A Step by Step Plan to better B2B marketing

I am a marketer by trade.  I am feeling the tidal wave of change happening to our profession – Data, Cloud, and New ways of engaging with customer and companies are presenting us marketers with tremendous challenges but also tremendous opportunities.

The timeless responsibilities of marketers are changing.  For the longest time, we have been held to account for:

  • Know your customers:  Which segments are the most attractive?
  • Define what and how to market it:  Which products will penetrate a given segment leading to the highest amount of revenue?
  • Protect the brand promise:  How is your brand perceived in the market?

These responsibilities are morphing into a a set of new imperatives for marketers:

  • Understand your customers:  Even in B2B organizations,  marketers need to engage potential customers with individualized messaging and offers.   This is about understanding customer behaviors – what they do, have done and are likely to do.
  • Create a system of engagement:  No more “random acts of marketing”.  Establish a consistent process for engaging customers at every interaction point  – web, email, social, live event, communities.  The way you engage should be driven by analytics – what is working?  What is not?  What channels and offers should I be using?  How does my target audience like to interact with me?
  • Design your brand and culture so they are one:  Establish internal cultural norms that further your brand.  Culture will win out over brand every time. Ensure your brand is carried in a positive way in the market.

While these responsibilities and imperatives are important and need to be considered, they are not the end all be all.  In the end, marketers still need to find answers.  They need to be able to read customers expressions or body language in a world that has become increasingly digitized.

Here are some tips about how to go about this:

  • Capture all customer interactions:  Data collection is critical to meeting the demands of he segment of one.  Ask your customers for information which will uniquely identify them – e.g. email address;  BUT, offer them something in return – a white paper, a demo, attendance at webinar or event.  Ultimately you need to engage customers in a dialog across all channels.  Every interaction should be treated equally – events, web, email, social – all opportunities to capture a piece of customer info.
  • Categorize the different types of customer data:  Marketers need to understand the different type of customer data:  Descriptive:  Self identified industry, title etc; Attitudinal: Customer opinions, feelings and sentimentBehavioral: Buying history, event attendance etc.. Interactions:  Website visits,  sales calls, email, social media etc..
  • Analyze all customer data in context: With  the data from point 3, look at all of these together to develop a “digital thumb print” of your contacts – the pattern that makes the contact unique.
  • Use various types of analytics:This is where a “one size fits all” approach does not work.  You need to apply the right type of analytics to the task:  data collection, social media analysis, social network analysis and sentiment analytics for attitudinal information; reporting, statistical analysis, data mining and  advanced visualization for descriptive, behavioral and transactional information
  • Predict client behavior:  Do not wait until something bad happens…predict what your clients are likely to do next.  Will you get it right all the time?  Nope, but you can be sure that the odds are in your favor to get it right if you are following steps 1 -5.
  • Create a closed loop and global view of the customer:  Steps 1- 6 must feed a cycle of marketing.  This is similar to the instructions on your shampoo bottle: Apply, rinse and repeat.
  • Make analytics available to all:  Access to information to make critical decisions cannot be given to the select few if you truly want to drive better outcomes via your marketing activities.  Insights must be available to every marketer when they need it and how they need it – via standardized reports, dashboards, analysis etc..
  • Gain “right time” intelligence:   So much is made of “real time”.  As a B2B marketer I laugh at this….I do not need real time analytics.  (Yes, I said it!).  Would I like it?  Of course I would, but I do not need it.  What I really need is insight at the “right time” – when the buyer is ready to act.  Understanding your buyers’ “thumb print” will allow you to identify that “right time” to put an offer in front of them.
  • Discover new business models:  With all of the data available to you and analytics to help interpret it, you may be sitting on a gold mine without even knowing it.

Truly understanding customers and what they will do next is not rocket science.  It require some critical thought and intestinal fortitude to let go of long held beliefs and believe the data.

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