The Next Frontier…Understanding Your Customers’ Customers

So you think you’ve nailed it.  You are a B2B marketer who spends 25%-30% of your time with customers; you collect insights across a range of customer communication channels; and you analyze and integrate what you learn into the other parts of the business that need to hear it.  Well it turns out that it’s no longer enough to stop there.  Marketers need to dig into their customers’ business, priorities, needs – and those of their customers’ customers too.

I have been seeing this message in B2B blogs and articles on and off, but it was brought home to me recently while interviewing a CMO at a large financial services company.  He was talking about their challenge in getting to know the individual customer, and he raised this conundrum.  A lot of B2B marketers struggle to go between their buying audience and the end consumer.   For us, we appreciate the fact that even though our buying audience is a professional audience, we are reaching through to the end consumers.”

Clearly there is not an easy fix to this, but here are a few thoughts about where trying to integrate the end consumer perspective into your own customer engagement approach might give you a boost— and help your customers too with your company’s new found knowledge.

  • Ask to meet your peers.  Many marketing leaders are meeting with customers today – take the next step and asked to be introduced to the CMO or marketing head in your client’s company.  As their peer, you are in a unique position to connect with them, and you’ll get an interesting view into your clients’ challenges in the marketplace, who they serve and how they engage.   Your sales teams will get a lot of benefit from this additional lens on your customers’ business challenges and priorities. 
  • Allocate market insight and research resources to learning about your buyers’ buyers.  All marketers invest some level of time and money into gaining an understanding of the marketplace, the opportunities, the trends, and the competitive landscape.  Carve out 20% to actively learn about your customers’ end customers.  Conduct a set of insight interviews and extract their specific challenges and priorities.  Integrate this into your positioning, your client conversations, and the way you communicate the value of your product or service.  Or purchase spending reports and other consumer behavior trends.  If you see that your customers’ customers are going to be spending less, or changing the nature of their demand this will surely have an impact on your own plans.  And perhaps you can add an interesting analytical perspective on top of those trends that your customers might find intriguing.  You don’t need to do much to learn and deepen your perspective. 
  • Use those insights to help your customers.  Content is increasingly critical in B2B marketing programs, and as a recent survey by Content Marketing Institute shows, the two biggest challenges are creating enough content, and creating content that engages customers.  What a great way to add valuable content for your clients’ consumption to package up those insights you collect from their customers and their marketplace into useful stories and information.  It is also a strategic path to move beyond talking about your products and services as you strive to deliver content that matters. 
  • Bring your customers together with their customers.  One thing is for sure: as you begin to learn more about your customers’ customers, you’ll see some interesting themes emerge in terms of business challenges, solutions, priorities and opportunities that impact your own customers and in fact your own company as well.  This can become an interesting shared agenda to showcase innovative thinking or forward looking solutions.  If you are looking to create a more strategic or unique platform upon which to convene your customers, ask a set of your most significant clients to bring their key clients along to progress this agenda.

 How are you thinking about the end customer of your customers?  How would you recommend B2B marketers integrate this into their programs?

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