The pressure for B2B marketers is on. Buyers are empowered with an ocean of information available to them online through search engines and social media sites. They are researching their purchasing decisions on their own instead of engaging with Sales early on. Trepidation exists among the marketplace because of a struggling economy, making it more difficult to close new accounts. Winning over modern B2B buyers requires organizations to revolutionize their marketing approach, and adopt a truly customer-centric approach.
At MarketingSherpa, we have just launched our annual B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey to identify key tactics B2B marketers can use to adopt customer centricity, and ensure success in an increasingly challenging environment.
Let’s hone in on this concept of customer centricity. What is this and why is it so important to us now?
In today’s marketplace, the B2B buyer has the power. They can research their purchasing decisions before we even know who they are. They have instant access to peer and third-party opinions of our products and services through social media sites, and information coming directly from the company is received with more skepticism than ever before. We have to earn the trust of our buyers if we ever hope that they will choose us over the competition. This brings me to my next question:
How well do you know your customers?
I am currently in the middle of our B2B Marketing Workshop tour, and the number of attendees that do not yet have buyer personas established for their audience continually surprises me. This is a critical first step towards embracing customer centricity and achieving B2B marketing success. Before you can deliver content to your audience that is going to build trust and drive conversions, you must have a solid understanding of their interests, needs, motivations, etc.
A buyer persona is a detailed profile that represents an actual, real-life group of your target audience. It includes common interests, motivations and expectations, as well as demographics and other behavioral characteristics. Buyer personas enable you to deliver highly relevant content to your audience that will build trust and drive qualified conversions.
In a perfect world, we would be able to develop one piece of content and have it appeal to your entire audience. In reality, it is likely that your market can be broken up into multiple buyer personas. You will need to first identify these personas, and then develop unique content for each profile.
So, how can you get started with the first step, identifying your buyer personas?
This process is far too complex to cover in detail for one blog post. Plus, you’re busy – so I’ll just give you the highlights:
1. It’s going to start with research, and a lot of it. Start by talking to customer-facing departments. Ask them about motivations, challenges, common objectives, etc., for your best and worst prospects and customers.
2. Next, talk directly to your audience. Get your prospects and customers on the phone and ask them directly about their interests, motivations, challenges, etc. Ask them what types of content they want, and what format. Be sure to be in contact with best and worst prospects. You will want to be able to distinguish the differences that exist between these two groups.
3. You can also mine your in-house database. Look for common traits that exist for customers with large deal sizes, shorter timeframes to purchase, most repeat purchases, etc. Then identify common traits for customers that make returns, have the smallest deal sizes, or are for some reason less profitable. What is the difference between these two groups?
4. You can also conduct a survey of your audience, asking them about their interests, challenges, etc.
This research will get you started on identifying buyer personas, and adopting a customer-centric mentality. You will then be able to develop content that will be uniquely relevant, interesting and valuable to those groups in order to build trust and drive qualified conversions. You will also be able attract more of your ideal customers, instead of customers that make returns and are not a fit for your solution.
MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011 – in San Francisco and Boston
B2B Email Marketing: Why renting third-party lists is among the worst tactics
B2B Marketing: Combining sales and marketing knowledge to improve lead qualification
MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report