Lead gen is no longer downloading an “e-book” according to Good Technology. Today’s buyer wants to take a self-directed journey that they control. According to Brian Solis new book The Future of Business, we don’t only want to take the journey, we want to connect and share it and discuss it like we always have, but now are using new tools and immediate digital forms of communication to do this which makes this communication transparent and amplified.
MarketingSherpa recently published a case study about B2B mobile solutions company Good Technology.
Good Technology returned to the heart of its content marketing strategy – the customers – and learned more about buyers’ journeys through the sales funnel. During this process, the company discovered it had lost touch with its customers.
Just taking the time to listen to, and understand, your customer can pay dividends in marketing results. Good Technology already had an annual customer advisory council, but decided to take understanding its customers to the next level.
Julie Gibbs, vice president of marketing and communications at Good Technology, said “We talk about digital, we talk about social, and they are critically important, but nothing replaces sitting down and having a conversation on a regular basis … building the relationship and understanding your customer’s point of view. We, as vendors, wanted to really look at how we are approaching our communications and marketing, including after-market communications, with our customers to improve them and make them more relevant.”
By utilizing a third-party for the more extensive research into its customers’ buying life-cycle, Good Technology was able to gain an unbiased look into how its customers interact with the company and its marketing campaigns. Using a third-party ensured every organization understood the customers’ point of view and created stronger alignment across departments.
The interviews of Good Technology customers used for the primary research included more than 30 global Fortune 100 companies, as well as a number of SMB customers. According to Zhivago, “Whatever you think your customer believes to be important is likely wrong.”
- Interviewees were asked about the trigger event — what internally caused them to want to find a new solution, or evaluate a new technology
- Focused on discovering what experience the customer wanted to have with the vendor, and what marketing assets those customers were using in their buying process
A major problem with marketing today is that many of us resort to guessing about our customers’ likes, dislikes and needs. This is a problem. We need to take advantage of the tools at our disposal, such as social media, SEO, and blogs, to learn about the customer.
Analysis included reviewing detailed feedback from Good Technology customers and mapping the buyer’s journey, including customer experiences and interactions.
From there, the material was put together in presentation form for what Gibbs described as an “internal road show” to tell the story.
She added that having a third-party as part of the internal presentations was valuable.
Good Technology’s customers were receptive to the interview process, and the company found that the interviews created a sense of relationship, partnership and goodwill.
“It wasn’t someone at the company telling the story and potentially creating friction, it was a third-party,” Gibbs stated. “That’s really important for internal credibility. You don’t want to be the person who says, ‘So-and-so is really unhappy with your product, or services, or support.’ You want to be able to show the data and quotes from your customers.”
The customer feedback analysis uncovered two interesting facts for a B2B marketer with very large enterprise clients.
- First, even very high-level executives frequently used freemail (such as Gmail and Yahoo!) email accounts when conducting research and interacting with marketing activities and assets. They did this explicitly to avoid talking to Sales before they were ready.
- Second, while these prospects were interacting with industry and vendor websites, they also heavily took advantage of Gartner, the technology research firm, throughout the buying cycle to determine what vendors to consider.
In light of this learning, Gibbs said Good Technology increased the focus on its relationship with Gartner.
With the customer interviews analyzed and presented throughout the company, Marketing next performed a gap analysis of its marketing programs and assets.
This analysis was pretty straightforward. Gibbs said the marketing team took a sheet listing the information and assets Good Technology customers were looking for at each stage of the buying cycle, and then listed all of its current marketing resources.
Comparing the two lists, the team gave each marketing resource a rating of red, yellow or green.
She said, “Where does what you are currently doing stand, and where does it fall short? You will often find you have some strengths that you are not looking at the right way and that you tend to focus on the weaknesses.”
“Then we asked, ‘How can we change our marketing approach and assets?'” Gibbs said. “What can we do quickly? What’s going to take a little bit longer, and what do we have to build for longer term?”
She said the first step was to eliminate efforts that had no impact on Good Technology’s business. In this case, Marketing stopped producing e-books.
- The customer interviews found the problem was not the content of the e-books; it was simply calling them “e-books.”
- Gibbs explained that using the marketing lingo/jargon term did not resonate or have credibility with Good Technology’s B2B audience.
“The asset may have great content the customer is not going to use simply because you are calling it something that they don’t trust,” said Gibbs.
Marketing found its customers trusted white papers, so the e-books were rewritten, reformatted and reproduced as white papers.
She offered more examples of different time-frame activities:
- Short term — Stop doing things that didn’t have impact; begin using customer-centric terminology
- Medium term — Repackage and rethink marketing campaigns to match the buying cycle map
- Long term — Rebuild the marketing resource infrastructure to more closely match what Good Technology customers need
Gibbs said the final stage was to measure the impact of these changes.
Continue the process through the entire customer experience
This effort was undertaken with the intent of better understanding the customer to help refine and improve marketing efforts. Internally, customer service and support also became very engaged with the results of the initial customer interviews, and wanted to extend the insight into the post-purchase process.The result of this interest was replicating the process on the post-purchase experience of Good Technology’s customers.
The company is currently in the process of “gluing” these learnings together to create an end-to-end customer experience map, so the company can provide a consistent customer experience over the entire lifetime of the relationship.
Gibbs said the results of just the short-term changes brought on by this effort are impressive:
- Across-the-board 30% increase in the return on marketing
- 130%, and more, improvement in lead quality response to certain marketing assets
- 40% increase in conversion from Marketing-qualified to Sales-accepted leads
She added that pipeline velocity was another key metric, and that lead quality was more important to Marketing than lead quantity.
“If you have big customers, you need to have a face-to-face relationship” said Gibbs, explaining what she learned from this campaign.
Gibbs added, “We talk about digital, we talk about social, and they are critically important. But nothing replaces sitting down and having a conversation on a regular basis. If you don’t have those conversations — and build, really work on building the relationship and understanding your customer’s point of view — you are not going to be successful marketing and selling for the future.
When the company overhauled its collateral and took other steps, such as revamping its post-sales process, it recognized significant improvements in lead generation. Lead quality increased 130 percent and qualified leads that were accepted by sales jumped 40 percent. Overall, the company realized a 30 percent increase in return on marketing.
In today’s world where innovation can be copied, and differentiation is hard to create, the new advantage for companies is the customer experience.
Here are some of the things B2B marketers can do to make the sales and marketing process more customer-centric:
- Understand how the Internet forever changed the marketing world
- Turn marketing/sales around to focus on the customer’s buying process
- Regularly interview customers
- Actually map the buying process
New book: The Future of Business by Brian Solis. A must read.
you defined the experience you want customers to embrace, feel and endure. And, how does
this experience trigger shared experiences to serve as a benchmark for which to measure
against? Not only can you measure the value of shared experiences but you should also
measure the integrity of the experiences you hoped to deliver.” The Future of Business
Learn more about creating ultimate customer experiences at Strategic Service Design.