Is building a B2B audience as challenging as it seems?
Dave Gerhardt knows from experience that it takes engagement, valuable content, and authentic connection to build a B2B audience.
As former CMO at Privy and Chief Brand Officer at Drift, he now helps B2B marketers through his consultancy, DGMG, and his new book, Founder Brand. He talked to us about the importance of building an audience, how to use an audience to drive results and why you need to have something interesting to say.
- Write to clarify your ideas
- Involve your community
- Be the number one resource
- Drive results through engagement
- Understand the power of an audience
- Get people to know, like and trust you
- Map out your funnel
- Build as you go
- Use the one-two-punch approach
- Be yourself
- Check out Founder Brand
- Check out DGMG
- Check out Exit Five
- Follow Dave Gerhardt on LinkedIn or Twitter
Listen to the podcast
Watch a clip
13:55 – Write to clarify your ideas
Organizing your thoughts in an instructional and purposeful way can help clarify your original ideas into something even more digestible.
“I had one or two philosophies. I felt they weren’t like unique to me. As somebody said the other day, ‘There’s nothing groundbreaking in this book.’ Some guy left me a review, ‘There’s nothing groundbreaking in this book,’ and he’s not wrong. He’s entirely right. This is all clearly taking off of the things that I’ve ingested over the years. What I spit out into the world was, ‘Hey, here is a playbook that I think at least here’s how I would articulate. This is kind of what I’ve done with the companies that I’ve worked at over the last couple of years. I’m going to try to put it into a book and cement that a little bit.’ I think actually the process of writing a book helped me clarify that idea, the same way writing can be the thing that brings clarity. It was a cool exercise to try to have to package this and actually think about it.”
16:43 – Involve your community
Let your audience into your process to refine ideas and give them a sense of connection to the final outcome.
“I shared an idea for the title with the community and people gave me feedback on it and they tweaked it. It was super cool to be able to actually test it along the way with the community. The ultimate lesson is kind of what I talk about in the book, which is, at Drift, we built up this engaged audience of people through a podcast Seeking Wisdom, which had nothing to do with the product that we were selling, but that created super fans. It created this amazing connection with people. That created our initial audience that helped us get initial traction, which helped us get our existing customers. I’ve seen the power of building an audience, what you get from that. You and I recently just worked together on some content stuff, but all the ideas that we came up with for content were basically driven through the community.”
19:58 – Be the number one resource
When planning social content, focus on delivering valuable resources to your target customers first before you promote your brand.
“Most B2B companies struggle with things like content marketing and social media because they use them wrong. They use them as promotional channels for their business, which is already, by nature going to be more boring because it’s usually B2B. I don’t think B2B is boring. I just think it’s harder to build a social media presence for a B2B company than it is for a golf meme account or something, or Wendy’s. It’s just that you’re just appealing to two different things. What I see happen over and over is these companies, they’re on all these channels, but the way they use Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube or whatever is they post all stuff related to their company. I think the real way to actually build an audience and build a following is to be the number one resource or a top resource for your dream customer and work backwards from there.”
22:02 – Drive results through engagement
Promotion only works when you already have your target audience engaging with your content and following your brand.
“I’m not interested in the vanity of building an audience and following, but I think the following really does matter because ultimately the goal is to drive some type of results for the business. Did HubSpot drive more buyers in the very early days because of their presence and the content they put out on Twitter and LinkedIn? A hundred percent. It mattered that they were one of the only B2B accounts with a million Twitter followers back in the day. They had reach. When they needed to promote something, they could actually drive people there. Maybe eight out of 10 times they’re talking about inbound marketing or marketing, and then when they have to promote something, it actually works.”
26:53 – Understand the power of an audience
The approach that’s worked for Dave is building an audience first through the channels that make sense for your brand.
“Content is not always a direct response channel. I’ve seen multiple different examples of the power of building an audience. I’m not saying that everybody has to do this. I’m definitely biased by my experience. My approach to marketing has been very social media content, audience-building heavy. You can definitely win with other playbooks. I’m talking about what I’ve seen. I’ve seen it be an advantage. And I’ve talked to a lot of companies who are very analytical, but then I talk about some of this stuff and it’s like I’m speaking an entire new language. They’ve never even thought about doing some of that stuff.”
29:10 – Get people to know, like and trust you
Authenticity is a big differentiator for any business and the only way to build a genuine following.
“I think people forget that we do think so often about the conversion rate optimization stuff, and it’s very important. But with so many brands in any industry, so much of marketing is a game of, ‘Do people know, like, and trust you?’ Because there’s five companies that do event marketing software. They all might be the same, but how can I be the one that people feel like they know, like and trust? Like, ‘Hey, that’s why I went with them first and then they blew me away with a product demo, but I went with them because I like them for this reason.’ And that’s not going to be the same for everybody, but I think it can be a very effective strategy.”
32:42 – Map out your funnel
Coordinate your content channels to achieve long-lasting results for your business.
“You have to zoom all the way out and map out the stages of the funnel for your business. I like to think about all the different channels and have them working together. We think that social media is going to be the first place. Once we get them on social, we want to get people onto our email list. Once we get them on our email list, we want to get them to our podcast. Once we get them on our podcast, we want to get them to our quarterly events. If we can get them to one of our quarterly events, maybe then we can sell to them and give them a demo. You can’t have this media company just completely operating in a vacuum. There has to be some thought to how does this fit in with your funnel and with your other assets?”
38:40 – Build as you go
If you plan out every granular step before you get started with content, you lose some of the momentum you can gain when listening to your audience and iterating on their feedback.
“It hasn’t necessarily been conscious and intentional, but once you’re out there, you start to figure out some of the steps on the fly and then you can go and pop them in. I would have not have been this successful, I almost guarantee it, if I came out of the gate and I was like, ‘This is my funnel, and I’m going to measure it every week. This is how many LinkedIn followers. This is how many email people. This is how many paid subscribers. This is how many clients.’ And some people want to measure it that way. But my bias is creative, content, communication. I just figured there’s a niche. I’m going to talk a lot about this niche, and I’m going to build this funnel on the fly as it comes up. But that’s one of the most powerful things about building an audience.”
40:37 – Use the one-two-punch approach
Reaching out to your dream customers while building authority through content is the best strategy for B2B brands.
“Your best sales strategy, from a B2B standpoint, is this one-two punch approach. On one side of the coin, you’re going targeted, one-to-one outreach. Who are your dream customers? You’ve already helped these types of people. Who can you go find? You’re going to them directly. And then while you’re doing that, you’re starting to build up your awareness and build up your brand through content, through personality, through thought leadership. And it’s those two things can operate in parallel. People just think that you have to either be doing one or the other, and that’s not true.”
45:26 – Be yourself
Your personality, perspective and opinions will differentiate you from competitors who offer the same products and services and connect you with a like-minded audience.
“I put out content so much on LinkedIn. Now, it’s like, ‘Okay, can you replay the hits?’ You know this from a content standpoint, but just because you wrote it once, doesn’t mean it’s not going to work again. And so, it’s about taking this other stuff and getting it back into the mix. But, ultimately, you have to be interesting. The advice is not like, ‘Just post on LinkedIn every day, Alex. You’ll build a brand.’ And that’s not it. You have to first be Alex and have something interesting to say and have people who care about the thing you’re talking about and have a different way to convey it.”