Does Your B2B Customer Lifecycle Have Marketing Blind Spots?
The speed at which changes in buying behaviors and decision-making are occurring is a challenge faced by B2B organizations. With data and technology as drivers, the time at which insights can serve as relevant is shrinking also. This phenomenon of speed in changing behaviors has caused a shift in thinking on the gathering of human-centric insights.
When I first pioneered the concept of buyer insights research and developing buyer personas seventeen plus years ago, the “sales funnel” was something you could count on not changing that drastically over a few years. As we have gone through two decades in the use of buyer insights research and buyer personas, we moved from gaining insights about the sales funnel to that of the buyer’s journey. There is another significant shift many organizations will need to make – and soon.
Insights Needed into the Entire B2B Customer Lifecycle
Back in 1994, there was a book by Bradley Gale entitled Managing Customer Value. It was ahead of its time. The premise was that we needed to focus on the lifetime value of customers. In an era of new subscription and customer success models caused by digital disruption, this concept is even more timely.
B2B leaders in marketing and sales will have to transition from the narrower journey understanding to that of attaining insights on the entire B2B lifecycle. Especially those organizations who have seen their market business models uprooted by digital transformation. Forcing adoption of subscription-based models or contending with new types of customer relationships. With 2020 on the horizon and more disruption all but a guarantee, it is not too soon to act.
Why B2B Organizations Must Adopt a Customer Lifecycle View
There are four important factors leading to B2B marketing and sales leaders adopting a lifecycle mindset when it comes to attaining buyer insights.
It is almost certain that future disruption in industries, economies, markets, and buying behaviors will occur on a global scale by 2020. How to predict which market or industries will be impacted in a significant way is challenging. What we can be assured of is that disruption will come in many forms. By taking a lifecycle approach to insights, you lower the risks of being caught unaware of potential disruption – whether it affects you negatively or positively.
Buyer Decisions Behavior
As mentioned above, at one point in time – now long ago – the sales funnel and decision-making process rarely changed. This is no longer true. The workplace is changing. Hierarchical relationships are less prominent. The virtual network of teams becoming part of a “digital” infrastructure. Loyalties to brands less so than in decades. Which all means that buyer decisions processes are in a constant state of change. Taking a one-time funnel or journey snapshot of how decisions are made may mean that such a view will be out of date by the time you act upon it.
Empowering Customer Success
Expectations are rising on the part of buyers and customers regarding how they are empowered by the services, products, and technologies of B2B providers. Looking for tangible measurements and adaption that gives them increased capabilities they haven’t had before. Taking a lifecycle approach to buyer insights will take B2B marketing and sales leaders beyond the customer acquisition, implementation, and customer retention phases. Shifting the focus to enabling ongoing customer success. Without insights into an entire lifecycle, the ability to assure enablement of customer success is limited.
Retaining Customer Base
Customer loyalty is difficult to achieve and maintain. In the last decade, there has been much disruption that led to drastic losses in customer loyalty and customer bases. Leaving once unthought of and untouchable establishments in a state of disruptive shock. For example, the iconic Yellow Cab in New York City was severely disrupted by ride-hailing firms Uber and Lyft. Another is the recent turmoil respective to markets, customers, and stock slide occurring at GE the past two years. Buyer insights traditionally have focused on the “buy.” Looking for deep insights that will lead to the acquisition of new customers. This has led to risk exposure when it comes to retaining customers.
Preventing Blind Spots
We are at another turning point in terms of how we approach gaining a deeper understanding of buyers and customers. Approaches related to conducting buyer insights research on the purchase and the journey to the purchase will need to expand to cover the entire lifecycle. As 2020 is ahead on the horizon, there will be an increasing sense of urgency on the part of B2B organizations to be prepared for what lies ahead. The urgency is real as more SaaS models are developed, innovative open platforms created, and the digitizing of existing services taking place.
This preparation will need to take into consideration not only the journey to a purchase but also the lifecycle of customer success. Not doing so will leave B2B entities with a significant blind spot in their knowledge of buyers and customers.