Know your audience

Direct marketing company Harte-Hanks recently published the results of a survey on how corporate buyers make decisions (“Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey: Survey Questions & Responses”). The company surveyed 500 buyers and “decision-influencers” mainly from the U.S. but also from Canada. Of interest to those of us who write in the corporate world was a question on how those surveyed became aware of technology products. While “peers/colleagues” took the top spot at 70 percent, running in second was “magazine and trade journals” at 57 percent, showing how important the trade press in printed form remains in the business world. This finding reinforces our belief in the value of editorial coverage in B2B magazines.

Another interesting question in the survey was “How effective are the following marketing ‘tones’ in initially attracting your attention to technology product advertising?” Far and away, “factual” (87 percent), “cost/value-oriented” (83 percent) and “benefit-oriented” (79 percent) were the most persuasive tones when it comes to influencing technology buyers and decision makers. Again, this is of interest to the trade press community, since most trade journals are written in the traditional “news reporting” style found on the front pages of newspapers. Other, newer media that are more likely to be lighter in their approach (such as Twitter or Facebook) did not strongly influence decision-makers, with the survey showing “humorous” and “edgy/cool” tones drawing just 17 and 15 percent respectively. And survey respondents at the CEO/President level rated “humorous” as effective just 12 percent of the time.

What lessons do we draw? Know your audience. Know where they like to go for information on the goods and services they need, and how they like the information presented. While humor and an avant-garde style work well in opinion pieces or in social media, they don’t perform as well when large contracts for expensive items are being drawn up. A well-written, factual article in a trade publication is a great avenue to reach technology buyers—and no doubt many others, as well.

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