What are your marketing priorities for 2010?

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A quick search on Google indicates that surveys about business-to-business (B2B) marketing priorities tend to concentrate on tactics--rather than strategy. They also tend to focus on investments in various types of promotional activities, rather than the greater marketing picture. As for strategy, at least one survey seems to indicate that in a tight economy, B2B companies rank demand generation first and then raising awareness.

What happened to the focus on the customer?

The irony is that gaining deeper insights into customer, or prospect needs, rarely shows up as a priority, let alone a high priority. Why not?

Is it because investments in gaining customer knowledge are not of interest to those doing the surveys? Or, do researchers assume that everyone knows all they need to know about customers?

Or, is the assumption that some form of marketing research, win/loss analysis, or customer data mining is an integral part of any marketing campaign--and therefore does not need singling out? Or, do researchers know from past experience, that while everyone realizes gaining customer insights is important, it's not a primary focus or one in which companies invest heavily?

I don't know the answer. I do know that while many companies do invest in learning more about their customers, others feel that they know enough--and/or cannot afford to learn more. The question is can any of us afford not to delve deeper into what matters most to those we depend on for revenues?

Isn't customer knowledge power?

I think so.  The devil is often in the details--and nuances in capabilities and/or messaging can make a tremendous difference. That's why it's not uncommon for consumer goods marketers, "the messaging masters", to invest 10% of the anticipated cost of any marketing campaign in upfront marketing research.

Moreover, we all know of "first movers" that lost the race because they didn't move down the learning curve. Instead, competitors pulled ahead by making slight, but significant modifications to the core offering or message.

Is everyone focused solely on lead gen?

From reading the marketing trade press, one gets the impression that a lot of companies do believe that deep customer insights drive sales. These companies are investing in:

  • Data mining tools that will help them pinpoint their most promising prospects and understand exactly what helped win their business
  • Social communities that help assess the desirability of products and marketing messages before committing to their delivery
  • Usability testing to find and remove product design elements that get in customers' way
  • Social media listening tools that enable marketers to determine where audiences turn for information--and what communications resonate most with them--before jumping in the fray
  • Marketing campaign software that includes the ability to monitor conversions and determine what worked--and what didn't
  • Sales enablement solutions that make it easy to create and test responses to alternative lists, messages, and offers

Gaining deep customer insights doesn't need to be expensive

Investments in increasing customer intimacy are not limited to large companies. While many smaller companies may not have the financial or human resources to invest in the automated listening tools listed above, they have other options at their disposal. Many of our clients gain deep insights by easy-to-administer programs such as:

  • Using free social media listening tools to monitor market trends, conversations about the need for the solutions their companies offer, and any mention of their name and/or their competition's
  • Interviewing customers and prospects to learn about the steps these individuals took before making a recent purchase decision--and what triggered these actions
  • Developing case studies about the benefits that satisfied customers derived from their solutions
  • Following customers, and those who influence decisions about their products and services, on Twitter

The question, however, isn't what others are doing, but what you're doing. Will this be the year of the customer for your business? Ready to start today? Test your customer IQ now!

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