Marc Benioff stunned the world when he relabeled every possible stakeholder profile a “customer.” Marc goes on to share: “You need to get to the future ahead of your customers and be ready to greet them when they arrive.
Most of all, I discovered that in order to succeed with a product, you must truly get to know your customers and build something for them.”
One could argue that marketing and sales communication has always been written for a “customer in mind.” The issue is more subtle. A lot of the blogs, white papers, websites, and gated web forms are really just dumping a bunch of features and stale marketing copy promoting the brand and functionality, without focusing on the real tangible upside for potential customers.
The way we communicate with customers is crucial. The way we design platforms in a customer-centric way is crucial. This is where B2B can learn a great deal from B2C.
Data Czar, Greg Meyer, at Redis Labs contributes:
1) Customers now expect businesses to engage with them using consumer-level data (eg working with you needs to be as easy to use as Facebook)
2) To do this your data and supply chain needs to be integrated: could be inventory, customer information in a CRM, delivery times for shipping
3) Fulfilling customer wants and needs (instant access, mobile-friendly, 360 view of the customer) forces digital transformation.
According to Julia Nimchynska, Founder of Revenue Garage, customer-centric doesn’t exclude the team-centric approach
“The complexity of the new challenges amplifies the complexity of sales experience and the way the teams deal with it. The multiple roles in the team, while having the same goal, start employing competing or opposing means to that goal. For example, Sales Ops would want a certain sales process or playbook followed, yet managers and reps would want to have enough flexibility to quickly address any deal at risk. The managers would want to have better control and visibility over the sales activities of their reps, yet reps won’t appreciate, or frankly, have enough time to give detailed reports on every single movement they make. Unless these different but useful goals of each role in the teams are aligned, we’ll have a sales team that does a lot of work that just makes them struggle against each other’s responsibilities.”
For a marketing and branding example, Brett Williams, CEO of LeadingLinked, writes in: “When it comes to ‘digital transformation,’ the key is to ensure your strategy factors in what your customers are used to and where they are used to interacting. Depending on what area of your business you’re taking through a ‘digital transformation’ you have to ensure you are maintaining the customer experience as the highest priority. One way to accomplish this is ensuring you have consistent adoption across your organization so there is no disconnect from one employee to the next on what the client is experiencing. Build your systems so that each piece of the interaction flows through a balance of automation and human interaction, so you never lose the most important part of digital transformation, the human touch!”
We are living in the new normal where face to face, even handshakes, even fist bumps are no longer happening. Patrick Joyce, sales leader at Ekata believes:
“Since there’s no possibility of in-person networking with all-digital inside sales you need to execute perfectly on the customer acquisition/demand gen/sales development side of the house. There’s no other option besides being customer-centric; there’s no way to reach out to someone digitally and interrupt their day successfully without being focused on them.
Proof by Contrapositive: What’s the alternative!?
A thought experiment should suffice. All the vendors that used to go to networking events to acquire leads are suddenly using the same tactics to get attention: the email version of an event booth – laying out all the cool things you do and hoping they pick up one of them and try to buy it.
The problem is they didn’t buy a ticket to your email and fly somewhere to see it – they are trying to do their job – from home – and every other vendor is also coming at them this way, so they are forced to ignore you.
When I think about B2C experiences with Apple, Amazon, Google, I think of modernized UI/UX. I think about a low number of clicks, personalization, and software that remembers me, makes prescient suggestions to me, and supports my every move with the lowest possible friction. The truth is, when entering legacy industries with legacy systems, this is often not the case. AFL – another friggin’ login, FNAC – feature not a company is the bain of the customer’s user experience. They really feel like a “prospect” working so hard to fill out your content gate, log in endless resetting their password, or reprogramming preferences, address information, or billing they already shared.
Do you want to make customers feel like a number? Like a prospect? Or like a trusted friend that you are helping toward their desired intent. To purchase your product or service. To solve a problem that you actually can help them with. Customer-centricity is about making it “easy for your customers to buy.” It’s about “treating them well” digitally. This can be unlocked by RPA resource process automation. Smart converged systems that customize the experience across the entire customer journey at every touchpoint.
“Whenever businesses reflexively set things up to herd customers into certain group behaviors, they create disdain and dissatisfaction. Customers in general do not react well to these kinds of things. Gen C customers broadcast their disdain into their social worlds.”
Are you applying a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience? Alan Trefler, CEO of Pega highlights the risk of more sophisticated new generations. Customer centricity is now table stakes. The value transfer, the frictionless purchase, the 1:1 awareness of your best customers are requirements to nail your digital transformation in 2020 and beyond. Many tech stack elements and point solutions can be strung together to these means but for all the gripes about the total cost of the stack and “vendor bloat,” it’s worth its weight in gold if you can create a virtuous cycle of loyalty by surprising and delighting your best customers.
In closing, in the immortal words of Sam Walton, ““There is only one boss; the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Maya Kurup, Marketing Expert at KaizenGrowth adds, “In my experience, especially having watched the evolution of that digital transformation during the lockdown (Canada locked down HARD for a few months), most B&M businesses had zero customer information on file other than maybe a name and an email address/phone number… The way they initially tried to reach out was on social media, and that worked to a small extent.
The ones we were able to help most were businesses who had tracked more detail about their customers (their likes, dislikes, behavior patterns, etc). Helping them reach out to existing customers and create a new customer base has been a matter of sitting them down and helping them really dig deep to describe their ideal customer persona(s). For marketing, for example, this is critically important, because this informs everything from the language used to the audience targeting when running ads. The more they understand their customers, the better their ROAS, and the more and easier they can build loyalty and gain raving fans. I assume the same would be true for sales – know thy customer so he feels understood – that’s your shortcut to the ‘know, like and trust’ factor.”
Kayla Cytron-Thaler, Enterprise Business Developer at Domino Data Lab believes, “customer-centric strategy is important regardless of digital transformation or not. It’s the same thing with prospecting. It’s not about us. It’s about them. Without your customers, you won’t survive. Companies can do many things about this. At the existing customer level: Get product feedback and incorporate that feedback into your product roadmap For future customers: Make it about them not us – this goes for sales and marketing as a whole. Companies thrive because of their customers and how they treat them. People buy from people
In regards to digital transformation specifically, you need to understand what is important to your customers and adapt. Digital transformation is the piece that helps you keep up with customer tastes and preferences and that’s why data science is making such a huge rise because you need to keep up with demand and you need to be able to predict it so you can get ahead of it before it gets ahead of you.
Justin Michael, aka the Tony Stark of XDRs
is Vendor Neutral’s Futurist and author of “Tech-Powered Sales” releasing on HarperCollins in 2021. After two decades of consulting 100+ early-stage startups on hypergrowth and holding leadership roles at LinkedIn, Salesforce, and reporting to Sean Parker, Justin was part of a stealth project where engineers built an AI model of his brain while prospecting with the goal of fully automating sales development itself. He is passionate about AI, ML, NLP, Deep Learning AI, and Neural Network evolution in order to bridge toward the Singularity. His writing seeks to unlock all the ways Marketing and Sales leaders can apply these mechanics to free up the human in the sales process, restoring quality consultative exchanges that drive value.