Solid customer intelligence is the foundation for any successful Marketing campaign. But when it comes to B2B Marketing, the process of gathering customer intelligence can be significantly more complex than B2C for a variety of reasons.
Solid customer intelligence is the foundation for any successful Marketing campaign.
In order to be effective, it’s important for B2B marketers to be aware of the reasons why gathering customer intelligence is more difficult and how to best address said difficulties.
There Are Numerous Stakeholders in a Non-Linear Buying Process – and Technology Isn’t up to Speed
In B2B Marketing, you have multiple stakeholders (including technical and strategic evaluators) with different needs and perspectives who are all part of the buying committee. How they consume educational information during their purchase journey will also vary. To get them to buy into your solution, you will need to understand each of their needs and perspectives – and then give them the relevant information based on where they are in their Sales journey.
Technology is a key element to your success with stakeholders because it enables you to have one-to-one conversations and nurture buyers with communication that is applicable to them. However, technology has yet to adapt to the scale needed in the non-linear and sometimes circular B2B buyer’s journey.
Orchestrating remains a challenge, in addition to curating relevant online and offline touches as well as gathering real-time feedback and insights across the B2B buying group to enable marketers to more accurately course adjust.
Not only are there multiple stakeholders at different points in the buying cycle to be aware of, but marketers frequently focus only at top-of-funnel when they should be looking at the entire Sales process.
Read more: A Sensible Approach to MarTech Choices
The buying process is not linear, so we need to shift the way we view the whole concept of Marketing funnels and Sales pipelines. Instead of a Sales pipeline, view B2B Marketing like a beehive. You have a swarm of decision-makers who go in and out of the sales pipeline at various stages.
Currently, technology doesn’t take into account this swarming effect. If a stakeholder leaves the Sales pipeline, they are brought back to the top of the funnel if they choose to start again. Not only does this extend the purchase experience, but it treats stakeholders who previously engaged in the Sales cycle as strangers – potentially causing you to lose any brand edge that you previously had established in the buying process. Furthermore, it creates more opportunities for competitors to interrupt the experience of your stakeholders and possibly take away business.
Until technology catches up to address the gap in real-time feedback and serve the non-linear buying process, B2B marketers should take initiative and advance where they can. This means 1) continuing to gather feedback – including behavioral feedback – across the buying committee to shape customer intelligence, and 2) putting measures in place with your lead process to make sure you pick leads up in the last step of their journey vs. starting them back at “Go.”
Getting a Concentration of Buyers in One Place Requires Initiative and Creativity
In B2C Marketing, it’s relatively easy to gather a specific group of buyers for feedback. However, as B2B marketers, we rarely have a concentration of buyers in one place. Therefore, it’s important to take initiative and be “gorilla” in your customer intelligence. Be willing to mystery-shop your competitors at events and learn about them. Find prospects who haven’t bought into your solution and reach out to them to understand why. This means not fully outsourcing your win-loss. Instead, chose to do some win-loss internally – you might hear or learn something that an outside firm wouldn’t connect the dots on.
Further, be creative and do research at conferences where your buyers cluster – rent a room and invite people. You can quickly build personas and execute rapid message and/or product concept testing. Whatever your approach, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and seek fresh feedback.
The Market Constantly Evolves – a Fixed Marketing Recipe Won’t Fly
It’s equally important to flex intellectual curiosity when gathering customer intelligence. You’ll often find that once you figure out what works to attract and retain a customer, the mix changes. Always be testing hypotheses and ideas. Don’t fall into a static formula – either your formula will eventually grow stale, or a competitor will attempt to duplicate it and the market will be divided.
One of the biggest risks for marketers is falling into the false sense of security that the customers you have today are like the prospects in the market. Customer advisory boards and customer satisfaction surveys are good to help guide and prioritize roadmaps, but they aren’t always good to help inform how you’re going to message and go to market. This is because your customer pool will be more positively biased to you. After all, it’s only natural that your customers want to positively affirm their purchase decision to buy your technology. You need to hear from folks who haven’t already bought into your solution.
To keep your recipe fresh, source customer intelligence at the bottom of your sales pipeline. Review your wins, losses, and stakeholders who exited prematurely, and work backward. Essentially, do reverse forensics to figure out what happened. Use CRM systems and attribution software to perform that regression and research at scale. If you approach it from the bottom, you’re going to discover new information and adapt more quickly to any changes in the market.
Finally, challenge yourself to regularly review your data to ensure you are fully utilizing the customer intelligence you have secured. In your review, ask yourself, “If I were starting from scratch, what would I do?” Compare your response to what your current Marketing plan is and adjust accordingly.
Remember, B2B Marketing, technology, and stakeholders will continue to evolve – we are in the midst of that evolution right now. Be encouraged that the key ingredient to your success in weathering changes and staying ahead of the competition is your mindset and willingness to adapt.