Marketers have a blind spot: The buyer journey

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Last week I was immersed in face-to-face dialogue with senior b-to-b marketing leaders from well-known companies who were attending Forrester events, and one thing was blatantly clear: These leaders are so focused on their initiatives, campaigns, and programs that they have lost sight of the thing that matters most—the customer.

In one setting, I led a discussion group about big data. Rather than debate what big data really means and how it can be captured, I focused on how it could be used. I asked the members to think about the different touch points their firm has with customers at each stage of the customer lifecycle, and how the experiences delivered at each of those touch points could be better informed by the new types of data that are available today. Most struggled with it, because they are not used to thinking about interactions from the customers’ perspective. Instead, they think of it from the perspective of their marketing and sales teams.

Next, I had the opportunity to sit down for two days of one-on-one meetings with senior marketing leaders who were attending Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum. Naturally they are asking about the b-to-b customer experience, so I asked each one how their company goes about capturing information about how their customers buy. The answer was the same: We don’t have that information today.

I’ve written before about how b-to-b marketing is going through an essential transformation. Historically, our focus has been on events, PR, and collateral. Now our CEOs and board are demanding that we’re directly driving revenue. This requires a whole new set of skills and activities across marketing and sales teams: content marketing, inbound marketing, lead-to-revenue management, revenue-cycle analytics, account-based marketing and selling. At the core of any of these activities, and absolutely required to do them well, is a deep understanding of your buyer journeys. Otherwise you’re shooting in the dark.
You need to recognize that the b-to-b buying process is not one big decision; it is a series of micro-decisions, and the company that wins the business is the company that is there to answer those questions and provide the information the buyer needs to confidently advance their journey.

Take for example the very early stages of your customers’ problem-solving cycle, when they first realize they have a problem. They aren’t in a buying cycle yet. Instead, they are trying to understand their problem; determine how high a priority it is to fix compared to everything else going on; who in the organization has to be brought in to changing the status quo; how have other companies solved this problem; and is it worth solving it at this time?

How well do you know what questions your customers are asking at this stage?  What information are they seeking? Where are they going for that information? What motivates them to move to the next step? If you’re not confident that you have the answers, you’ve got a blind spot.

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