This is Part 2 of a 4-part series dedicated to the critical requirements of a successful marketing career in 2015. You can see part 1 on marketing tech here.
I’d like to pose two questions to my marketing colleagues
1. How important do you believe customer knowledge is to your marketing success?
2. How often do you meet or talk with your prospects and customers?
My guess is that most marketers said “very important” to question #1, and “not often, if at all,” to question #2. This incongruence is not unusual for most marketers.
I started with the question about customer knowledge because customers rarely get the priority they should from marketers. Many marketers talk a good “customer” game; however, they spend a majority of their time on non-customer-centric functions: brand positioning; sales enablement; creating content; and disseminating information to rally support for campaigns.
Those are all important functions, to be sure, but none of them impact the ability to achieve core marketing goals (specifically, pipeline and new customers) in the same way that listening to, meeting with and understanding the customer does.
Marketers need to strike a balance between internal considerations and the even more important customer considerations. I believe so much in the power of customer knowledge, I spend up to 50% of my time with prospects and customers.
What I’ve found is that marketers who know the customer (their cares and priorities) are some of the highest performing professionals and in the best position to grow their careers. This is increasingly true today, because customers are in control, setting the terms of their interaction and transaction with companies and brands. A few bad experiences or big misses can send your brand reeling or burn through a budget quickly with no results.
So, what can marketers do to stay sharp and infuse customer knowledge into their marketing role and tactics?
Get Out with Customers
There’s no faster path to customer insight and better program results than meeting with prospects and customers to gain a real-world view of their concerns and needs. I believe that capturing buyer knowledge is an invaluable process to ensure customers are at the center of your marketing and business strategy.
Returning to my opening question, here are simple ways to engage with customers and acquire useful knowledge quickly and regularly:
- Industry and customer conferences are a great start
- No travel budget, listen and participate in a local seminar or online webinar where customers are speaking
- Interview a customer to build a success story
- Find ways to tag along or listen in on a sales call
- Field a survey of customer preferences
There are innumerable approaches – qualitative and quantitative – to collect customer insight. But it’s incumbent on you; customers aren’t going to come to you asking to share their stories.
The most appealing companies (from a career opportunity standpoint) are actively seeking marketers with a track record researching, documenting and engaging with customers, pre- and post-conversion. That’s because the power of the customer has increased so dramatically (this widely cited report suggests 57% of the sales process has disappeared) as more of the buying process takes place before sales ever enters the picture.
With discovery, engagement, nurturing and creating happy customers at the forefront of marketing’s job, now is the time to step up for better results and to advance your career.
Create Personas to Help Infuse Customers into Relevant Marketing Programs
When you understand your target customer, engage with them effectively and treat them right once they’ve become customers, business success (in the form of revenue, profitability, satisfaction scores, customer references) will follow naturally.
Marketing pros who know the customer use that knowledge to create compelling content, ensure that content speaks to customer business needs at varying stages of the buying process, create positive brand experiences across channels and continue to engage that customer (post-conversion) with ongoing communications.
When it comes to knowing the customer, what are the critical insights that separate marketing winners and losers? Insights include developing and using personas that include such info as typical job titles, professional responsibilities, informational needs and go-to resources, coworkers who influence their strategies, industry drivers, and business priorities.
In the process of building customer knowledge, you also need to understand the typical purchasing practices of your target buyer and organization. That explains why there’s so much buzz surrounding the practice of mapping the “buyer’s journeys.”
Journeys vary – quite radically – across companies and industries, so no need to over-engineer here. Ask customers about their process, use analytics to track what’s working and what’s not, and buddy up with a sales pro to gain insights and bake these into your marketing strategy and execution.
I wholeheartedly view customer insight as a foundation for a successful marketing strategy. Customer-centric marketing, in turn, is the staple of your resume – and therefore your career – populated with successes that will yield the next great job opportunity, standing out from other marketing pros.