Buyer Centricity / Modern Marketing Culture

Let It Go

girlinsnow-paul-green-headerThe other day I was reading an article in the American Marketing Association magazine about building customer loyalty and it occurred to me that the underlying concept in the article – being customer-centric – was one that many people struggle with so much that it may need to be something you spend extra attention to in a marketing transformation. I see so many struggles, in fact, that I thought it was worth a blog post about the marketer’s mindset in a client-centric world.

Why does it matter so much what a marketer thinks? If someone understands the motivation, he is much more likely to be able to carry out not just the rote actions in a moderately acceptable manner but also add to them to and make a true success of his work. It’s also very hard to come up with new, creative ideas that improve upon existing marketing tactics if you don’t really know how to connect to your buyer, unless you have enough budget to guess and fail again and again.

The historical duty of marketers has been to tell as many potential customers about the organization and its products/services as possible. Now, with all this talk of being customer-centric, the goal is supposed to be putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer and looking at the product/service from his perspective. Basically, marketers are being asked to make a 180° turn, from representing the organization’s interests in their marketing to representing the buyer’s interests.

This sounds simple enough but, in practice, its hard work. Oddly, the hard part usually isn’t the journey mapping process or creating buyer personas. I’ve found that, despite their best intentions of doing what is being asked of them, many people struggle with truly getting into the mindset of the buyer. What makes this so strange, however, is that the buyer is not some alien lifeform. The buyer is, in fact, the marketer.

In their personal lives – and even in their professional lives, in some cases – marketers buy things. The only difference is what they need to buy. Other than that, the marketer and the person the marketer is trying to pitch to are the same person.

Marketers experience the same sudden awareness that they have a problem, the same need to explore the scope of their problem and learn about potential solutions. In short, they must go through the entire purchasing cycle in the same way that their target buyers do. They face the same obstacles as their buyers, in terms of trying to understand the product-centric jargon  from vendors and map it to their needs, because the vendor’s marketing was not buyer-centric.

Marketers just need to recall their own frustrations with the forest of content vendors throw out into the universe. Did they give up on getting information from a vendor because it was too hard to find what they were looking for on the web page? How did they feel when they were asked to fill out a long registration form for a piece of content they weren’t sure they needed to read?

Its really not that hard to be buyer-centric if you just think about what you want out of similar situations, what you would do if you had the sort circumstances. It is, however, difficult to liberate yourself from the old way of thinking. As I now have 3 nieces (congratulations to me on the super cute little projectile burper who arrived a few months back!), I see a lot of My Little Pony Halloween costumes and other little girl things. So, it occurred to me that marketers really need to follow example of Elsa in Frozen and Let it Go.

Stop thinking about how to sell your product. That is a short-term value. Start thinking about what why on earth a buyer would choose you over not only your competitors but over doing something else besides buying (remember, with attention spans of just 8 seconds and dozens of digital and live activities to distract them, competition for the buyer’s mindset comes from everywhere.) Then think about why they would do it again and again, as a repeat customer. What would make you behave that way? Certainly not a product-heavy push. So, let it go!

Beyond pretending you are the customer, leading marketing organizations have gone the extra step and embraced the idea of being the customer’s advocate. This slow mindset change started when well-known organizations like Amazon made product reviews and personalized recommendations such a normal part of our lives that they’ve changed our perceptions of what marketing can do, namely be proactively helpful. Marketing maven Jay Baer and others have popularized this concept, called Youtility by Baer. However, sellers have been talking about becoming a trusted partner to their clients, building customer loyalty, forever.

However, you can’t just say the words. You have to provide the value that generates sufficient positive feelings. Buyers get so much sent to them – and there is so much pop and business psychology information out on the Internet today – that they know what good marketing looks like. They know when you’re just going through the motions versus when an organization really tries to build a long-term relationship with them.

Avoid that by having marketers review each other’s content to catch use of marketing language (i.e., “leverage,” “optimize,” etc.) rather than the language of the buyer (i.e., referencing common human resources obstacles when pitching to a director of recruiting). Have someone on each team act as the voice of the customer and spot check format, channel, and other aspects of the campaign to ensure they align with your persona research. Ask your marketers for other ideas on how they can break old habits and teach themselves to think in a buyer centric way.

Once you’ve made the effort, measure your success via a net promoter score (NPS). Basically, the NPS measures whether customers are satisfied enough with their to come back to you, thrilled enough to promote you to others, or, on the other end of the spectrum, tell everyone they meet how terrible their experience with you was. Harvard Business Review believes “that the only path to profitable growth may lie in a company’s ability to get its loyal customers to become, in effect, its marketing department.”

If you’ve done your job well enough, this will happen (recall the outrageous word of mouth some brands get, even the recommendations you yourself might have made to others about brands that you trust). Thus, all your effort to be buyer-centric will have even more value. With all that in mind, how can you not make the extra effort to change marketer mindsets on bring buyer-centric?

Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization showed marketers how to think like their target buyers.

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