First, congrats on your interest in learning more on how to grow a sustainable, healthy business!
Setting a realistic expectation is the first thing to do because the road to success does not come with a clear map.
The internet is full of stories to admire and follow, each one of them more unique and extraordinary than other. You can copy-follow one of them (with no guarantee it will work for your company), or you can try to discover your own unique business methodology for a game winning solution!
What we’ve learned in our 15+ years of marketing experience is that, somehow, there’s always a recurrent element that seems to make all the difference, one that brings positive and stable results from the way that a particular business understands its target and creates tailor-made experiences for its audience. And that element is the customer-oriented approach.
Understanding your customers, it’s a unique and detail-oriented process every company must adopt in order to make sure the business is on the right track. Being curious and meticulous enough with the process will help your strategy achieve an outstanding growing perspective and also nail the loyalty goal.
Defined as the mix of personalized messages, products, content and tactics, the customer-centric marketing approach tries to explain a simple thing: you need to make sure your customer is getting exactly what he’s looking for and what he actually needs, not what your company thinks he needs.
"When you can create content that fits the unique needs of your target audience, they can develop trust and familiarity with your brand." (NeilPatel.com)
Once you’ll go beyond what’s obvious and at first hand, you’ll see that the process is simple and complicated at the same time. Yet, it brings plenty of benefits to any business, like:
But keep in mind that a customer-centric approach requires creating a “customer-centric organization, not just a customer-centric marketing department”, as IDC research analystGerry Murray put it.
In B2B, the same as in B2C, the results are closely connected to the customer approach and the capability to delve deep into your target’s behavior, mapping insights and conclusions on a customer journey that is not exclusive, but mainly large-comprehensive.
The perspective includes the context, the connections, the online and offline behaviors, the winnings and fails of that person and of that job role, all those touch-points that will portrait as best as possible who’s the person that will buy your products or services. Discovering who your client is should be a constant learning process: understanding how he feels, why he acts the way he does, what are his concerns and what is important for him.
The marketing funnel approach is still a valid way of working on the subject. But with the increasing online competitiveness, a market that allowed more and more companies reach niched people with specific needs, the future seems to belong to those who become sparkling wise marketing psychologists.
Creating a good customer experience is rooted in admitting that expectations are what matters the most.
According to MuleSoft& Opinium Research 2019, 72% of internet users worldwide said that a disconnected experience with a company would make them change service providers or brands. “Disconnected” here it actually says that the brand didn’t see and treat the customer properly, it means there was a closed or invisible communication channel between the client’s needs and the brand’s ability to identify this lack of communication. Aligning a customer’s expectation with your offerings is thus the key to constant and progressive success.
If we just think for a second that customer-centric businesses are 60% more profitable than their product-focused counterparts (Deloitte), it’s impossible not to wonder “is my company’s strategy customer-centric enough or we’re just losing points without even knowing?”
Where we can see a disadvantage for the B2B field (or advantage, depending on the perspective) is in the double job it needs to be done when it comes to understanding the insights, the needs and triggers of a prospect due to the fact that you’re talking not only to the professional, but to the human side as well.
Every professional role has a second decisional role which comes from the person’s mindset. Therefore, you have first to convince the person that your company is worth receiving a chance and then convince the professional that what his company may receive from your company is the best fit opposed to the competition. Not the best thing, but the best fit! The difference is essential.
B2B companies need to stay under the same game rules: be at the right time, in the right moment, with the right personalized story, talking the “language” of that particular person, one that will be perceived as comfortable and useful to him. That’s the solution in order to be the No. 1 choice.
So be ready to feel like you’re driving a two-level bus on a crowded highway at rush-hour. It’s an equilibrium lesson.
"80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences." (Epsilon)
Getting to know your customers won’t happen overnight, because customers are dynamic people and many times their behavior will depend on so many contextual elements.
Let’s take the case of a software company that sells complex backup solutions to other companies. Their target is made out of sys admins, but also of IT department managers. Thus, the product they’re selling is most often used by the sys admin himself, but the decision maker could, very often, be the manager. In small companies this role is of an only person, but in bigger companies it splits into multiple roles. So, you see, out of a sudden they have more typologies to reach with their communication and they need to start with answering to some questions: Who should I talk first? To the person that approves the budget or to the one that uses the product? Or to both in the same time? And what are the differences between them? Do people with the same job have different mindset and thinking just because they work in small or medium companies compared to the big ones?Using a singular message is enough to attract all of them? Using the same visuals, content and mechanics will fit both expectations?
Of course, the answers are complex and indicate adopting a customer-centric approach in order to assure the best ROI of your campaigns.
Here are the 7 steps to follow in order to build a customer-centric approach and generate the best ROI when it comes to marketing investment:
Implement a research survey among the actual customers. The role is to understand why they converted in the first place, if the company is fulfilling their needs and also understand what typologies are they. How does a day in their life look like? What can your company do to bring more value to them? What type of arguments are they willing to accept? How do they manifest needs and how to help them in that? Asking (instead of assuming) about how your company is perceived within your industry can give you immensely valuable insights to further build your strategy correctly.
