Do Your Research! – How to create deeper engagement with the markets you serve.

Thought Leadership campaigns underpinned by market research

I’ve been recommending use of market research for many of my Business to Business (B2B) clients looking for more direct and deeper engagement with the markets they serve, for over 20 years now. 

There it is, I’ve said it, market research has remained the ‘go to’ tactic for helping my clients to find out more about the markets they want to sell more to. 

Let’s Talk around the Fire

Now before I get into the detail, all of my thinking, with a couple of examples of how it is done will be shared with fellow Hiveminders in my very own Hivemind Fireside Chat set to go ahead at 1PM on Thursday 21st October. Please register here to join this important conversation

Know your customer (better)

It reflects the oldest truism in the world: if you want to build better relationships (frankly personally and professionally), begin by showing a deeper interest in the people you are ‘relating’ with. 

Work to better understand their wants, needs, concerns and plans, and then align your products or services more acutely with those pre-identified requirements. Many tech marketing people today call this ‘solution selling’. It’s something that hardware manufacturers traditionally have had more trouble doing because they see themselves producing standalone products that form part of an overall solution which a third party partner then puts together to create a complete solution for the end-customer.

However, the world has changed. Now more than ever, it’s important to be able to understand your end-customers better and understand what they’re likely to be looking for next. OEMs need to work out how to address specific vertical sectors and segment their target audiences. We need to climb into the mindset of the people we are offering our services and products to.

Verticalization

As this ‘verticalization’ trend has gained momentum, so has demand for B2B market research. In addition, the coming of age of digital marketing has created an expectation that we must micro-target, even personalise communications in order to gain the attention of the people we want to engage with and impress. 

Deeper insights stimulate deeper engagement

And yes, the best way of gaining the attention of your (now highly defined) target audience, is to give them some relevant stats, facts, and unique insights which they find both interesting and thought provoking – creating the basis for that deeper conversation. 

More than this, many of my clients report that customers and prospects alike are impressed that a ‘supplier’ has made the effort (and frankly spent the marketing money) to better understand what’s going on in their market. I’ve seen cases where major providers have co-opted and co-promoted market research that one of their suppliers (sometimes my client) has created. That’s got to be great for positioning and for improving the way you are thought of by your customers. You instantly become a consultant adviser as well as potential solution provider.

Bringing new insights to your target audience, also gives you greater credibility and authority. If you are bringing new intelligence to the market on a regular basis you begin to be seen as a thought leader. And if you keep churning high quality, insightful long form content out for years you will be seen as a market leader. You are engendering deeper engagement with customers and prospects alike. More than this, you can begin to move you perception from just another supplier of this or that product to someone they can consult for advice on how to react to market changes. 

This is often called ‘consultative selling’ and it’s the right place to be. It gives you readier access to board level decision-makers and positions you to be included in RFPs for larger and more strategically-important projects in which you become a consultant partner rather than just another technology product provider.  As one of my long-term clients, Chris Read Group CEO of the fintech Dunstan Thomas recently said:

“As we’ve widened and deepened our offerings, our consultative-selling approach has become increasingly important. We’ve always strived to share with our customers our unique and unbiased take on where their market is heading. 

“As our market knowledge increased, it made increasing sense to share our thinking with a larger audience as part of our marketing – to build our brand awareness and reputation simultaneously. 

“This is where you (Agility PR) came in to take the sweat out of the process of building brand authority by taking briefs from our key people, executing market research, submitting industry award entries and helping us produce vlogs to communicate our views and insights more widely.” 

Building your Engagement Journey

That leads me on to my final point about market research-led thought leadership campaigning. If you are spent the time, effort, and money to design and run some penetrating market research, make sure you extract all the insights you can out of them and maximise the value of the study. 

So, think in terms of a full campaign which includes short and long form content. I like to think about a Content Hierarchy which mirrors your Sales Funnel. The idea here is that you generate a mixture of Short Form Content (like a news release or news bulletin), Long Form Content (such as an article) and ultimately ‘Premium’ Downloadable Content such as a ‘gated’ white paper, executive summary of findings or management report, in which interested parties are prepared to leave their contact details in order to download a valuable piece of content from your website. 

You might even want to go further and invite those that have downloaded your latest guide or report, to join an interactive webinar with one or two of their peers (chaired by your organisation of course) to take that engagement to the next level. 

I’ve been surprised how many new business conversations have flowed directly from the few webinars I’ve run on communications-related topics over the last 18 months. Again, market players are often impressed with your commitment to educate and support the market (ostensibly for free). It shows generosity and a commitment to support their learning and networking goals. You can even become a community builder around your specialist subjects as well as a thought leader.

My experience working with more than 15 tech-led businesses during the pandemic has led me to the certain knowledge that organisations that have run highly active webinar and/or educational blog programmes are the organisations which are bouncing back faster post-pandemic. They’ve used the pandemic to get closer to their customers, prospects and the markets they serve…and they’ve done it all remotely via Zoom or other collaboration platforms.

Powerful campaigns deliver engaging market insights

In summary, to generate fresh insights which you can share with your target market and engender that deeper, more engaged conversation time after time, try to find a way to do your own market research. Whether that’s standing with a clip board at a trade show and asking for some answers to your questionnaire or conducting quantitatively and qualitatively-reliable, independent market research which provides bullet proof findings you can build your marketing and sales campaigns on with confidence – the principle is the same. 

About the Author

Miles Clayton has for the past 30 years been helping technology businesses raise their profile and grow. He has worked with more than 100 businesses sell more goods and services – all through the power of great B2B communications and thought leadership strategies underpinned by research.