There was a time in b-to-b marketing where sales professionals drove the buying cycle, guiding prospects through the awareness, discovery, and validation stages. Those days are going.
In today's information-rich world, buyers are in control of the sales process. Sales is left playing defense, at best – or worse, just left behind, not even knowing that their organization was briefly considered by the buyer.
This makes it all the more vital to understand what makes b-to-b buyers tick. It's time to embrace buyer-centric marketing. This philosophy places customers at the center of all marketing priorities: understanding what buyers care about, how they make decisions, and how they want to receive information...in short, ensuring marketing focuses on the buyer - not the company.
My company, Arketi Group, recently held a roundtable of some 70 b-to-b CMOs. Most of the participants confirmed their organizations were making adjustments to their marketing and PR efforts to become more buyer-centric.
Many were doing this by developing personas for different buyer types, and mapping those to pain points that motivate them to engage. Others were developing insights in novel ways, such as creating Customer Advisory Boards based on key personas – a highly effective forum in which to test new messages and content, and remain current on buyers' evolving pain points.
Another company was using the Net Promoter Score to spot possible changes in buyer behavior and concerns, prompting the marketing team to revisit and adjust as needed. Still another said her organization worked “relentlessly” to educate employees at all levels on the buyer personas important to the company, reinforcing this with ongoing training and internal communications such as employee newsletters, emails, intranet, and posters.
As marketers, our yardstick needs to be: will the buyer care? And the way we'll know that is not by tweeting more, emailing more, or lead-nurturing more. It's by asking questions, observing behavior, measuring results – and listening to what buyers are telling us.Mike Neumeier is principal of Arketi Group, which publishes the b-to-b Marketing News blog. Find him on Twitter at @arketi.