B2B marketing has evolved and continues to do so at such a rapid pace. Brands are getting extraordinary opportunities to interact with customers faster than ever and in ways they couldn’t have dreamed of even a few years ago. With new technologies and engagement tools, they have more options to build and nurture great customer relationships. Clearly, this is a very interesting time for B2B marketers. Yet, a majority of them are making a critical mistake – focusing on their company, not on their customer.
Reports show that many marketers are missing the mark when it comes to delivering value to customers. Marketers want to earn a seat at the leadership table and demonstrate the impact of their programs and content, but they are forgetting the most important step — knowing what their customers really want.
I see this happening all the time. In fact, in my experience as a B2B marketing consultant, very often the question — “What problem does your product solve for your customers?” — gets me the same kind of responses from clients – generic benefit statements and way too many details about their product.
Marketers talk about their product features and how great the product is; the awards their product has won, and so on. But they forget the most important bit:
People don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problems.
When you go to buy a car, for instance, it’s not because it has heated seats, but because your family is expanding and you need more room.
The stakes are rising – B2B buyers want and expect customized content, and 65% of business buyers say they would switch brands if the company didn’t make an effort to personalize their communications. This is why it is necessary to step back and remind yourself why you are creating content in the first place. Because if you can’t communicate how your product solves the problem that’s bugging your customer, they won’t bother buying it. Or, even hearing about it. And that’s where marketers go wrong with their messaging.
From Mediocre Messaging to Messaging that Works
The fact is, having an awesome product isn’t enough. You need to communicate its value or differentiators in a way that gets your target customer to sigh in delight — “Yes, this is what I needed!” On the contrary, most of what is produced by marketing teams today hovers around the same thing — their company and the product. The talk about value comes in, if at all, as an add-on rather than being the ‘meat’ of the message.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that better messaging is what salespeople need from their marketing teams most to win more deals, as pointed out by this survey by Televerde. In fact, 58% of deals are ending up in ‘no decision’ because value wasn’t clearly articulated to the customer.
So what does it take to create better messaging?
Simply, it needs to be customer-focused. And that means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.
If you’re like most marketers, you probably thought “Doh! I should’ve known!”
However, in talking with my clients, I’m observing what seems to be a trend amongst both big and small companies. Instead of conducting real customer research to figure out what customers want and need, many companies are just skipping this step. They talk to a handful of sales or customer service reps to learn about their customers. Then they move on to push out marketing content that obviously doesn’t fall in line with what customers want. It doesn’t create engagement or interest — at least, not the kind that drives sales. All of this ultimately leads to frustration, wasted energy and lots of wasted money.
So why are companies skipping this step? I’ve heard that it’s too hard. Or too expensive. Or too time-consuming.
Maybe, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Imagine if you knew exactly what your customers needed from you to say “yes” to your product or service. How many hours would be freed up in your day if you no longer spent your time creating content that doesn’t get used?
3 ways to enhance your customer understanding
- A curious mindset
It all starts here because too often, the reason I see companies skipping the research step is because they think they already know the answers. They make a lot of assumptions – what pain points the customer has, what motivates them to make a purchase, where they go for information and the reasons they ultimately go with one vendor over another. Nine times out of ten they develop a picture that’s nothing but sketchy at best. So cultivate that wonder-like state of a child and become interested in everything about your customers. Does a child feel dumb for asking why the world works a certain way? Nope. They are too busy exploring and learning.Somewhere along the way we lose this sense of curiosity – even though we intuitively know that we could never possibly learn everything there is to know. After all, there are 130 billion books out there, and 7 billion people with different points of view.
In marketing, your goal is to get your messaging to resonate with your customers, helping them to take an action (be it calling your sales team for more info, opting-in for a service, subscribing to your newsletters, etc.) based on it. Curiosity can help you accomplish these goals.
- Ask the right questions
The importance of asking the right questions cannot be overstressed. If you want insightful answers, you have to ask questions that elicit such answers. Surface-level questions will get you surface-level answers. So how do you go about asking questions that matter? This requires some preparation. If you show up to talk to a customer and you don’t have a list of well-thought-out questions, the conversation could go in many different directions.My advice? Think like a journalist.Any good reporter knows that if they want a great scoop, they have to dig deep by using WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HOW questions. And not just one level deep – I’m talking about asking again and again until you get the real answer. When it comes to knowing your customers, there can never be too many questions.
- Think what’s in it for them
Your message needs to answer “what’s in it for me?” for your audience, connecting the dots from what they care about to how you can help them.Simple test – show your website, email or sales deck to your friend or spouse. Can they tell you how you help customers? Most of the time company marketing materials are so over-stuffed with industry jargon and terminology, that the reader literally tunes out when they hear it.
Customer-Centricity is at the Heart of Effective Marketing
If Marketing professionals want to effectively contribute to the leadership table, it all boils down to understanding what customers care about and how to communicate with them in terms that are relevant and compelling. According to the latest edition of The CMO Survey, the top trait of an effective CMO is “being the voice of the customer at the leadership table”.
Undoubtedly, the marketing teams continue to play a crucial role in helping companies survive disruptions and beat out intense competition. But that alone won’t change how marketers impact what matters the most — the bottom line. It can only happen when they are willing to take a step back to really know their customers and their needs.