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How well do you actually know your customer?

Last week, I was discussing this with one of my old colleagues. He is an entrepreneur now and runs a software firm into B2B SaaS products in the warehousing domain. His product caters specifically to the warehouse industry and he has few customers in India. The challenge he is facing is scaling and acquiring more logos. He tried the following methods to acquire more customers.

  • Cold calling

  • Email outreach

  • Content Marketing

  • Targeted ads on Facebook and Google ads

  • Linkedin Marketing

  • Blogging

Nothing really worked and he could not get results in acquiring more customers When I spoke with my friend and his small team, I asked them to explain in detail about their customers. In fact, it was an innocent question since I do not know anything about the warehousing industry. I asked innocent questions like who are the decision-makers and what channels the decision-makers are usually engaged with?

The team knew everything about geography, market size, company size, industry to be targeted, etc. However, the lacking was specific details about the customers. No, I am not talking about ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). ICP can not give us a detailed insight about the customers and usually, we go by some frameworks to define ICP.

I am talking about a deep insight into the customers, the challenges they face, the solution they are looking for, existing solutions, they use, the background and thought process of the decision-makers, the buying process, the budget they have, and the channels engaged with.

When it comes to knowing more about the customer, let me take one interesting example. No. I am not going to talk about Google😎. I know what you are thinking.

Let me take the example of a government relations manager here. Since I have extensively worked in the B2G sector, one thing I can confidently tell you and always appreciate is the ability of B2G sales personnel to dig down the details about the customer (Requirements of the Government Department). B2G business is completely relationship-based and the rep can tell you the minute details about decision-makers, the budget they have, a process they are adopting, and the landscape of the competition. The details they collect can go deep down to a crazy level and I am sure the majority of Government Relationship Managers can tell you even the hometown of the key government official. ( No. I am not kidding. I know this is too much). Because B2G business demands that much effort and rep has to collect minute details about the customer and based on these details companies differentiate the offerings as per the specific need of the customer.

It is good if we apply the similar principle of 'understanding the customer' better in the B2B segment.

Otherwise, we assume things about customers, and our marketing efforts are always dependent on those assumptions.

This is a risky pitfall for all of us.

In B2B market, what works best is 'Account Based Marketing'

Let me ask you a few uncomfortable questions. (You can add your own questions to the list. I do not want you to be uncomfortable on a Saturday morning😊. Please do not share this article with your boss and he may ask these questions at the next meeting😉)

1) When was the last time you had a detailed discussion with your customer? Whether your customer spent 15-20 minutes with you?

2) Do you know what is the channel the decision-maker is engaged with?

3) Which CRM/Project Management Tool/LMS do your customers use?

4) Why have they purchased your solution?

5) Why do they love your product?

6) What is the definition of success for them? How can they achieve their success by using your solution?

Don't Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. -Don Miguel

We assume many things about our customers. We go by either an intuition-based approach or an online research-based approach than 'a fact-based approach. Many times, we feel uncomfortable asking those questions to our customers and we may not get the insights in one interaction.

Following are the common assumptions (pitfalls) in my industry or the assumptions I have made that really need validation. I am into selling SaaS products and our target customers are decision-makers of educational institutes/Learning Management Companies/Assessment companies.

Based on our assumptions, we plan our marketing campaign and messaging. Following are my assumptions based on which I decide the channels of outreach, messaging, and warm-up campaigns.

  1. Vice-Chancellors and Deans of the Universities will check the emails. ( I am not very sure. They will usually be very busy and I have never got any response to my emails to date)

  2. The owner of the educational institute is the decision-maker. (His decision is a collective decision and is always based on inputs given by the user)

  3. CEO/CTO of assessment companies or LMS companies are active on Linkedin. (I may be wrong)

  4. My customers are successful when their students or employees get 'skilling certification' from our course. (This is my definition of success. What is the definition of success for my customer?).

  5. I feel my existing customers purchased our product over our competitor because we offer various extra features (Really?. It may be a price or local support that is playing the role)

  6. My customers love our product. (Why? They love it because the product helped them to increase revenue by Y%?)

The essence is that we all have to dig deep and understand 'the real customer'.

It is possible to understand the real customer only when we speak to them.

I am an old-timer and in the era of digital marketing, I am still inclined towards human interactions. It is not that one should not use digital marketing tools and channels to attract B2Bcustomers but a detailed discussion and interaction with a B2B customer can fine-tune our marketing strategy and message. It can save a lot of money and energy for marketers.

We come to know about various nuances, insights, and details about the customers during one-to-one discussions. Personally, I prefer informal settings for meetings and people always open up and speak the truth in informal settings.

I believe that in the B2B segment, specific knowledge about the customer and 'tailor making' the solution as per the need work better. I am not talking about making changes in the product as per the needs of every customer, but taking the examples of case studies or scenarios relevant to the customer. Because B2B buying decision is not emotional buying like B2C; rather, B2B buying process is more informed, research and ROI-based.

In the era of occasional NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys and scores, in the era of asking the customers for online ratings, the meaning of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is diluting. However, ABM is all about 'Account Based' and all about being very specific.

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