In a recent study we read, the role of marketing is changing to become the chief advocate for customers. In fact, the #1 priority of B2B marketers in 2016 will be “understanding buyers,” according to a recent survey from the IT Sales and Marketing Association. In today’s world of empowered buyers, the marketers who are getting it done are those who understand their buyers best. Customer-centricity is a competitive advantage!

We tapped into the growing Cintell community for perspective from the front lines of customer-centric marketing. Here’s one of their stories: 



Mark Shapiro, Customer-Centric Marketer

Multi-lingual with fluency in Sales, Marketing and Product Management, Mark Shapiro has made a career of building and developing the product marketing capabilities of B2B high technology companies ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 50. He is currently the Managing Director of Agile Product Marketing Group, a marketing consultancy that takes a customer-centric approach to developing strategies, programs, and content that minimize the effort required to close sales.

He lives and breathes technology, and has extensive experience marketing enterprise software, as well as embedded security software for mobile devices, media and internet-of-things applications.

When it comes to B2B marketing, his hidden talent is “the ability to grasp technical details of complex technology products and translate meaning and value to both technical and non-technical audiences, using language that is easily understood but not oversimplified – both inside and outside my client’s organization.”

Mark’s Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” is: the opposite of being product-centric; it’s quite common in high technology organizations to be very focused on the technology that drives the product and to be focused on the features and use of the product.  Customer focus is putting the emphasis on the outcomes of purchasing the product and answering the questions “what’s in it for me?, why should I care?” and “what problem are you helping me to solve?”.
  • Buyer personas: provide a view from the customer’s perspective that is critical for anyone who gets involved with the customer’s buying process.  This includes sales, professional services, marketing, customer success managers, and outside vendors. But more importantly it provides a common reference point to make sure everyone is on the same page across a vast spectrum of customer interactions.  We make buyer personas a key component of every messaging project we do.
  • Lessons, tips or tricks about buyer personas: Personas are a marketing buzzword, don’t try to get your sales team to call them personas or educate them about “personas”.  To sales they’re people who are influencers, decision makers, deal blockers, check writers, stakeholders, etc., What makes a persona relevant to sales is that they represent people who have goals, pains and motivations that will either help you get the sale or not.

His Philosophy:

  • The best marketing advice he’s heard: Quite simply the fact is that customers don’t care about you and what you do. They care about themselves and what you can do for them.
  • How marketing can help sales understand the buyer: This starts with making sure your organization is providing sales training and not product training  (It’s far to common in my experience to give training on “what’s new in the product “ and not how to sell it.)   Once we get away from “speeds and feeds”, I look to present the buyer in the context of the problems the organization is facing and the ripple effect is has across the organization a.k.a the “pain chain”.   This helps to illustrate the fact that you need to be influencing multiple players and opens the door to introducing specific persona and the messages associated with them.

The Good Stuff:

  • On sharing personas: Mapping personas to the message in a core messaging document/platform is where it starts.  This should provide the foundation for content development and when content is created it needs to be tied to a designated persona and delivered with instructions about when and how to use the message and content.
  • On putting customer-centric marketing into practice: I’m a fan of eating my own dog food.  I engage with different types of buyers who have problems due to poor or non-existent product marketing, but those pains manifest themselves differently to different roles.  My company’s site provides a glimpse into the use of personas that starts by addressing the “problems we solve” and putting them in the context of different roles, in different types of organizations.
  • On measuring customer-centricity: I use a qualitative litmus test to audit messages- we need to find and eliminate product-focused messages where the reference point is the product not the customer. This goes back to the fact that customers don’t care about you or your products. Find and replace the use of “we” and “our” with “you,” “your,” and “yourself.”

The Bad Stuff:

  • Why is so hard for marketers to create personas and use them effectively? It’s a resource problem and it comes down to what I call the multiplier effect.  Enterprise B2B sales have an average of 5 participants in the buying process, which means that we need to research each of them, develop messaging for each of them, incorporate that messaging into a variety of assets, and then train sales and marketing on when and how to use them.  And we need to architect our website so that prospects can self identify based on their persona to get to the content etc.… The expertise, time and resources required to do this multiplies exponentially from 5x.   This raises the question -with all the other stuff we have to do how do I justify this? Without the buy-in on the need for personas and the resources to execute on implementing them, we end up with messaging that is generically developed for the “business audience” and the “technical audience” – and that’s on a good day.



Thank you to Mark for sharing your perspective!

Follow him on Twitter, and stay tuned for more   in our series, Habits of Customer-Centric Marketers.