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All posts by Ed Erickson

Why connecting with B2B users = capturing more B2B buyers

green forceAs B2B marketers well know, often their buyer is not the end user.

And while B2B marketers can easily communicate with their direct buyers, connecting to end users is more tricky.  In fact, many are lacking good information about exactly who their users are.

That’s because many B2B companies are either…

  • selling to “gatekeeper” departments (purchasing , IT, etc.) who often aren’t actually using the product themselves
  • dealing with distributors/resellers who actively obstruct access to end users for fear of being cut out of the supply chain

This truly limits B2B marketers’ knowledge of user needs and preferences.  As a result, products and services can miss the mark.  This often leads end users to request that buyers “purchase from someone else next time.”

“Someone else,” as in not you.

Investing extra effort and money in understanding your end users pays off in several ways.   Most notably…

  1. Developing market offerings that work for the people who use them — leading to better word-of-mouth and pull demand through the channel.
  2. Sharing your understanding of the end user can become a vehicle to strengthen relationships with your best channel partners.
  3. Understanding the needs and challenges of the user can uncover opportunities you would never find if you only talk to the buyers.

With the increasing adoption of social media in B2B, users have a bigger, more public platform than ever to praise or pan your products and services.  And since we know that B2B buyers extensively use referral and 3rd party opinions to filter suppliers before they ever get in touch with a salesperson, not focusing on the end user can eliminate you from consideration before you ever have a chance to make your case.

Other trends, like BYOD, will only increase the influence end users have on the decisions of B2B buyers.  The time to invest in understanding and relationship building with B2B users is now.

Your knowledge of the end user will help greatly with your buyer.  After all, no purchase decision-maker at a company wants to deal with employees who are unhappy with a decision they made.  And distributors, first and foremost, want to stock things that people are going to buy.

So, when was the last time you really talked to your end users?  If you can’t immediately answer that question, it’s time to start doing things differently.

How big data limits B2B marketers’ impact

Advances in data analytics promises more access to more information than most B2B marketers could ever hope for. But will this world of big data actually make marketers less effective when it comes to driving growth?

Setting aside the whole issue that big data doesn’t automatically mean big insight, let’s look at where big data can help – and where it just might hurt.

First, where can big data really deliver on the hype for B2B marketers?

When it comes to understanding customers, customer satisfaction, and loyalty, the emergence of big data and analytics likely can perform better and deliver greater return than other methods of monitoring this information, like survey research.  Assuming, of course, that the company has systems in place to capture and mine the data in the first place.

Most companies are good at capturing detailed information about interaction with customers, whether it’s orders, contacts with account reps, or support.  Many companies are even pretty good about tracking interactions with prospects.  What that means is there will be plenty of rich data on customers – and probably on many prospects – to work with.  By mining this data, B2B marketers will no doubt be able to gain a deeper understanding of their customers than ever before.

Unfortunately, that data – as rich as it is – isn’t the whole story.

What about customers’ interactions with competitors?

What about the people who aren’t buying from you?

What about opportunities to capture new business through new use cases or integration with other parts of the supply chain?

bigdatablindspots
In the diagram to the left, the shaded areas are the parts of the total market where marketers are most likely to have the data to mine.  That leaves a rather large portion of the market where big data and analytics won’t help you.

Yes, B2B marketers can drive incremental gains in revenue and profitability by leveraging data on current customer behavior. But, for most companies most of the time, the real growth comes from new products for new uses among new markets.

Big data and analytics won’t help here because the data doesn’t exist to extract insights from.

So, yes, big data and analytics should be an important part of the tool kit, but relying too heavily on internal databases will blind you to the biggest opportunities.

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