The empowered consumer may well be the mantra of this millennium. In recent years, the digital world has transformed almost everything about B2B marketing strategy, including the buyer’s journey.
Now, the consumer is in charge.
Gone are the days of blatant product promotion and banner ads shoved in front of consumers’ faces. The modern consumer is resourceful and empowered. The ability—and technology—to acquire information is at their fingertips.
Consumers use a gamut of tools—search engines, review sites, marketplaces, and even friends—to research brands before they make a buying decision. This shift in the buyer’s journey requires a shift in the way we market to them.
The Traditional Four Ps of Marketing
Consider the traditional four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. This is also known as the producer-oriented model, which can be detrimental to a modern B2B marketing strategy.
It’s detrimental because it’s producer-oriented in a customer-centric world. Notice there is no P in customer, while there is one in producer. I think that’s just a coincidence, but nonetheless, the four Ps framework focuses too much on the product and not enough on finding solutions for customers, showing value added to their business objectives, and communicating this value and solution to the information-hungry public.
These days, the old four Ps aren’t going to cut it. It’s all about incorporating the C—the customer.
A New Approach
Today, a large swath of the buyer’s journey is spent finding information, doing their own research and discovery online. Here is where we meet them, and here is where we can help naturally to guide them through their journey. To do so, we need to put a customer-centric twist on the four Ps of marketing, taking each element and making them revolve around the consumer.
Take a look at the new Ps of a B2B marketing strategy, where you put the customers first.
1. Product as Solution
When thinking about your product or service, always consider your customers. Today’s product is a solution, and modern customers are looking for products that meet their needs in a new way. What need is your product filling for customers and how is it different than competitors?
“New” isn’t necessarily about the biggest and best technology; it’s about what customers want and need. Don’t focus on presenting a product based on features. Instead, focus on presenting a product as a solution to customer’s changing needs.
In order to make your product or service more customer-centric, you need to know your customers and understand the problems they’re trying to solve. Begin by identifying their pain points and needs through market research, customer user groups, advocate marketing, customer data, field observations, and surveys. Most importantly—don’t forget to reach out and talk to them directly!
2. Price as Value
Nowadays, the price is less about a number and more about the value of a product or service. While customers have budgets and concerns about price, they’re more concerned about the proven value they’re getting (or not getting). A study by Stanford has shown that comparative pricing has been shown to backfire on marketers and value-based pricing is the way of the customer-centric B2B marketing strategy.
How can you best convey the value of your product or service? Through a strong content operation.
Engaging and succinct communication that illustrate the value of your product or service is how you gain the upper hand in pricing. Content marketing provides a way to share solutions with your audience and tell them the business value they get with your product.
This can be done with informational blog posts, how-tos, webinars, white papers, videos, and social media. And, don’t forget customer stories. Highlight customer success stories with real data—and by highlight, I mean shout them from the rooftops—to share a story that really resonates with consumers.
Today’s consumers want value, and if you’re still thinking in terms of price, you’re not focused on the customer.
3. Place as Accessibility
Place is very different now than it was thirty years ago. Place is no longer a brick-and-mortar location—place is at our fingertips at all times. Today, to see how customers feel place, we should view it in terms of accessibility.
Since consumers have an infinite number of ways to shop, research, and compare, you need to ensure that they can find what they want, when they want it, wherever they want. If information about your company isn’t accessible, you may as well not exist.
You need to be online—where your customers are—and engage with them, whether it be through your website, blog, social media, or a mobile app.
Wherever you are, be accessible, and serve up relevant and interesting content. Make sure you’re just as welcoming and personal as you would be at a hometown storefront shop.
4. Promotion as Person
Good ol’ promotion (think Mad Men) required marketers to figure out how to showcase and talk about their product in a sexy way that compelled consumers to reach out to their company to inquire about their product or purchase it.
Promotion is not enough. Now that we’re customer-focused, we need to focus on the person, not our promotion. Focusing on the person means focusing on what they want: information and education.
An effective B2B marketing strategy supports consumers and empowers them with valuable content they can consume and bring to their coworkers. A strong content operation will provide curious consumers with free, useful information that allows them to take action and save the day.
Content marketing that’s educational and informative establishes your company as an industry expert and a trustworthy source. This nurtures long-term relationships between your company and your audience. Showing that we’re all in this together builds trust and loyalty—far more than any billboard or banner ad would do.
The Customer Is Always Right
The modern buyer is better informed than buyers of the past. They expect companies to meet them where they are, and they have high expectations.
The customer of today has far more say in the business-customer relationship. Embracing a framework that reflects their concerns can help companies stand out and create meaningful connections. A strong content operation that takes advantage of online communication channels and data to focus on the customer will place you above your competitors and bring you into the hearts of consumers.
The B2B marketers who can adapt to the ever-evolving needs and desires of customers will be successful and stand out in their field. Make sure you’re one of them.