Now that we’ve been back from the HubSpot INBOUND conference for a few weeks, I’m finally able to dig in a little deeper on some of the more important points with which I left Boston.

One of my favorite sessions was HubSpot Sales Manager David Winehouse’s presentation for agency partners on identifying your niche audiences. Now that there are about 250 other HubSpot agency partners, we all really need to create distinct positioning for ourselves in order to make the greatest impact for the businesses we work with.

While we’ve been doing a lot of thinking and strategy work around identifying our specialty markets, which range from Professional Services to IT and SAAS companies, I started thinking about how essential it is for every business to really identify their target audience. After all, how can you be successful if you don’t know who you’re in business for?   While a clear and documented content strategy and inbound marketingstrategy are essential, the foundation of that really comes down to having an audience strategy.

Audience Strategies have been the hallmark of television networks for years, and Fox recently launched an entire network division devoted to it.  An audience strategy is fundamental to the communication of any product or service, because if there’s not a goal destination in mind, you’ll likely have a very hard time mapping the road to get there.

Here are a few essential points to consider that will help you laser in on the people with whom you really want to do business.

Follow the three Ps

In David’s INBOUND session, he advised us all to follow the three P’s of Profitability, Proficiency and Passion.  While that guidance was directed at agencies looking to define their target industries, it can certainly be applied to most businesses.  Start out by asking:

  • Profitability: Will this audience be profitable for my business? Do they have the budget to purchase my products or service?  For example, if you offer a project management software that’s used by enterprise companies and you want to target small businesses, you must consider if they will be able to afford it and use it most effectively.
  • Proficiency: Where have we had success with this audience before?  Identify the ways in which you’ve had positive results with a similar target group, and leverage those successes in your approach.  Look at case studies, stats, sales and testimonials.
  • Passion – Do I get what they need? While many products and services are founded on a passion for something, they must also ignite a spark in your target audience as well. Your audience has to feel that you get them and understand what they want and need. Your products or services must fulfill a need for them or make their lives or jobs easier in some way.

From there, look at your customers (current and past) closely and try to identify patterns. Think about where you can best compete and where the most opportunities will be.

Persona Development

When our agency engages a new client, the very first essential step in our process is to identify and develop their key buyer personas. By this, I don’t mean a list of demographics.  A true buyer persona is an overview of a specific target audience, not just of a job title or demographic stereotype. A good persona reveals actual insights into what someone needs who is in a particular role or decision-making process. It outlines their challenges and potential objections and identifies how your products or services help solve those issues.

The buyer person is so crucial to a successful inbound marketing strategy, that we require all of our clients to start with this process before we can do anything else.

Audience Segmenting

Most businesses should know, that if your message is trying to be all things to all people, it won’t connect strongly with anyone. So if you’re too broad in your targeting, it will be harder to make the message resonate.

For example, if you’re a senior living telecommunications company, offering senior specific internet and cable services to senior communities, your ultimate end user might be the residents themselves. The products are designed specifically with their needs in mind, but are they the decision makers? The CFO of a senior living community is likely the purchase decision maker, while the owner or facilities manager is probably the one seeking out the details of the new service options; and even the adult children of the senior residents might have a say in the process, as they are managing their parents’ affairs. So awareness of the services must be clearly communicated, and in the right way, to each of these different audience segments. A buyer persona and a clear content strategy, with distinct messages and channels, needs to be developed for each of the people involved in the process.

The Big Picture

While many companies are often reluctant put the effort into this level of detail upfront, and are more ready to get started creating content and campaigns, having a clearly defined audience strategy, with buyer personas, is absolutely crucial to the outcome of your inbound marketing success.

Are you ready to embark on your Inbound journey?