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Bill Lee
  June 17, 2016

B2B Marketing’s Huge Chasm With Customers


from my LinkedIn articles

The evidence is overwhelming that prospects want to hear from their peers before deciding to buy. That’s equally true for business buyers as well as consumers. In its 2015 survey of more than 1,000 B2B buyers, for example, SiriusDecisions confirmed that buyers are most influenced by customer experience–and if they’re not customers already, that means they want to hear from your customers who have experienced your offerings. Providing prospects with content about or interactions with such customers is a slam dunk imperative–and CMOs realize this. Yet they’re not investing in customer advocacy and related programs.

In our 2015 study on Customer Advocacy and Engagement (in partnership with SiriusDecisions), 83% of B2B firms said references are “valuable” or “critical” to moving prospects through the sales cycle. Nevertheless, on average they’re investing less than 10% of marketing budget on cultivating references and getting their stories out there–which is unchanged from findings from our 2013 study! That, folks, isn’t just a disconnect. It’s a chasm.

If you look at the content and interactions marketers actually provide to buyers in their journeys, there’s way too little about customer experience or from customer advocates.

Conceptually, it looks something like this.


Marketers invest less than 10% of their budgets on customer advocacy…


… even though buyers want most to hear from your customers.

Perhaps it’s time to adapt Peter Drucker’s imperative to strategy and product development: put everything you offer on trial for its life every 18 months or so, if not faster. Ask, “If we weren’t already making this, would we start doing so now?” Applied to today’s marketing, adapt Drucker’s dictum like so: wherever we’re using marketing that’s about us, ask, “Why aren’t we offering marketing that’s about or with our customers?”

In my experience, one reason marketing resists is that customer advocacy doesn’t seem adaptable to certain channels or stages of the buyer’s journey–such as in social media, or early in the sales cycle at the consideration stage. After all, how do you condense a 2 or 3 page success story into a “snackable” portion suitable for social? But in fact, leading B2B firms are ingeniously adapting customer evidence to the preferences of today’s buyer. For example, as we learned at this year’s Summit on Customer Engagement, Citrix worked with inEvidence to develop an impressive and easily “digestible” lineup of compelling customer experience consumables, such as “WebStories” with “SnapShots” in formats that fit the channel and that require minimal effort to consume–no downloading required.

Other leading firms are questioning conventional wisdom about how today’s buyers are purchasing. For example, it’s widely believed that buyers today won’t read anything over a couple of pages, if that much. Not so. EMC Documentum is finding that its buyers will consume a 20-page white paper if it’s relevant to the problem they’re trying to solve, and particularly if it contains customer stories similar to their own.

What an opportunity! If you have a reasonably satisfied and loyal customer base, cultivate your advocates and invest in innovative ways to capture their stories and get them out to the market (as in the predominantly green chart, above). Make it easy on yourself–it’s your customer-focused content that buyers will gobble up. Very likely (according to our research) your competitors aren’t providing this.
Source: Bill Lee