In a newly published study, nearly two-thirds of buyers told Merkle that they are challenged by vendors and sales reps that are more interested in selling their products and services than listening to buyers needs.
While this feedback from prospective customers speaks specifically to their buying process, it does provide a glimpse into the lack of insights that many brands have about their customers, their needs and what experience they desire.
A good number of B2B organizations have defined customer personas and profiles. However, the question that must be asked is how were these profiles were developed? While many organizations have taken the step to document, the downside is in may cases the entirety of the exercise was done internally.
While it is important for organizations to get insights from their data, speak to sales, customer support – i.e. the internal perspective; there is nothing a vendor can do to gain better insight than to speak to and experience their customers.
More and more organizations are moving to speaking to their customers and looking to glean more insights from them, but very few are actually taking the step of walking in their customer’s shoes to gain a deeper understanding.
One of the best examples I have seen of “experiencing the customer” was done by Quarry who was working along side their customer John Deere. In order to create the personas Quarry and John Deere conducted ethnographic research as documented in this case study by CEB, now Gartner. How was this conducted? They went to their customers and as the case study states, observed farmers in the their “natural setting” . . . on the farm. The result of this has been an overwhelmingly successful campaign that has driven great results for the client and also won numerous awards for the vendor.
While the approach of sending personnel out into the field may not be realistic for all brands, there are other ways to gain this meaningful experience.
Continually Gather Feedback On The Experience
One of the software companies that I worked with early in my career had a product lab that had all of the various lines of software installed for the sole purpose of having customers come in and use that as they did within their own environments.
This lab environment enabled the developers, product marketing, product management, sales, marketing and others within the organization the chance to see in real time how customers were using the product, gather feedback and gain insight into the next release of the product and messaging. Additionally, customers felt better connected to the brand given their ability to speak directly to us as a vendor and feel they had a voice in how the product was used and delivered.
Let Your Customers Tell Their Story
Nobody can tell a story or relay an experience better than the one who has lived it. One example of this is Paycor, a leading HR & Payroll technology vendor. They recently launched an initiative to have customers tell their Best Hiring Story. In asking customers to participate in this way, they are asking customers to share experience with not only other customers, but with Paycor. Why? This allows Paycor to develop the insights needed to better engage with their customers and also continuing to develop better products that allow their customers to do their jobs better.
Knowing your customer is vital to being able to deliver the right experience to them. While gathering insights from customer facing roles can help; speaking to your customers will also provide a deeper level of intelligence. However, nothing will provide a more holistic view than experiencing your customers and taking a walk in their shoes. For B2B brands that are serious about delivering on customer experience, it is vital they first experience their customers.