The business-to-business world is starting to wake up to the importance of customer-centricity. Laura Ramos, VP and principal analyst of b-to-b marketing at Forrester Research, made this point in a recent interview with AdvertisingAge. She says understanding “empowered buyers” needs to be a priority for B2B companies in the new year.
“Business-to-business buyers are behaving more like consumers,” she said. Marketing teams must build their capacity for delivering a consistent experience for B2B buyers across all marketing channels, according to Ramos.
She added, “This whole customer-obsession, get-to-know-your-customer, know-your-customer-better [trend] is going to create some investment in things like voice of the customer, meaning really analyzing the voice of the customer, not just doing surveys.”
That prediction from Forrester Research is just another reminder that customer engagement has never been more critical than it is today—especially for B2B companies. At Vision Critical, we are seeing more and more B2B companies launch their own insight communities—private, online communities where they can engage B2B buyers in an ongoing dialogue about their products, services and support.
If you’re thinking of launching a B2B insight community of your own, we’re here to debunk a few myths that we often hear.
Myth #1: B2B customers are too busy to talk to you.
When you’re asking customers to participate in an insight community, it might seem like you’re taking them away from their work. But if their engagement with you results in better products and services, B2B customers are happy to participate.
Throughout my years working at Vision Critical, I’ve spoken to many B2B customers who participate in insight communities and I have learned that they enjoy giving their opinions. When companies take the time to listen, they feel like real partners of the business. Buyers are willing to set aside time to engage with you because they believe their engagement will also benefit them and the companies they work for.
Just like many customers, those in the B2B space support companies that want to build a two-way relationship with them. They see their participation in insight communities as mutually beneficial, and worthy of their time and effort.
Myth #2: You need expensive incentives to motivate people in a B2B insight community.
Most people in a B2B insight community are not looking for monetary incentives. Exclusive content with actionable insight and best practices they can use in their role are often great motivators. Some swag can also have a substantial impact in B2B insight communities.
Instead of offering expensive incentives, what is often more valuable is to close the feedback loop. Let people know how their opinions are shaping your business. Consider the motivation of the people in your B2B insight community and adjust your incentives accordingly.
Myth #3: B2B customers are too difficult to reach.
With the right approach, effectively recruiting the right people for your B2B insight community is do-able.
Start by identifying your target market. To get the most ROI from your insight community, who do you need to be engaging with on a regular basis?
Next, figure out the business groups in your organization who can help you reach your target market. Talking to your customer marketing managers (or other people in the organization with a similar role) is a good start. These business groups tend to get a large number of requests from other departments, so make sure you’re developing a good working relationship with them. Learn about their processes, find out how you can get your requests into their queue early and think of ways you can alleviate their work.
Customer intelligence is just as critical in the B2B space as it is in B2C. And as Forrester’s prediction shows, ongoing engagement will only grow in importance in the new year. Don’t let misconceptions stop you from engaging your B2B customers for feedback and insight.