“The next wave of competitive advantage for B2B companies will come from deepening customer knowledge and taking action based on an obsessive desire to deliver what their customers want.”
This quote from Peter O’Neill of Forrester, as well as the research and reports that back it, highlight the massive shift from a sales-driven to a customer-centric buying journey. If you tuned in for the most recent episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, you heard Jill Rowley stress the importance of salespeople knowing and understanding their buyers, and how to cater to those buyers in each and every sales interaction. But what about Marketing?
Marketing leaders are just as involved in the shift towards a buyer-obsessed sales strategy as sales leaders. As evidenced in recent research from Forrester, 67 percent of B2B marketing leaders believe that a competitive advantage comes from a singular focus on the customer. But Forrester’s research and client interactions “show that change isn’t happening fast or extensively enough.” Below are three quick but effective ways marketing leaders can become more buyer-obsessed.
Meet buyers on their turf.
Forrester reports that 53 percent of B2B buyers prefer to gather information on their own rather than interact with a sales rep. Marketing is much more involved in more of the buying process than previously, so it’s imperative to be present past the initial “hand off” to Sales. This involves creating (or repurposing) relevant and engaging content for the entire customer lifecycle, and delivering that content where buyers are seeking their information. While thought leadership and lead generation content is imperative for attracting buyers and building brand credibility, it’s only the tip of the iceberg (or top of the funnel). Ensuring that you’re supporting salespeople with content that’s specific to the buyer’s role, industry and stage in the buying process later in the journey is just as important. The balance of channels (such as social, digital, print and human) will vary from company to company, but the key is that there is a variety of channels where your messaging reaches buyers.
Focus on customer loyalty.
The customer lifecycle does not stop at a won deal. It’s imperative to keep customers happy once they’ve agreed to buy, because these can turn into cross-sell, upsell, and advocacy opportunities. On the flip side, unhappy customers may share their poor experiences with others, deterring others from interacting with your brand. Marketing leaders should work closely with the customer success organization to ensure customers are happy, are optimizing the product or service offered, and are willing to be brand advocates. Marketers can increase customer face-time through customer newsletters, webinars, events and even customer advocacy platforms.
Align with sales.
Eighty percent of B2B buyers surveyed by Forrester believe that the salespeople they meet with have an agenda focused on presenting their products, rather than understanding them and their business challenges. Marketing leaders are just as responsible as sales leaders for empowering salespeople to sell consultatively. Content is one way to align sales and marketing around the buyer, but the creation process is only half the battle. Content should be served up to reps in a centralized repository that ideally connects to the reps’ CRM and email programs. This way marketing leaders can be sure that reps are sharing only the most relevant content with buyers—based on their roles, industries, stage in the buying process and more.
Forrester estimates that we are around five years into what they call “the age of the customer.” The customer is only becoming more educated and empowered, and both Sales and Marketing need to keep up in order to generate revenue. While Sales may own the number explicitly, Marketing is just as responsible for enabling salespeople to sell in a buyer-centric manner. Marketing leaders can do this by meeting buyers where they prefer to seek information and knowledge (especially in digital mediums), create customer advocacy programs to ensure buyer loyalty, and align with sales through content creation and delivery. The customer craze is in full swing, so make sure you don’t fall behind.