Relationships are full of red flags. Maybe it’s a lack of trust, or poor communication. Maybe you just aren’t compatible.

If you’ve ever seen a red flag and experienced the resulting breakup, you know that hindsight is 20/20. What usually goes through your mind when it’s all over is something similar to, “Why didn’t I see these signs in the beginning? I wish someone had told me!”

So here we are, Valentines Day 2015. And B2B marketers, I have to be honest about some red flags in your relationships.

No, I don’t mean with your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner – this is a business blog, people. I’m talking about the relationship you have with your buyers.

Take a look; these red flags signal some foreboding trends that we need to talk about right now if we’re going to keep up with the needs of our ever-changing, ever-empowered customers.

Grab a glass of wine (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere) and let’s get real.

Red Flag #1: Less than half of B2B enterprise organizations use buyer personas as part of their demand generation planning stages.

This is just asking for trouble, people. If you’re not planning with buyer personas, who are you creating campaigns for, exactly?

ANNUITAS recently published a 2014 B2B Enterprise Demand Generation Survey (download required) looking at the challenges and strategies within enterprise marketing teams. In addition to this troubling stat above, they also found that the majority of enterprise organizations are still very tactically focused – running more than 15 programs a year and overwhelmingly (58.5%) describing these campaigns as “not effective.”

Erin Kelley (VP of Professional Development & Enablement at ANNUITAS) explained in a recent article that one solution to this ugly red flag is to think strategically about demand generation, and start aligning to the buyer. Erin, we couldn’t agree more.

Red Flag #2: The majority of buyers have received an offer that clearly shows the vendor “does not know who I am” (71%).


Relationship counselors must hear this all the time. “She just doesn’t understand who I am.” Or maybe, “He just doesn’t get me.” And my favorite, “We’re just… different.”

This stat comes from Janrain, and although the study was focused on consumers in the US, irrelevant messaging and its impact is a problem rampant in the B2B world as well.

It is painfully obvious when a marketing offer is poorly targeted. It’s like getting a birthday gift that is clearly not right for you. What both show the recipient is an unfortunate lack of understanding of their needs, preferences, and priorities.

What kind of impact does irrelevant messaging have? In the same study, 94% of buyers said they were less likely to buy products from companies who mistarget their marketing efforts, in addition to automatically deleting emails and – the dreaded equivalent to dumping someone via email – unsubscribing.

Burn.

Red Flag #3: Only 21% of companies say their employees have a clear and consistent image of the company’s target audience.

Oh no.

This research of B2B marketers from Regalix was recently published in MarketingProfs under the headline “How Well Do B2B Marketers Understand Their Customers?”

Not very well, it seems.

Now, this survey represents only a segment of marketers (about 300 of them) but that is quite a lot to admit that less than half have a strong knowledge of their customers’ demographic makeup, product/service preferences, wants/needs/likes/interests, journey to purchase, and channel preferences.

“Unless you know very intimately who gains value from your products, why they think so and how they do so, how the heck do you know what to say to them. Think about the anxiety you experience when going to a party where you don’t know anyone. You wonder what to say, whether or not they’ll care and if you’ll look good (smart, likeable, impressive, etc.). Why don’t we care as much about what our buyers and customers think of their experiences with our company and our brand?” – Ardath Albee

 

Often, our intuition is a solid resource to tell us when something is going on. Other times, however, we need a wake up call from someone outside the relationship to show us the clues, and be honest about the warning signs indicating there is trouble ahead.

Marketers, let’s use these red flags above to instigate some change in the way we do our jobs.

Start with an understanding of your buyer, first and foremost, before anything you do. Ensure that understanding is baked into the DNA of your marketing team and let’s stop with the 50 shades of irrelevant marketing.