Customer-First B2B Marketing

Today, we’re going back to the basics. Sometimes it takes a little refresher to get back on track. Ages ago, buyers were less sophisticated. You could make outrageous claims, play fast and loose with the facts, and convince a steady stream of customers to buy your product.

Not anymore.

To win over today’s customers, you need to make a genuine connection. You don’t talk at them but instead engage with them, on their own terms. The recipe for success is deceptively simple:

Deliver the right message to the right people at the right place and the right time

Go ahead, soak that in. Pretty awesome, huh? That’s like a million dollars worth of wisdom in just 83 characters. Feel free to get that tattooed on your butt so you never forget it. I’ll wait.

I know what you’re thinking, “Gee, thanks Captain obvious! That’s some really helpful advice there…”

You’re right, the devil’s in the details. Let’s dissect that statement into its discreet parts, just reordered a bit:

1. The Right People

I’ve listed this first because if you don’t understand who your customer is then nothing else matters. You might as well pack it up and go home.

The first step is to identify your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). This should be a cross-functional task across your organization. Take a deep dive and look for common threads across first-touch contacts, common decision makers, project owners, largest accounts, renewals, etc.

When you’ve finished, you should be able to answer questions such as:

  • What is their title?
  • What is their role?
  • What industry are they in?
  • How large is their organization?
  • Where are they located?

2. The Right Message 

Now that you’ve figured out the “who”, you need to define the “what”. This is where many a marketing plan goes awry. Oftentimes, this becomes a one-size-fits-all list of features or unique selling propositions (USPs). You need to turn that lens around to not focus on yourself, but instead to focus on the ICP.

For each ICP, you need to ask yourself:

  • What are their goals?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their fears? (i.e. what keeps them up at night)

The next step can only come from having a deep understanding of your product. You need to look at all those aforementioned features and USPs and determine which ones specifically address these points and how. Think of it as a giant Venn diagram and only focus on the intersection of the ICP’s goals, needs, challenges and fears with the specific features that address these goals, needs, challenges and fears.

Now you need to think like a movie editor. Not everything will be used, and much will end up on the cutting room floor. Your product will not address every goal, need, challenge or fear, and not every feature will be of value to every ICP. At the end of this process, you should know exactly what aspects of your product are of specific value for each individual ICP.

For each feature on your list, you need to determine if it is unique to your product or common in the space. For the common ones, are you best in class, on par, or lagging in comparison to the others? This will help determine the amount of emphasis to place in your messaging.

At this point, you should have something akin to a table with ICP needs down the left and relevant features across the top. At each intersection (where appropriate), craft a message that describes how that specific feature addresses that need.

When you are finished, you will have a set of talking points for that specific ICP. Repeat as needed for each of the ICPs identified.

3. The Right Place 

Ok, we’re on a roll now! You know who you need to target, and what you want to say. Now, how do you get the message in front of them?

This will take some research. You need to find out where they hang out, both literally and virtually. Are there clubs, associations, users groups or trade shows they attend or belong to? Are there specific periodicals, journals, trade magazines or websites that are of particular interest? Are there complimentary products they are likely to use?

Be creative. Think of influencers, analysts, product tie-ins, anything that will help you break through the noise and stand out from your competition.

4. The Right Time

This one is the most nebulous of the bunch. There’s no secret sauce here. You need to recognize that each prospect is at a different stage in their personal buyer’s journey, and you need to show deference and treat them in a manner appropriate for that stage. After all, you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, so you probably shouldn’t go for the close on the first touchpoint.

Sometimes, it’s easier to make assumptions than others (think pull vs push). Someone actively searching for a solution is likely to be further along in their journey than someone who happens across one of your ads. In these cases, it’s ok to more aggressively ask for more commitment, such as a trial or a demo. But in other cases, consider giving options. Think of them as escape hatches that let them move ahead at their own pace. The alternative is to chase them off and potentially never see them again.

Conclusion

Each one of these steps was focused on the customer: Who is the customer? What are their needs and how can we help? Where can I find them? What stage are they at? By putting the customer first in each of these steps, you provide yourself the best opportunity to build a genuine connection with the customer and create a win-win scenario.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or if you think I’m way off the mark here, that’s ok too. And don’t forget to post pictures of that new tattoo…

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