Public relations and marketing, no matter how good, cannot make a buyer buy. This is especially true in BtoB environments, where purchasing decisions often are made by committee, impulse buys are rare, and emotion — though a factor — is secondary to more rational considerations.
Understanding what makes customers tick is more essential today than ever, as the Internet and social engagement have brought about buying-cycle changes that give buyers even greater control the sales process.
However, as BtoB communicators, it seems we’ve lost sight of this fundamental point. It’s understandable; in recent years, we’ve been consumed with driving more leads through email marketing, overwhelmed by the social media du jour, and drawn by the siren song of marketing automation.
We know effective marketing starts and ends with the buyer. We always knew it … we just forgot it temporarily. It’s time to reorient ourselves and our organizations. It’s time to stop selling and start listening to the buyer. It’s time to embrace buyer-driven communication.
This way of thinking places buyers and their needs above all other communication priorities. Understanding what buyers care about, how they make their decisions, and how they want to receive information, makes public relations and marketing about them, not us.
Focusing on what’s important is even more essential at a time when marketing budgets continue to be restrained, and our teams are being asked to do even more with even less.
If the strategies or tactics don’t clearly impact the buying decision of a customer or prospect, they’re irrelevant and undeserving of consideration. How do you determine a tactic’s relevance to the buyer? You ask them. If Mosaic was a popular browser the last time your team interviewed your or your clients’ customers, then you probably should get out more. With buyer profiles and opinions in hand, you can develop customer personas to help the communication team understand purchase motivations, and drive decisions that respond to their needs, desires, and concerns.
While the Stop Selling. Start Listening. approach certainly can use “big data,” behavior-based marketing and customer and prospect segmentation, it doesn’t have to be that daunting. You can start simply by:
• Interviewing 10-15 of your or your clients’ customers
• Regularly joining the sales team for a day of calling on prospects, or
• Spending a few hours in the contact center, listening to inbound customer service calls.
The more you initiate conversations with prospects and customers, and approach your public relations and marketing from the buyers’ perspective, the more successful you’re going to be. Test messages and marketing concepts with buyers, speak to them in their language, meet their specific information needs, answer their questions, and ensure online engagement speaks to their needs — not the products’ or services’ own greatness. Trust me; it will deliver big results.
Now is the time to stop selling and start listening.
Mike Neumeier, APR is principal at Arketi Group, a public relations and digital marketing firm that helps business-to-business technology organizations accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, public relations, messaging, branding and demand generation.