In b-to-b marketing, we’ve seen a surge in awareness of the importance of customer experience. We all accept that it’s more efficient to grow virtually any business by selling to existing customers rather than by acquiring new ones. As someone who spends all day, every day talking to b-to-b organizations about how to develop and evolve the customer experience – specifically the post-sale relationship – I’m impressed with how much they know about their prospects, but saddened by how little many know about their customers.
SiriusDecisions recently completed a comprehensive study of more than 450 b-to-b customers, specifically executives and users, focused on understanding what types of content and interactions they’re using, and what they wish they had but don’t get today (i.e. what selling organizations aren’t providing). Because we know that customers’ wants and needs vary as they move through the customer lifecycle, we anchored our study in the four phases of our Customer Lifecycle Framework – deliver/initiate, develop/participate, retain/actualize and grow/advocate.
For the deliver/initiate phase, the results showed that organizations are frequently missing the mark. Here’s where the adage “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” really comes to life. Common sense tells us that right after someone makes the decision to buy, we should spend some time supporting the executive who owns that investment. But in reality, b-to-b organizations are jumping straight into onboarding users, ignoring the unique needs of the executive who sponsored the purchase. As important as onboarding users is, we should understand that each post-sale customer role needs to be nurtured and supported throughout the lifecycle. Otherwise, when we ask customers to consider renewals, upgrades, new offerings, referrals or references, we’ll be met with a blank stare at best – and disdain at worst.
The good news is that the gaps between what customers are getting and what they want aren’t that difficult to fill. Executives want to maintain visibility and spend time with provider executives, thought leaders and experts. Users want easy access to training, preferably on demand. Both want to be able to provide feedback to the appropriate person or group via a customer success manager, a product manager, an executive briefing or technical specialists.
The findings from SiriusDecisions’ Customer Experience Study certainly indicate that organizations have some work to do to provide executives and users with the types of content and interactions they find most useful as they enter their relationship with a provider.
The first step to filling the gaps is to research, document and share the key customer roles involved in the post-sale lifecycle. Next, conduct an audit of existing post-sale content and interactions, with an eye to understanding how each is designed for, developed for and delivered to pertinent customer roles. Once inventory and categorization are complete, validate findings with individual customers who fit each of the identified role profiles. This process helps organizations ensure alignment between internal perceptions and customer preferences.
Have you invested the time and effort into truly understanding your customers and their post-sale roles? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity to engage in ways that really matter to your customers – and just shooting in the dark when determining where to spend your precious budget and resources.