The Art of B2B Market Research: Understand Your Audience Better–and Fast

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3 Haikus about my first impressions of Iron Horse.

Read Time: 3 Mins

For the past eight years, it has been my absolute privilege to troubleshoot, and dot connect with hundreds of B2B CMOs and marketing leaders. My work has spanned industries, products/services, geographies, company growth stage, and marketing capabilities. Yet, there are noticeable patterns that differentiate the companies with a higher propensity for predictable, repeatable and scalable growth. 

The three most significant factors that signal which companies will grow faster and more profitably are: 

  1. Culture and values
  2. Perpetual audience passion
  3. Rigor around alignment

As the new Vice President of Growth Strategy at Iron Horse, I was delighted that my first impression confirmed that this organization embodies all three.

 

Culture.

Culture forged in steel.
Strong values lie at the heart.
Culture begets growth.

If only iron was tougher than steel for a cleverer haiku. Fundamentally though, a company’s values should never waver and should consistently guide business decisions. Culture is the environment in which values are implemented. Just as the company’s growth strategy is cascaded throughout the organization, culture and values must be continually modeled and infused. 

When this is done right, clients, partners, investors, and employees can all expect collaboration, innovation, engagement and satisfaction. Iron Horse culture is dedicated to the values of passion, empathy, excellence, authenticity and my personal favorite (for those who know what a data nerd I am), decisions substantiated by data and insights. The values instilled in our culture are palpable and exude throughout our engagement with our audiences. On many occasions (and music to my ears), I’ve heard the phrase “what data is driving this decision?”—and seen it respected.

 

Audience-First.

Champagne, not dog food.
Iron Horse sips first, and then
We all toast success.

When companies drink their own champagne (because dog food, yuck)—, i.e., make a practice of using their own products and/or services—they can continually validate their ability to meet their audience’s needs. This also leads to superior delivery quality, faster time-to-value and increased satisfaction. Drinking your own champagne is a genuine representation of a company’s pride in what they create and exemplifies its ambition for perpetual audience passion.

As an agency, Iron Horse uses the same principles and practices internally as with clients, investors and partners. “We put ourselves in buyers’ shoes and design cohesive experiences” and “we help you foster authentic relationships with your audiences” (a.k.a., two-fifths of the Iron Horse core values) reflect perpetual audience passion. To my delight, I have already witnessed occasions where we sip our own champagne by using, testing and optimizing our own marketing services to better serve the Iron Horse audience of marketers. 

For example, one client had a fairly advanced requirement to test how their ideal customer could self-select their website experience based on both need AND buyer journey stage (awareness, consideration, decision). The takeaway  was to scope and experiment with that functionality, and then test on ironhorse.io before rolling it out with our client.
 

Alignment.

Fanatical growth
Happens with audience and
Culture alignment

For decades, revenue engine alignment referred to the alignment of goals and objectives across different functions (mainly sales, product, marketing, and customer success). This alignment has been the hallmark of high performing companies. In our current economy, companies must align towards a common purpose for efficiency and productivity to soar. The goal is always progress, not perfection. When company culture and audience passion are purpose-driven, there is an authentic connection between coworkers. This in turn leads to organic alignment, which leads us to deliver on our audience passion.  

Despite decades of companies striving for alignment, it is still seemingly elusive and tends to be more aspirational than obtainable. I fall back on yet another Iron Horse value, which is “if there’s a better way, we’ll find it.” Maybe, a better way to drive rigor around alignment is to begin with a focus on culture and audience passion. 

 

Last thoughts about first impressions.

The missing piece in my journey to troubleshoot and connect dots over the past eight years has been the ability to close the strategy and planning loop with activation and performance optimization. (That onus was on my clients.) I’m excited to close that loop with the programs and services that Iron Horse offers. B2B marketing is not a spectator sport, and I am beyond ecstatic to be all aboard the Iron Horse team!

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