Today’s B2B buyers are all about the self-serve buying experience. Rather than meeting with sales reps, they prefer to fill their bowl with info from independent research and trusted influencers in their communities—like their peers, research analysts, and industry thought leaders.
But go-to-market teams have no control over the self-serve research and conversations buyers are leading on their own. So what’s a sales rep or marketer to do? Earn the advocacy of your customers and the trust of your buyers with a GTM strategy that is customer-centric to its core.
On the latest episode of The Marchitect, my guest co-host, Ryan Sorley, Founder & CEO, DoubleCheck Research, and I chatted with renowned B2B go-to-market strategist and legendary marketing veteran of Salesforce, Eloqua, and Marketo (to name a few), Jill Rowley.
Jill gave us the low-down on why putting your customers first is key to earning buyers’ trust and walked us through 4 key pillars to building a customer-centric GTM strategy.
Listen to the full episode here, or skim the highlights below.
The customer comes first. Always.
We all know customers are important to the success of our bottom line. (They kind of are the bottom line). But many B2B companies still focus more on their product, their marketing, their sales, (themselves *cough*) than their customers. Jill Rowley says the customer always needs to come first, in every decision a business makes.
“Our role is to help our customers reach their fullest potential as individuals, as teams, and as companies. … Ask, ‘How do we deliver value to the customer? How do we help customers solve their problems, and achieve their goals?’ And make every decision through the lens of the customer.”
According to Jill, the first big step businesses can take towards a true customer-centric strategy is to embed a customer-first mentality at the heart of their company culture.
4 key pillars of a customer-centric GTM strategy
Pillar 1: Influencers
Trust is a big part of the buying process. And today’s B2B buying teams don’t have a lot of trust for marketing and sales, at least not right away.
“Buyers are having learning parties without us. They're out in the market, in their communities, talking to each other. It really comes down to trust. Are buyers gonna trust your marketing messaging and your salespeople more than they trust their peers or the smarty-pants people who are actually doing the market research?”
This is where establishing relationships with industry influencers can help. “Influencers are those people your buyers already learn from,” says Jill, “who they trust, who they associate with, who they hang out with offline and online.”
Examples of influencers include:
- Industry analysts
- Your current customers and brand advocates
How can go-to-market teams tap into these valuable influencer networks?
“You’ve got to surround the world in which your customers live,” says Jill. “Understanding the ecosystem that your customer lives in is critical. You have to do the research to understand who influences your customers, and how, and when, and where.”
Pillar 2: Content
As marketers, we know the importance of content—and all of the hours of hard work that go into creating good content. But there’s nothing worse than putting a new research paper or case study out into the world just to watch it sit unopened in your buyers’ inboxes.
How can marketers cut through the noise and create content that buyers and customers engage with? “Write content specifically for them that speaks to them,” says Jill.
To create customer-centric content that speaks to your buyers, it needs to be written in a way that makes sense to them. This is where product marketers can play an important role.
“Product marketing acts as the voice of the customer,” says Jill. “Use what the customer is actually saying—how they're describing the problem and how they've solved it—and feed that back into your product marketing.” Iterate on your messaging and content based on the feedback your customers are sharing and the language they’re using to talk about it.
According to Jill, customer-centric content should also be:
- Written in storytelling language
- Visually appealing
Pillar 3: Community
Self-serve B2B buyers don’t want to listen to marketing campaigns or sales pitches. Their communities are a key source of information, learning, and trust—so they’re naturally an important part of their buying process too. That’s why savvy companies like Eloqua and Marketo have built thriving communities for their customers, allowing them to continually iterate on their customer-centric GTM strategies.
There are two ways, according to Jill, that go-to-market teams can approach community creation:
- Build the product, then create the community.
- Build the community, then build a product for that community.
“Your buyers are part of many communities. Go and learn from the communities that they're already in… You can't build a community within your own company if you don't have the culture of the customer. This includes doing things for your customer that might not even involve you. By creating this community you're allowing people to come together, share ideas, support each other, and learn from each other.”
Pillar 4: Advocacy
Customer advocates are one of a marketer’s most powerful resources when it comes to engaging self-serve B2B buying teams. Buyers view your current customers as trusted influencers and community-members—meaning they’re going to listen to them more than your marketing messaging or sales reps.
“Customer advocacy is our flywheel”, says Jill. “Do you have your customers out there talking about how amazing it is to work with you? How well you solve their problems?”
Customer advocates champion your company and your solution in the spaces that matter to today’s B2B buying teams. They’re a strong growth accelerator who bridge relationships between you and your future buyers. But you’ve got to put the work in first.
“Advocacy is earned,” says Jill. “We have to do everything we can to be the best advocate of our customers to earn their advocacy.”
So it all comes full-circle. By advocating for your customers, keeping them at the center of everything you do, you’ll create a team of loyal customer advocates you will then advocate for you.
Ready to learn more about building a customer-centric GTM strategy—and how product marketing can chart the course?
Listen to the full interview.