Tuesday 2¢: What’s Their Motivation?

In this week’s Tuesday 2 cents, I return to the topic of understanding our audience, specifically, as B2B marketers, that we need to move away from starting our segment definitions with a job title.


The place to start with any marketing project is, of course, the audience. If anyone ever suggests anything to me, whether it’s a campaign, a blog post or any piece of copy, the first questions I ask are who cares? and WHY? Basically, what would be the intended audience’s motivation to engage with it?

Over my career I have fine honed these questions, since starting my own thing back in December, I have reviewed three sets of B2B personas from different clients and in order to write this I am taking a break from describing a set of personas that will be the foundation to an influencer marketing project. Understanding the folks on the other end of the thing we do as marketers is important.

The habit I have noticed over the years is that we B2B marketers seem to be obsessed with job roles and job titles, grouping people and planning to address them as such and are less focused on their needs and motivations. The descriptions of these segments or personas end up reading like job adverts.

Of course, when we are in the intricacies of the sales process, when we are modelling the account and navigating Massivegiga Corp to try and drive some consensus to buy our product in the committee that is a B2B buying centre – roles and responsibilities are super important.

However, when you a little further up the funnel, trying to spark such a process, when you are going into the world with your product and its story, the message needs to appeal to their needs, so that it motivates them to act. A job title could be a poor judge of need.

If you figure out your audience’s needs, motivations and behavior and focus on them, you are going to create better segments and content that pushes the buttons of a broader range of folks across the buying centre and at more points along the buyer’s journey.

For example; If you sell to CMOs you can’t assume that all CMO’s have the same set of values, fears, attitude to risk, etc. etc as each other.

When we focus on their needs, we may find that a risk averse CMO may have way more in common with a CIO with the same needs than a CMO in another business. Therefore, creating content that addresses risk will gain engagement across the C suite of this organization, not just with a specific role.

Similarly, our CMO may at the start of the buying journey feel confident, bullish and be consuming all the great content about the brave, new, cutting edge world they want to create. However, as they continue to research, talk to their C suite colleagues or their boss it might be that the fear of risk creeps into their thinking and they will need content to support this change of need.

I’ve picked on “the need to manage risk” as an example of a need that sits across roles, but as you do your persona research you will find other needs that sit across your segments, stuff like:

  • They need to appear contemporary
  • They need to show value
  • They need to know how it will help them get on
  • They need to feel like this is something their peers would do or aspire to do (or as Seth Godin puts it; people like us doing things like this)

These may seem fairly basic. And they are! This is the point, we are all driven by basic needs.

The need to overcome challenges, to satisfy these needs is the buyers motivation. Appealing to these, ignoring our own needs, will cut through all the flim-flam, business speak, needless detail and noise from your competitors.

While it’s true that many attributes are specific to roles and the language of those roles could be important, the point of this short post is that role or title is not the place to start.

Rather than ask what is their job and diligently writing an outside-in job description, ask: what is their motivation?