product/service addresses them.
  • Personalized content and messaging: B2B buyers expect content that addresses their industry and role-specific concerns. Personas help you tailor everything, from thought leadership articles to email campaigns.
  • Data-driven decision-making: Personas help identify the types of content (whitepapers, case studies, etc.) and the channels that potential customers frequent the most.

Next, we’ll explore how you can use this valuable B2B audience research to power up your marketing efforts.

Using B2B Audience Research to Fuel Your Marketing

All the B2B audience research in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t translate into actionable marketing strategies! Here’s how to harness your findings and achieve those marketing wins:

Content Strategy:

Develop content that directly addresses your audience’s pain points, challenges, and questions at each stage of their buyer journey. Prioritize industry-relevant topics and formats preferred by your buyer personas.

You might notice that’s what I’m doing on this blog. Instead of aiming for popular, “SEO-safe” topics, I aim to answer my client’s questions and concerns about inbound marketing and content creation.

If you want to find out how to do it for your business, I have two resources for you:

  • My newsletter: Each week, I show you how to find resonant topics to address in your content and where to use them to best impact your ROI.
  • “They Ask, You Answer” book: Marcus Sheridan is the legend of inbound marketing and content marketing. His book explains in great detail how to stop chasing numbers and focus your content on the problems your audience truly cares about.

Targeted Messaging:

Instead of generic sales pitches, speak your audience’s language.

Use your research insights to highlight the benefits and value proposition of your solutions that are uniquely relevant to each buyer’s persona.

Take a look at how Commsor is using the knowledge about their target audience to build genuine connections with their users on LinkedIn:

Lead Generation:

Tailor your ads, landing pages, and lead magnets to the specific needs and preferences of your target audience. Personalization is key in the B2B space.

Here’s a great example of a highly personalized in-app communication from Netflix:

Website Optimization:

Ensure that your website’s design, user experience (UX), and content align with the expectations and preferences uncovered through your B2B audience research.

While working with VeryCreatives, one of the first steps we took together was revamping their landing page. We refreshed the copy and updated the look and feel of the website to match the expectations of their audience better:

Tools for Conducting Effective B2B Audience Research

We gathered some top tool picks for B2B audience research in a separate blog posts. Here, I’m going to show you my personal tool stack for gathering relevant info about my clients’ audiences:

Fathom: Customer Interview Recordings

Record and transcribe sales calls or client meetings with permission. Fathom’s AI can analyze these conversations, identifying common pain points, questions, and objections raised by real prospects.

This provides invaluable qualitative insights directly from your potential audience.

Source

If you conduct in-depth customer interviews, Fathom can transcribe and analyze recordings, highlighting key themes and uncovering recurring sentiment.

If you obtain recordings of competitor sales pitches (e.g., from demos), Fathom can dissect their messaging and value propositions, giving you insight into how they position themselves against your offerings.

GummySearch: Reddit Listening Tool

GummySearch specializes in aggregating data from Reddit and other online forums frequented by professionals in your target industries. Analyze discussions to reveal common challenges faced by your audience and the language they use to describe them.

Source

The tool lets you discover smaller, industry-specific forums where your potential customers gather. This provides a more focused lens on their unique pain points and needs.

You can also use GummySearch to monitor how your brand and competitors are mentioned on niche forums and Reddit.

This helps track overall sentiment and gauge potential gaps in customer satisfaction that you can address in your marketing.

Google Trends: Trend Analysis

Google Trends lets you research search volume over time for keywords related to your industry and solutions. This helps identify growing interest in specific challenges, shifting market needs, and emerging trends.

Source

Observe if there are peaks and dips in search interest throughout the year. This can inform the timing and themes of your B2B marketing campaigns.

Analyze where certain keywords are searched for most frequently. This helps you tailor your marketing and potentially identify new regional market opportunities.

AnswerThePublic: Search Data Analysis

Enter a relevant keyword, and AnswerThePublic visualizes common questions people ask search engines about the topic. This highlights the specific information your audience seeks, allowing you to create content addressing their exact needs.

Source

The tool provides rich insights for targeting long-tail keywords and phrases with less competition. This can help attract more qualified traffic.

You can also identify common points of confusion or uncertainty within your industry. Create content (blog posts, videos, etc.) that directly answers these questions and positions your brand as an authority.

Final Thoughts

B2B audience research isn’t just about collecting data. It’s about empowering you to create campaigns that connect, resonate, and convert your ideal customers.

If you need help with your audience research, grab a free content strategy session with me below:

Kuba Czubajewski

Kuba Czubajewski

CEO and Content Marketing Strategist @ StoryAngled. He helped multiple SaaS companies from various niches generate organic leads with SEO and content. In his free time, he works on his own YouTube channel about the science of creativity. Huge fan of product-led content, cats, and baking.

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