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How to target the right audience: part 2: getting to the right individual

Jamie Hallitt

November 26, 2021

Routinely the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States of America, Black Friday is set to hit the UK high streets on 26th November, and already the offers are starting to flood consumers’ inboxes.  ‘Tis the season, of course, when consumers are looking for pre-holiday bargains and so, for retailers, if they have the resources to cast their nets wide enough, it would appear their target audience is everywhere.

For B2B marketers, on the other hand, the story is a little different.  With a more defined, higher value purchase target audience, a different tactic is required to identify and engage the right buyer.  Typically, there are two types of audience to target:

(i)  A defined set of accounts that broadly fulfil the criteria required to be classed as a potential buyer

(ii)  A certain type of economic buyer, or particular job title, that could exist in a significant number of accounts

In the first of our two part ‘How to target the right audience’ series, we looked at the first of these audience types, but in this post we’re going to look more specifically at targeting the right people within those accounts.   We believe there are five steps to success:

Step 1 – how to find the right people 

If the precise job title of the person who will buy your product or service is the bullseye of your target audience, it’s important to also consider the outer concentric circles of the board.  We believe this ‘circle of influence’ comprises three main audience groups:

(i)              Who will sign off payment for the product/service?

(ii)            Who are the end users for the product or services being bought who will influence the purchase decision?

(iii)           Who does the purchase indirectly affect?

If, as is usually the case, you don’t know the exact job title of the people you’re looking to engage, it’s a good idea to begin by running some test programs to ensure optimum returns on any demand gen investment.

Let’s take a classic sale into an IT buyer as an example.  You might run a test program that targets everyone in IT at manager level or above using generic content and hero assets, as well as serving ads.  You can then track everyone who engages with that content or ad, and assess, once leads have been generated, what happens next to those leads.  Do they progress through the nurture?  Do they reach the point of sales?  

Next, work to analyse and interpret outcomes: what can you learn from what you delivered on that test run?  Building successful demand generation programs require the intelligent identification of likely buyers for their (often considered purchase) products and solutions. Working with the intelligence gathered at test phase, you can then work with sales teams to identify the individuals with whom they had important conversations. 

 This early investment in the process helps better define who we need to be engaging moving forwards.  

Step 2 – Is your target audience big enough?

Occasionally the reverse scenario is true and you believe you know the exact job titles of individuals within accounts to target.  The challenge with this situation comes when there are not many people within a single organisation with that job title!  Imagine you’re looking for a ‘Head of Telecoms,’ for example.  Even in large enterprises, there aren’t going to be hundreds of ‘Heads of Telecoms’, so it can be difficult to activate a campaign against that criteria.  In addition, when it comes to using multiple channels to try to engage that audience, it becomes tricky when there’s such a small number of accounts that you may be looking to engage. 

In this instance, there are two possible solutions.  

  • Target a small number of individuals across an extensive account list
  • Think about the ‘circle of influence’ around that specific job title.  Who else reports into those people who might have some say?  Or who does that person report into?  Who within the organisation would sign off on any purchase?

Given the Agent3 focus is on delivering global, account-based marketing solutions, we would always recommend the latter of these two options.  Taking an account-centric approach, and then building out a view of everyone who has at least some level of influence over the purchase decision will enable you to begin shaping the total addressable audience.   How many people at each seniority level could you/should you reach?   How many people in each department, or how many people in different locations (if it’s a global campaign)?

Any initial test program will reinforce this approach.  If your target audience is the CIO, use the initial program to analyse who actually engages with the content: the chances are it won’t be the most senior people within the organisation who respond.  Look instead at the framework within which a CIO might make their decision for the wider buying group.

Step 3- Horses for courses

1 – The right content for the right audience

When considering engaging an audience, it is sometimes worth beginning by asking what you have to say to that audience, rather than deciding who you want to talk to! 

And ask yourself, honestly, do you have the right content for the right people (rather than existing content that you may want to just re-purpose)?  Consider again the complete ‘circle of influence’ in the purchase decision, rather than just the person who approves the purchase, or just the person who will use the product.  And then check if you have the right content to engage each tier?  

 A campaign that ultimately targets a CIO, but relies on the counsel of an engineer or a developer lower down in the organisation, for example, requires technical content, rather than content about budgets or cost savings.  Conversely a piece of technical content will not get read by CIOs. 

It’s possible to take this analysis a step further and look at persona mapping.  What is your target audience’s buying style?  Or their negotiating style?  This type of intelligent insight might inform some of the content you use or the approach you might take.  Should you go straight in with a Sales Development Representative (SDR), or should you play the longer, softer game?

Finally, in addition to having the right content to engage the audience, it’s important to have the right content to serve the audience. It’s one thing to pique someone’s interest sufficiently to fill a form, but do you then have the right content to nurture them?  Similarly, if your SDR is going to pick up the phone to a prospect, do they have enough of substance to say?  What other content can you use in your campaign so the pipe doesn’t run dry once your target may have downloaded one document?

2: The right people for the right channels

 So, here’s a critical question in determining the success of any demand generation campaign; what is the best channel to reach your target individual?  Let’s break things down a bit…

Step 4 – who should you NOT target?

It’s simple: lists *must* be up to date.  No debate here.  No discussion.  Just an absolute given.  Imagine the scenario: you invest time and money in a complicated program, perhaps you develop the brief in January, produce content and build an audience in February, in March you’re testing, then in April you finally launch, but by now four months have passed. How many people have moved on since you originally built the audience?  People move on, out of your target audience.

Consider also accounts or individuals whom you’re already engaging, or with whom sales conversations have developed internally since the inception of the program and ensure they are not part of your program.   

The moral of the story is to keep your lists dynamic and up to date.  Have weekly meetings that question if there has been any progress with the leads, or any of the accounts that are being engaged currently.  If so, remove them.

Step 5 – feedback

Finally, it’s crucial that sales and marketing align and create a feedback loop.  In our experience, it’s rare that sales teams ever feedback to marketing that they got x amount of opportunities as a result of a particular marketing campaign and yet, without this feedback, it’s hard for marketing to build smarter campaigns.

Successful B2B demand generation is the lifeblood of any enterprise technology brand.  Get it right and you can achieve rapid revenue returns. Get it wrong and, well, you know the rest. And it’s why marketing can be so instrumental in driving growth that matters; through intelligent, targeted campaigns that are insight driven and audience centric. To conclude, we hope that our advice in this blog, and the last, supports your demand generation efforts and elevates any campaign that you are running to new heights of excellence! 

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