Using surveys will show your company is transparent and direct in truly understanding how to communicate with the potential clients and, finally, where to reach them.Why not ask your audience something if you don’t know the answer and it’s about them?
If you decide you’re ready to do one, we want to give you a hint: Make them simple, like pop-up surveys or one-touch email surveys. Latest studies prove that users are more willingly to answer to surveys if they’re easy and fast to reply to.
Start gathering big data. Use all the owned platforms and marketing campaigns in order to gather as much information as possible about your target. Then take a look at the look-alike affinities and build a list of details about each one of them.
One other thing you may do is listening to them on Social Media. Social listening provides businesses with relevant insights that help understand if the businesses are meeting or missing their clients’ expectation. Here’s a social listening tool you can try: https://mention.com/en/
Also, pay attention to the content they’re engaging with in general. It’s important to understand before acting and launching interesting or cool campaigns what your target prefers: infographics or blog posts? video or static images? and even details that can indicate which subjects to choose when you’re building your content strategy. We’ve seen it so many times that it hurts, small or big brands focusing too much on showing off and bringing to the market cool ideas with no effect in the end.
The best advice we can give you is to build your communication strategies based on your buyer Persona. Often called “the ideal customer”, the Persona needs to be used as a detailed guide to your target.
The best way to create them is by using a design thinking method in order to build the right goal-based and behavior-based Personas, meaning your team needs to understand not only how your target is supposed to react in those touch-point situations you’ve planned, but also in their day-to-day life. What are their psychological characteristics?what context is he living in? what is affecting this typology at the moment? Are there any details you’ve missed?
To be able to personalize products/services and the marketing communication as well, in the end it takes resources, time and a deep understanding of the customer profile. We’ve said that before, right? 😊
Here’s an example of Persona template that dives much deeper into who the buyer’s character and that you can use:
Ask your customer-facing team:
It’s not just about identifying those particular details that will help your business grow, but also about really understanding the full picture, which can allow you to establish deeper connections with them. Then watch how they evolve and how your target is changing according to each context.
Based on the created Personas descriptions, make scenarios mapped on your consumer-journey. Again, don’t put only the online touch-points.Nowadays technologies are becoming more and more relevant and using sensors and other ways of interacting with your target in original ways is easier more than ever! Of course, under the pandemic times we’re facing, the offline tactics are less relevant and doable (and it’s normal to be like this), but this only takes us to the next step, which is…
Where do you, as a company, need to invest more? In what typology? Which Persona is converting or able to convert more? Which tactics you’ve tried and fit a bigger scale implementation?
Maybe it seems something simple to do, but this step is the most dangerous of all. Choosing wrongly based on lack of information or understanding will direct all your well-payed efforts to… Well, to be honest, directly to garbage.
As a recommendation, do this step together with your best team players, the ones that have the habit of fiercely analyzing every detail, like that’s their biggest passion. They will see a different path where you or other members won’t be able to.
Create strategies, messages, campaigns, emails, EVERYTHING based on the defined Personas. One of the mistakes most marketers do is to apply them only to big campaigns, but completely forget about them when they send the monthly Newsletter.
Once you have knowledge on what insights are more relevant to a specific typology and less relevant to another, that’s the place where you need to push on creating various communication tactics and messages.
Share the information you have until this point with the company, not only with the marketing department. The sales team, the PR team, even the financial department need to understand how to differentiate their communication and actions based on Personas. A coherent and well-coordinated business “body” will conquer any challenges a business may have.
Last, but not least, leverage as a decision-making process. Making the Personas profiles an integral part of the corporate interactions, meetings and planning will help the company have a beneficial transformative shift in how decisions are made at a bigger scale. Organizational transformation is not something impossible to achieve, but mandatory when it comes to shifting the business mindset. Scaling the customer-centric strategy to the entire company might take changing some things (like your way of setting up the business KPIs, internal processes, new client-sales standard procedures, etc.), but none of them will seem complicated anymore once you’ve spread your philosophy to the company and the results will start to appear.
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It is our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” - Jeff Bezos, CEO and Founder of Amazon, one of the world’s most customer-centric company.
We’re facing times when understanding, on all levels, is a keyword to stay close to. Users, buyers and B2B customers want the companies that reach them to be relevant, fast, direct and transparent. The sales model is constantly changing according to a new flow that’s rapidly growing. The relevancy everyone is waiting for is more and more difficult to achieve. But the key is in your pocket, it takes patience to penetrate the old habits and nurture a more consuming but effective way of thinking the B2B area! So, before moving on and going back to your business life, tomorrow first thing when you meet your team start with some basic questions:
“Sales is not about selling anymore, but about building trust and educating.” (Siva Devaki, co-founder of MassMailer)
We hope we’ve convinced you that understanding your customers is the only customer-centric strategy you need to have! It’s time to REINVENT the B2B customer experience you’re offering to your clients!