Its all marketers are talking about, it consumes us, and it makes us think in a totally new way. Gone are the days where a company has control over its customers. In 2015, it’s the customer’s way or the highway. If marketers and sales reps don’t put the customer and the customers’ needs first, not only with the prospect go to your competitor, they also have a quite large digital soapbox called social media that they can turn to…and the results can get scary.
So let’s think about what we sell and why we sell it – are we selling what we want to sell or are we selling what our customers want? Today’s buyers, especially in the B2B space, are more sophisticated, connected and in control of the buying process than ever before. In order to be successful, B2B marketers have to follow suit and not only be just as connected and sophisticated, but have to anticipate the buyer’s every need and have answers and resources on hand so that when the need arises, the access is easy. Customers educate themselves and don’t rely solely on the messages being delivered by the seller. They use the resources that are made available to them like customer review forums to provide first hand experience of their customer journey with a particular company. For the most part, customers have everything they need readily available to make a purchasing decision; the few things that they may not have end up being factors that deter them from purchasing. If the resources the customer is looking for are unavailable, there is a very good probability that the customer will go to a competitor that has the same information publicly available.
Millennials contribute a huge amount to the Age of the Customer. As Milllennials continue to age and fill the workplace, they are becoming the new age of B2B buyers, which only further stresses how marketers should treat the customer experience. Millennials are resourceful, connected and more importantly, they are impatient. As a millennial I can speak to the fact that if I cannot find what I need to make a buying decision, it takes virtually no time for me to pivot my attention to the competitors that actually do have what I need in order to make a purchase. We are also demanding; we want what we want, and we want it ASAP, making it very difficult to capture and hold our attention.
We may be in the Age of the Customer, but the customers are also in the Age of Noise – there are entirely too many companies still trying to control the buying process and trying to control whom they want to buy their product. The reality is that the customer decides when they are ready, they decide what they need, and they decide who to choose. For a modern marketer to be successful in this age, they have to ensure that they are delivering the right content to the right customers at the right time. Marketers have to learn more about their customers so that they can use that data to strategically target them at a time that they are most likely to buy and at a time that they are most likely to buy a product that you offer. Data-driven marketers will be at the top of the totem pole on this front because they use a wide variety of marketing data (contact data, behavioral data, programmatic data, etc) to determine with an amount of certainty who is likely to buy, and when. Then, they isolate those people and deliver relevant resources to them so that they don’t have to go out and find it, its already waiting for them in their inbox. They will NOT pass on your emails if the content is relevant and the timing is right.
It isn’t just about making sure we are delivering the right resources to customers, its also about making sure that their entire experience is as effortless as possible and as user friendly as possible. I previously talked about the impatience of millennials and this is another area where nurturing their impatience really comes into play. The way we prospect potential customers and how we treat their journey is definitely important, but it is also crucial to make sure that our current customers’ experience is easy for them and that marketers and account reps are always queued and ready to go when/if something goes wrong. The minute a customer experiences bad customer service, the have so many potential avenues to make their frustration public – any social media channel, customer review forums, word of mouth, etc. The power has shifted to the hands of the customer.
I guess the customer really is always right!