Imagine for a minute that it is the 1920s and you have been doing the washing by hand your entire life. You have had to fetch water eight to ten times a day from a pump, well or spring to do your washing. Your mother did her washing by hand and so did her parents and everyone before them. Recently you’ve heard about machines in commercial plants that can do a lot of washing automatically and you know people are now buying these machines for their homes. You also, after some contemplation and discussion with friends and family, decide to buy one. What do you do?
You go to the dealer and ask for one. They advise you about their model(s), you ask several questions, there maybe a short demo on how it works and then you purchase it.
The Revolution with Resolution
Now imagine you are sitting in the seat you are in right now and you want to buy a washing machine. What would your first step be?
Double click – you’ve opened your search engine of choice, probably Google. And then what? You start typing.
- What is the best value washing machine?
- Buy new Washing Machine
- What washing machine should I get?
- Second-hand Washing Machines
- Washing Machine Gumtree
- Ebay washing machine
Or maybe your search term is just washing machine. Either way the search engine completes your request in .25 seconds and you have 58 million results. Now the real journey begins. You consider prices, sizes, colours and maybe even noise through a myriad of promotional material, ads, data sheets, opinions, pictures and perhaps videos. Now you’ve completed your initial search and you stop thinking about it. Maybe you go back to your work and put washing machines in the back of your mind for now.
You have another look at washing machines during lunchtime, maybe just before you go home as well. You get home and discuss getting a new washing machine over dinner. Maybe your partner does some research too, or maybe they’ve entrusted it to you. Then once you have done most of your research and you are pretty sure you know what you want, you start looking for the best way to get it. You begin a second round of search for the closest outlet or websites that sell it online.
Then comes a point where you may go into a shop or put a bid in online, i.e., your first point of contact with the vendor. By this point, you are reasonably well versed in what you want. You still need to clarify a few things and the shop assistant or the online vendor will answer those questions for you. You complete your journey, buy your washing machine, somehow get it home, read the first few pages of the manual, plug it in, ignore the warranty and begin using it. It’s beautiful, so smooth, so quiet, so pink.
What was the difference between the two other than obvious advances in technology?
An empowered customer
Advances in technology and communication coupled with access to an unparalleled amount of information and data has created a world of empowered customers. Even though I’ve given a B2C example, the notion of the empowered customer transcends all boundaries and applies to the B2B world. Even in the complex B2B buying environment, your customers have access to enough information to get to the point of sale without you.
As a marketer the more you know about the journey your target customer takes the more capable you are of meeting them along the way. This doesn’t mean sending them a set of brochures after they have downloaded one of your white papers. This means finding out among other things what they were searching, what they want to know, what is most difficult for them and why they started the process. Once you have answers to these questions, then you can begin to create buyer personas and a strategy that is centered around your buyers.
Understanding what your buyer needs to solve their problems and the journey they take to solve these problems are the keys to customer centricity. Your process of understanding your buyers should be based on constant research and analytics.
Breadcrumbs for Your Buyer
Technological advancements have allowed current marketers to track their buyers to an increasingly high level of precision, which when combined with automation and planning, enables the supply of useful information to your buyer at each step of their journey. You are essentially leaving the breadcrumbs at the right places to nurture your leads through the maze of online information.
Recent research from a B2B Marketing and Ernst & Young collaboration showed that while around 73% of B2B marketers understand the importance of customer centricity, only 28% of them believed that their colleagues understood their customer’s need – a figure which dropped to 15% when it was a prospect’s need in question. There are two things marketers should focus on when working on their customer centricity.
1. How are they doing it?
A strong customer-centric plan will focus on how the customer conducts their journey. According to Aaron Bean of EY “Customers like choice (but not too much) and to do business on their own terms.” You need to encompass this concept of the empowered customer into your process. You also need to identify the channels your customers, both present and future, populate. This will largely dictate which channel you will allocate your resources and budget to.
Ericsson has recently predicted that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world and the large majority of Internet use will be on mobile devices. These are statistics worth considering. Your customers will be increasingly found online and on a mobile device. This will dictate the types and format of content you produce for them. Obviously your campaign will encompass more than just a plan for that but it is a starting point.
2. What do they want?
This is the most important message of this blog. Customer centricity is about what the customer wants, not what you want. As your customer takes ownership of a bigger portion of the sales and marketing funnel they become more educated and increasingly wary of a sales pitch. Marketers should be venturing further along the sales funnel and providing the customer with information relevant to each stage of their journey.
They should also be collaborating with sales to exchange information about the customer. This process has been made much easier with developments in marketing automation and analytics. These tools allow you to measure and refine your process continuously, to maximise your campaigns’ success.
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Chris Fell is the Managing Director of g2m Solutions, and an accredited align.me Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the g2M Solutions blog.