On the minds of most executive leaders for B2B organizations today is two pressing objectives. They involve two additions – increasing customer acquisition and increasing customer retention.
From a customer lifecycle and buying cycle perspective, it means getting more in the front end and less leaking out the back end. At the most basic level, it is fundamental to achieving growth and profitability. For CMO’s and CSO’s – there is a lot riding on both.
Answering Big Questions
B2B organizations are struggling with big questions. They are not new. They have existed since the dawn of business. The struggle today has to do with arriving at new answers to the big questions related to “how”. As in:
- How to create more demand?
- How to generate more leads?
- How to convert more leads into sales?
- How to increase re-purchase?
The rise of the digital age is making answers to such questions harder to come by. Understanding new buying behaviors in the new digital age is a path to new answers. It takes buyer insight to get to these answers. Right now we have a big insight gap.
The Big Insight Gap
More and more CMO’s and CSO’s are realizing they need to be joined at the hip to address the big objectives as well as answer the big questions. There is a need for tight linkage as opposed to compartmental thinking most commonly found. A way to create tighter linkage is through insights. One problem. I believe neither the CMO nor CSO is being served well with buyer insights today. Let me give you voices from recent interviews to illustrate a big insight gap:
VP Sales: “We are not getting anything new or something we need to know. Knowing our buyer persona is a 40 something years old doesn’t help. We get from marketing so called insights we have already known for years and they are just figuring out. The fact of, the main initiatives in a data center are x, y, and z is just that, facts. I’m not hearing anything new there. I expect my team to know this.”
VP Marketing: “One of the problems we are having is we are not close enough to the sales department. Knowing which insights to get is a dilemma. We deal with the same thing most companies probably deal with. Sales say our leads are crap. That tells me right there we need to find out more about which buyers to go after.”
Some of you may have heard similar voices recently. What to do?
Bridging the Gap
To meet the big objectives and get answers to the big questions, CMO’s and CSO’s will need to build a Big Insight Bridge. Here are recommended action pillars:
Quantitative is Only Half the Equation
Quantitative analysis can be very helpful. It is a crucial part of the equation to gaining insights. It is not the whole equation. Big Data is on the rise and it is easy to jump to the conclusion you can get all your answers from Big Data. The other half of the equation must involve a commitment to qualitative buyer research. The result is Big Data + Big Insight = Big Understanding.
Closer to Decision-Making
The role of the insight gatherers have to move more upstream This role is usually an add-on to an existing position far removed from strategy making. In the early days of buyer persona and buyer insight development, most efforts originated from a very senior level. Big insights led to big impact. Here’s the voice of a senior level manager to help illustrate the dilemma we now face:
“The people we have on this really don’t understand the business yet. They are too junior. To be fair, they haven’t seen or heard enough to know what is important. You can tell this from what we do get.”
Focus on Buying Cycle and Lifecycle
This is closely related to the above. Many of today’s buyer persona and buyer insight development efforts are too narrow in scope. While one of the purposes of using buyer insights can be to development targeted messaging and content, it is not the sole purpose. The overarching purpose is to gain future direction and buyer foresight. CMO’s and CSO’s need insight related to the entire buying and lifecycle.
Integrate Buyer Insights Into Joint Strategy Creation
CMO’s and CSO’s oftentimes can get on the same page by meeting at the center of the Big Insight Bridge. Usually what can happen is strategies are created independent of each due to compartmental thinking as mentioned above. CEO’s reading this should encourage their respective CMO’s and CSO’s to jointly plan buyer insight-driven future direction and strategy.
Build Communications Platform
This last action is designed to help the organization reach a common and communal understanding of buyers. More importantly, why the above – joint strategy creation – ties back to this understanding. To do this, you need a sound communications platform. This is where buyer personas can be very effective. One of the primary purposes of buyer persona development is to communicate big insights, not be the end means itself.
I recommend these five actionable pillars to build a bridge to big insights. Such a bridge will allow buyer understanding to flow with impact between marketing and sales. It has to be done with the right level of qualitative research, skills, perspectives, senior level involvement, and communications planning.
Otherwise, if you lack these, you will build a bridge to nowhere.
(A maturity model perspective is offered via the Buyer Insight Maturity Model™. I encourage CMO’s and CSO’s to read about and obtain a copy of this model. It can offer helpful guidance. I am also available for helpful conversations on how to build a Buyer Insight Bridge™. Please share widely – there may be some peers and colleagues who have reached the end of the bridge to nowhere and need help.)