Integrating The Voice Of The Customer

customer-voiceAt last week’s Forrester Forum for Sales Enablement, many big themes around the customer emerged. While not new, I was reminded of the critical importance and high impact of infusing the customer’s voice during each stage of engagement. I’m sure I sound like captain obvious, but I see marketers and sales pros run into the language barrier time and time again, and with disastrous consequences.

TO BE CLEAR: I’m not exhorting the need for industry-wide standardization. There’s no way we marketers are going to create a lingua franca of marketing. I’m simply highlighting the imperative to recognize our penchant for specific terms and phrases that mean something only to our internal teams and that we lazily depend on to express our point of views and solutions. Instead we must make conscious strides to absorb the languages of our customers. Without this very fundamental step, there’s no chance of communicating specific solutions at each stage along the buyer’s journey.

In marketing, language and proper lines of communication are crucial to an ability to create happy customers. Every company has its own culture, perspective, and focus, and each of these specific idiosyncrasies influence their corporate language (the ways they communicate and the terminology they use). For example, in our industry of marketing tech, a term as simple as “customer data” can, for some marketers, mean nothing more than anonymous cookie data; for others “customer data” means six-page loan applications. Such variances in terminology can cause substantial problems and, when compounded with tens if not hundreds of like instances of miscommunication, lead to detrimental marketing decisions—both with regard to customers as well as the technology decisions they make to better engage customers.

How could something as insignificant as misaligned terminology really have drastic consequences? Differences in terminology lead to misunderstanding, making it very difficult to identify problems and communicate solutions. For example:

  • When a tech vendor doesn’t properly understand a customer’s needs, they can end up selling the wrong solution—leading to customer dissatisfaction, reduced sales, wasted time and resources, irritated execs, etc.
  • On the other hand, when a customer doesn’t properly understand a tech vendor’s value proposition, capabilities, functions, solutions, expertise, etc., they may end up allocating the wrong resources to its implementation (if they even purchase it at all)—resulting in an inefficient, problematic rollout and, again, dissatisfaction and failure.

Here are a couple initial steps toward aligning marketing, sales and customer languages:

  1. Marketing team members should work closely with sales and understand sales processes in order to fully comprehend varying customer needs at each stage along the buyer’s journey. This may include getting marketers more deeply involved in customer engagements and having regular alignment meetings to share notes, opinions and suggestions.
  2. Both marketing and sales should adopt common communications tools that transcend the typical marketing and sales siloes. For example, by leveraging the marketing technology blueprint model, sales pros can tailor blueprints to communicate specific solutions to customers and marketers can use these blueprints to continually update content and messaging around evolving customer requirements.

Integrating the voice of the customer with marketing and sales processes and languages can help drive more customer relevance and value. Getting on the same page is a critical step to enable sales and creating happy, loyal customers.

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