Winston Churchill once said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”
In our experience, it’s certainly true that all B2B marketing professionals make mistakes. (Of course, salespeople do too, but that’s a topic for another day.) In fact, we’ve seen that almost all B2B marketing professionals make the same mistake at least once, and only a wise few correct that mistake.
Over and over again, we see B2B firms put out marketing materials that don’t align to true customer value.
What do we mean by not aligning to true customer value? Imagine, for example, that your company sells industrial-quality chainsaws to lumber companies, landscapers and similar sorts of customers. And now imagine that your marketing department has created an advertising campaign that says, “Our chainsaws smell like the great outdoors.”
Now it may be true that your company makes the best-smelling chainsaws in the world. It may also be true that your customers enjoy the smell of the great outdoors. But is that really what they’re looking for in a chainsaw?
It’s easy to guess that most industrial chainsaw buyers are probably more concerned about how fast the chainsaw can cut logs, how heavy it is, how much it costs or how long it will last than they are about how the chainsaw smells. Of course, I could be wrong—to know the true answer about what is important to chainsaw buyers I would have to do some research. And that’s exactly where most marketers make their mistake.
Most marketing campaigns begin with a brainstorming session where all the internal staff sits around and throws out ideas. Brainstorming may be an important part of the process, but it isn’t where marketing should start.
All truly successful marketing campaigns begin with a solid understanding of what’s important to the customer, and that means doing some customer research.
As a sales professional, you probably have more contact with customers than the average marketer. That means that you’re probably better positioned than almost anyone else in the company to spot this potential marketing mistake. Unfortunately, there may not be a whole lot you can do about the situation after marketing materials have been produced. However, there are several things you can do to help avoid the problem in the first place:
- Maintain open lines of communication with the marketing team. If you’re regularly talking to your marketers about what’s important to your customers, it’s less likely that they’ll make the mistake of not aligning to true customer value.
- Bring a marketer along on a sales call. Invite a friend from the marketing department to listen in as you talk to customers and prospects on the phone or maybe even have someone come with you for an in-person meeting. This sort of hands-on experience is invaluable for marketers.
- Become a champion of market research. Speak up in meetings and share articles with the sales and marketing team about the importance of solid customer research.
- Learn and practice the principles of effective change management. Telling the marketing team that they’re doing a bad job probably isn’t going to achieve the results you need. But SellingBrew has a tutorial on Making Change Happen that explains the right way to get other people in your organization to do things differently.
Unfortunately, not aligning to true customer value is just one of the mistakes that marketing teams make frequently. Check out the guide Avoiding Five Margin-Killing MarCom Mistakes to learn about four more—and what you can do to prevent them.