When I look at all the agencies that have jumped on the ‘influencer marketing’ bandwagon over the past eighteen months I’m struck by the fact that they all appear to be from marketing backgrounds and none from either sales or better still buyer backgrounds. How can these agencies claim to know anything about the buyer experience? Then I realise they don’t claim that knowledge. They don’t even talk about the buyer experience. It’s irrelevant to them. They talk only about increasing a company’s marketing outreach. More and more collateral, more and more names in a database. All the focus is on the supply-side, totally ignoring the demand-side. It makes no sense at all.
Had a conversation with a client inside a major marketing dept. a few weeks back. I asked “What makes you think you know what influences your customers?”. “Our salesforce tells us – and they always say advertising helps. That’s about it. And taking their prospects out to see existing customers of course.”
It can’t really all boil down to these two things. I often hear advertising called ‘air cover’ – hard to measure its effect but you need it there to create the impression of weight. Many salespeople have traditionally liked advertising because it gives them an entry point into a prospect conversation – “You might have seen our ads in/on ….” I don’t have a great issue with B2B advertising – because it clearly does work with buyers sometimes.
Installed-base trips have always been, and will surely remain, extremely important in many B2B sectors. A great endorsement can be priceless. But we all know there’s more than just these two tentpoles.
It interested me that he seemed content that his view of the customer was sourced entirely from his few contacts in sales. Especially considering how superficial this advice obviously was. I was surprised my guy in marketing was so dismissive of the original question. And so un-analytical. Perhaps he felt he didn’t need to look any further.
Maybe he saw his job (which he’d kept for over ten years) as keeping the salesforce happy more than he saw his job being to understand the customer. It left me wondering how prevalent that view might be in marketing depts today?
I was talking to a social media consultant friend of mine the other day. She’d been asked by a client to come up with a social strategy for his firm. She knows all the social tools & processes off by heart. But she wasn’t sure which to prioritize in this case and her client had given her only the briefest of objectives. She asked where I’d start.
I’d start where I always start. With her clients’ customers. Who are they? What makes them buy? What makes them decide they have a problem in the first place? Where do they look once they’ve decided to solve that problem? How do they go about their search? And what are they hoping to hear?
Once you’ve answered those questions your social strategy, and your broader marketing strategy, should be much clearer. It’s then just about tactics.
She wondered if her new client, the head of his firm, would be willing to let her talk directly to his customers. He might not have the time and so just want her to get on with the social outreach. She shouldn’t worry – he’s the boss, a businessman – and the last thing he’d want to do is invest in marketing without some strong business reasons to do so. A marketer might want to do outreach for the sake of outreach. Trial and error. The head of a business would never do that. I’ve never believed that the customer is always right. But the customer is always the start-point.