Do you really know your B2B customers?

During the recent Photoshop World in Orlando, I was selected to be part of a small focus group of alumni members for a discussion about their membership publication, Photoshop User.

I was first asked about this a few weeks after I registered for the event. I received an email inquiring about my interest, along with a short questionnaire. I sent back my responses and, in a few days, was notified that I had been selected for the focus group.

The meeting was lead by the magazine’s managing editor, Chris Main, and associate publisher, Mike Mackenzie – both from Kelby Media Group, Inc. We all enjoyed lunch and exchanged some great ideas on what was useful and not so great about the current publication. Everyone was passionate and took it seriously. We even ran over the allotted time, and most people would have stayed longer if they could.

Glenn Taylor, a B2B marketing creative director, asks Do you really know your customer?To be honest, I was excited to be asked my opinion and be involved in this first-ever customer roundtable. After reflecting on it the past few weeks, I think there are some great takeaways from this that every B2B firm should consider.

  • Don’t assume the answer ask the question. B2B firms often make marketing decisions based on field experience gained over the years. There’s nothing wrong with leaning on past experience, unless it’s the only experience you’re utilizing. We often hear statements in meetings about why this can’t work because it was tried years ago and customers didn’’t respond. Have you asked your customers what they prefer lately? Things have probably changed, evolved or innovated.
  • A little effort goes a long way. The focus group I attended was pretty simple to put together. They used a list of registered alumni, did a quick online survey to qualify participants and bought the group lunch. The meeting was held at an event we were all paying to attend. If your firm is an exhibitor at industry tradeshows, seminars or other events, this is an opportunity to reach out to your customers or potential customers for a face-to-face exchange. You can host it in a nearby hotel suite/meeting room, at a restaurant after hours or somewhere at the event center. Your customers will feel special for being selected and you’ll gain some incredible insight.
  • Be honest and really listen. It’’s a natural reaction to get defensive or irritated as you hear some negative insights about your products, services or company. I thought Chris and Mike did a great job of being honest with what their limitations were on some of the ideas presented and very open on most all of them. They took extensive notes, asked follow-up questions to clarify and really listened. There was no defending, deflecting or disappointment expressed. Just a great, open honesty.

I guess my main takeaway from all this is, really dig deep to know your customers. Not just as numbers and demographics alone, but as partners who can help you fine-tune your B2B marketing efforts. Find creative ways to engage them and start the conversation.

Are you involving your customers in your marketing efforts?

If you have any great examples, drop us a line and let us know about them.