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: 

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Scott Hornstein, Customer-Centric Marketer

Scott is a Partner at B2P Partnersmaking b2b more powerful by making it more personal.

He is an international author, lecturer and consultant. Scott has worked with clients in all phases of marketing strategy, research, implementation and analysis. His approach emphasizes a deep understanding of prospects and customers, building a relationship on respect and trust, maximizing conversion, retention and lifetime value.

When it comes to B2B marketing, his hidden talent is “his sense of humor.”

His Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” means: 
    1. You see the moment of customer interaction as a golden moment – to either burnish your brand, or blow it up.
    2. You are willing to actually speak to icky customers to find out what they wish you already knew.
    3. You pay attention to metrics that are consistent with customer-centricity, such as detailed satisfaction and net promoter, and not just conversion and dollar amount.
  • The role of buyer personas to me is large and contains multitudes. Three of the most important are;
    1. To provide an in-depth and incisive view of significant prospect groups and opportunities, from the point of view of the prospect. This means the persona is a result of new qualitative research. If we construct the persona from existing data, we are only perpetuating the mythology. We’re looking for the personal and new, and we’ll only find it talking to real live prospects and customers.
    2. To educate and sensitize, because many of those working on a marketing campaign have never met or spoken to a prospect.
    3. To serve as a point of agreement between sales and marketing.

His Philosophy:

  • Some of the best marketing advice I’ve ever received is:
    1. The deployment of marketing resources must be both measurable and accountable.
    2. B2B is, and always has been, a personal sell.
    3. Your prospects and customers want to talk to you. They want to tell you their needs, preferences, and how they learn. They want you to know things, but marketing is stuck in broadcast mode.
    4. From Ben Ordover, former president of Columbia House, you must be constantly trying new things, to be curious, and not to worry if a bunch of them don’t work out. Don’t take the safe road.
  • Companies or marketers who are customer-centric: 
    1. To embrace customer-centricity, you must interested first in producing happier customers that stay longer and buy more. The treadmill of short-term results uber alles will undermine any of these efforts.
    2. A competitively superior understanding of your prospects and customers becomes a compelling differentiator.
    3. The benefits are a greater quantity of highly qualified prospects, shorter time to market, fewer costly mistakes, and an improved top and bottom line.

The Good Stuff:

  • To understand our buyers: 
    1. We must forge a working relationship with sales, based on trust, and focused on personas that we mutually embrace.
    2. We must dig for the prospect and customer insights that will set us apart in their eyes, and introduce this information via persona to those who have critical roles in marketing, but are insulated from direct customer interaction.
  • My favorite ways of conducting interviews with buyers are: 
    1. By a scheduled telephone appointment. I always ask permission to record.
    2. Send all the questions in advance. We don’t want the customer to complete the question, but to be familiar with the areas of exploration.
    3. With the freedom to stop the interview and say, what do you really mean by that.

The Other Stuff:

  • I think it’s hard for marketers / companies to create and use personas effectively because: Many personas are created from existing research. When circulated, it appears that the effort was for naught, that there is nothing new. It confirms widely-held beliefs and perpetuates the status-quo.
  • I think the biggest challenge for marketers when understanding buyers and/or building buyer personas is: To actually talk to prospects and customers about things that matter, checking all preconceived notions at the door.

 

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Thank you to Scott for sharing his perspective.

Follow B2P Partners on Twitter and stay tuned for more in our series, Habits of Customer-Centric Marketers.

 

 

 

 

More about Scott: He has worked with companies large and small to introduce and build new ideas to profitability, improve marketing performance and accountability, and reengineer customer interfaces to boost satisfaction, referral and return on investment.

B2B clients who have benefited from Scott’s expertise include Microsoft, IBM, HP, AT&T, and Merrill Lynch as well as The Phoenician, Viryd Technologies, Applied Biosystems, Franklin Covey, and PaperDirect.

Scott’s most recent book is, Opt-In Marketing, and he is at work collaborating with B2P on another. His articles and interviews have appeared in Brandweek, Adweek, Sales & Marketing Management, CRM, Catalog Age, BtoB, DMA Insider, The Toronto Star and more. He is on the faculty of the ANA as a contributor, developer and instructor.