Do you think the world is changing too fast? Will technologies like AI and machine learning make your job irrelevant? Is the business is threatened by a plethora of changing market dynamics? Well, it’s time to get back to basics and understand what’s driving your customers’ needs as they navigate the changing market dynamics.
We reviewed many predictions for the year 2023 from industry analysts and influencers. Even though the predictions are about changing times, the advice we gave to address the changes reminded me of advice that we regularly give on the podcast.
Many of the coming year’s predictions for marketing (and sales) relate to focusing on your existing customers. Shore up relationships and ensure great experiences with the goal of retaining their business, protecting yourselves from the threats of competitors or other market forces, and looking for growth in up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
So as marketers, let’s resolve to do a few things to help our companies win in 2023. Let’s keep it to three resolutions so that we don’t overcommit and get depressed come December.
One: Talk to Your Customers
If you have not made this a regular practice, it’s time to get out of the cubicle (or get on Zoom) and meet customers one-on-one. Nothing is so invigorating as talking to them about their challenges, their pain points, their decision trigger points and their collaborators in defining solutions. It brings all the guess work and theoretical postulating down to earth.
The chief challenge for marketers is to understand the customer as deeply as possible to create genuine, “needs-based” messages and content, and know where to connect with them. And yes, you can learn much from industry analysts and your sales team, but don’t rely on intermediaries. Only when you hear them talk, do you understand the language and the nuances of customer conversations.
In my own experience, writing customer case studies and helping customers deliver presentations at our events opened my eyes up and helped develop more effective campaigns. When you can ask, “Do you mean …?” or “Would you say …?” and you hear them correct you with “No, it’s like this …”. Plus, you gain a better understanding of the dynamics of buying teams, e.g., who makes and influences what decisions, and how many layers of decision making are required to make a purchase.
Action: Conduct an in-person or virtual customer tour. If you have a specific purpose, such as developing references or success stories, great. But do the tour, nonetheless.
Two: Identify your customers global challenges
So, everyone has been talking about a coming recession (since last January), energy prices are still high, supply chains have returned to normal, the future of hybrid work is still a question, war in Ukraine, de-globalization, extreme weather events, etc. Is there enough to worry about?
If you’re thinking about these challenges and how they affect your business, you can bet that your customers are thinking about them, too. Wouldn’t it be relevant to acknowledge them in your content and communications? It helps convey that you feel their pain.
As Iearned my stripes in the technology business, I often workedwiththemes like doing more with less, reducing costs and helping the customer be successful with their customers.
Action: Survey customers about the forces are creating challenges in their business. Make this part of your “know your customer” tour. Then make an internal report to inform your customer facing colleagues and the execs about how the customer view disruptions in their business. And, if you find it insightful, turn it into content for your prospects and customers. They always want to hear what their peers are up to.
Three: Be kind to your customers
This is a nice way of saying provide them a great experience. Surveys on customer experience regularly show that companies do not nearly meet customer expectations. So, who’s going to fix it?
Marketing needs to take responsibility for customer experience. The first order of business is to determine your company’s skills gap. Do you need digital experience and user interface experts? Do you need better analysis of customer interactions? Is it the technology behind customer facing applications?
When my marketing team was developing a customer advocacy program for a company whose mission was to lead in customer experience, we got an ear full. “Yes, I like the product, but do you know what I had to go through …?”
Action: Create (or join) a cross-functional customer experience team. Ensure that the team has executive support. Conduct a skills gap analysis on key roles and systems that support the experience. Lastly, be an advocate for the customer. With all the knowledge you’re gaining with the first two resolutions, you are well armed to be their chief advocate.
The overall theme of these resolution is that you need to develop empathy for your customers. You’re in marketing, and you should know them better than anyone in the business. Most of your colleagues have a siloed view. Salespeople know their own clients. Product people know who they use the products. Support knows all the problems.
You have a chance to know what customers need, desire and will value in the future. And that makes you indispensable to the business.
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