7 things you need to know about your customer
Ever received an email from a familiar contact – and no, we’re not talking scorned lover or estranged sibling – and thought, bitterly: ‘You don’t know me at all, do you?’
Sometimes it’s the content itself that gives it away; other times it’s a typo or a badly-judged pun that severs the connection between brand and customer once and for all. And it’s not just poorly-worded emails that can put off prospective customers. An attempt to reach these decision-makers via any channel can be fraught with danger if you don't have a clear idea of who they are.
So, aside from the basics, what should B2B marketers really know about their customers? And how can they use this information to gain their trust, loyalty and that much sought-after affirmation?
1. Their biggest professional challenges
Without knowing what your prospects are struggling with, how are you meant to offer them any kind of meaningful solution? And this isn’t about bombarding them with messages around how your company's product will fix this, transform that and revolutionise the other, but more a chance to make their lives easier through content that eases the pressure and positions your brand as trusted provider of advice, reassurance and contextual analysis. If, after further digging, you suspect that your product or service is missing a trick, feed back to the product development team. No matter what you're selling, you need to know what pain or 'problem' your product or service is solving. "Your customers' 'pain points' are the issues that they want to solve in their life – badly," says Amy Jordan from Pop Content.
2. Who their customers are
You probably spend a lot of time thinking about your customers, but they spend just as long thinking about their customers, as Mark Ellis, creative director at Manifesto, points out. "It’s therefore important to develop an understanding of whose attention your customers are trying to attract, and the value proposition that they’re making. With this approach, you’ll gain a deeper insight into your customer’s needs and be able to target your marketing communications much more effectively."
3. Their career aspirations
Yes, you might be speaking to a mid-level buyer who manages a team of five, but where does she see herself in five years time? The more you know about her professional aspirations, the more you'll be able to woo and delight her with the content she needs to flex her managerial muscle in the boardroom. And never under-estimate junior or mid-level professionals: they might hold little sway today, but their time will come and you’ll want them to take you with them as they shimmy their way up the career ladder in the coming months and years.
4. Which of your competitors they’re working with and why
You’ll know who your main competitors are and you’ll have a pretty good idea of their strengths and weaknesses, but why are they currying favour with your prospects? Find out by taking note of what’s being said on social and online forums – but also encourage your sales team to dig around for this information when they’re interacting with prospects. It might be that your competitor’s emails are more personalised or their content more practical – or that you’re failing to offer as much value for money with the product itself.
5. Their impression of your brand
Mystery shopping is more traditionally associated with consumer brands, but there’s no reason why it shouldn't work in B2B. Remove your rose-tinted spectacles and take a look at your company website: how much information on your home page is vital and how much is distracting fluff? Giving the client services team a quick call with a problem is also a good way of stress-testing their ability to take the rough with the smooth and iron out any potential bugbears. And take advantage of social listening tools like Buzzsumo, that track mentions of client brands and their competitors to give a better idea of how they're viewed by their audience.
6. Where you'll usually find them
If you really understand your customer’s world, you'll have an idea of which conferences they're looking to attend, which websites they enthuse about and their favourite types of content. Eric Brantner, founder of Scribblrs.com, advises you to determine exactly where they're active online. "Sure, Facebook's probably a given, and other popular social networks like Twitter and Instagram are likely on that list too. But dig deeper. Are there any niche communities they might be a part of, like a specific subreddit on Reddit? Identify these places and be an active listener and participant there."
7. Who their influencers are
It's also important to find out who your customers' influencers are. Who do they trust? Who are they following? Whose content are they following and retweeting? "If you can identify their influencers and build relationships with those individuals, you can earn the trust of your audience more easily," says Eric.
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