Spring.  As birds migrate north to secure nesting ground, gaggles of marketers flock to secure budget for their marketing plans.

The most fruitful of these plans are built on customer insights.  But insights into what exactly?

Here are three things that would top my list.

What really matters?

We all know that successful marketing propositions perfectly align with customer needs and wants.   But here assumption and guess-work abound.  The remedy is a two-step process.

First, directly ask customers how they make decisions, especially what makes them choose one supplier over another then remain loyal.  But beware; people don’t always really know why they do, what they do.  So, don’t take their word for it.  Instead apply a liberal sprinkling of statistics to your surveys.  Through smart questioning and clever pattern-spotting maths, these techniques deduce what truly motivates behaviour.  It’s not always what you’d assume or what customers tell you.

Of course, not all customers are the same.  The traditional approach in B2B is to segment the customer base ‘firmographically’ – based on size, activity, spend and so on.   The reality though is that customers sharing a similar profile can have very different needs, wants or attitudes.  Identifying segments on this basis leads to a much better ROI – marcomms resonate, propositions have greater appeal and new products see higher demand (read more on B2B market segmentation research here).

How are we performing?

Armed with knowledge about what matters to customers, performance in each area needs to be monitored alongside the general health of the relationship.  That’s why a regular customer satisfaction survey should be a staple in any marketing plan.  It provides the critical metrics needed to optimise approach and set targets.  One of these metrics should measure good will and the legendary Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great tool in this respect.

What marketing channels work? 

There’s a huge amount of speculation concerning the effectiveness of different marketing channels.  Take social media.  But if we know for sure where customers hang out (sources used to keep up to date) and how they feel about different methods of direct contact, marketing ROI is much more certain.

Just three more…

So there we are; three topics for consideration.  If resources and budgets allow, here are three more I’d add:

  • What’s it like being a customer?  Understanding a ‘day-in-the-life’ of a customer is invaluable in fuelling innovation and enabling better engagement.  A much deeper approach to marketing can be taken if you know what the customer’s working environment is like, what tasks consume their day, what makes them successful (as an organisation and an individual) and where your products/services fit in
  • What’s on the customer’s mind?  Insights into trends in a customer’s industry, their critical success factors and their own customers, allows you to remain relevant.  And if content marketing is your thing, then this understanding ensures that your content is of interest (read more on B2B thought leadership research here)
  • What does our brand ‘mean’?  To develop and manage a resonant, differentiated brand it’s essential to understand what your brand ‘means’ to the market.  Add an understanding of what the brand could mean (areas of credibility and stretch) and should mean (desired brand attributes and behaviours) and the optimum positioning can be set as an aspiration

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) customer satisfaction surveys.

Which customer insights are top of your list?  Share your thoughts below.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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