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Every marketer knows they should know their customer, but few truly make the effort. It’s hard and takes commitment. Customers are busy and can be maddeningly difficult to get on the phone. A sales rep may not want someone from Marketing talking to their customer. Marketing teams can be so busy with internal meetings their existing workload that finding the time can be a chore.
Like many New Year’s resolutions, putting the customer first is obvious, we know it’s good for us, and yet…Just like we all know eating less and exercising more will help us lose weight – the number one New Year’s resolution – Statistic Brain tells us that only eight percent of people actually follow through. So, is there any hope for a marketing leader who wants his team to know their customer?
Here’s one way. It just takes a day and very little up front work.
Last year I asked my team at Symantec to walk in the shoes of a prospective customer by acting like a buyer for a day. If we couldn’t talk to a bunch of buyers, we’d do the next best thing and act like a bunch of buyers. We called it “Be the Buyer Day.” It provided great insights that we were able to use right away. It was also a lot of fun. Here’s how we did it.
Working with my managers, we divided up the product marketing department into eight teams of two. Each team would act as a buyer, some looking at a competitor’s product, and some looking to buy from Symantec. We made sure each team had one person familiar with the product, to help steer the effort, and one person with little product familiarity, to remove any built in biases. Just like editing your own work, a fresh pair of eyes is always helpful.
After a brief kickoff breakfast, the teams went off on their own and started acting like buyers. We had no set process for this, and it was interesting in itself to see where each team started. Some went right to the company’s website. Others started with a Google search. Some went looking for reports from industry analysts. Others went for white papers or demos.
I also asked the teams to contact each company and see how easy it was to buy. Acting as “secret shoppers,” my team called 800 numbers and filled out Web forms. Some even went as far as looking for a regional reseller to buy from. The responses were eye opening. An inside sales rep at one of our larger competitors had no clue his company even offered a compliance product. More than one Web form went unanswered. A few companies got it right.
The group reconvened at the end of the day and each team gave a brief readout on what they found. I gave out a few awards for things like best competitive nugget and best insight.
So, what did we learn? Overall, the exercise helped the team understand what it’s like to buy enterprise software. Sounds funny to say it, but most enterprise software marketers have never bought enterprise software before. Seeing how a buyer would interact with their web pages, marketing collateral, and (hopefully trained) inside sales team/channel partner was enlightening.
We learned how Symantec stacked up in terms of SEO and online content. As a group, we decided to redouble our efforts to train our inside team, seeing that as a potential competitive advantage. We also got a few cool ideas from competitors that we decided we’d add to the marketing mix.
Give it a try. It’s an easy way for your marketing team to understand what it’s like to be one of the customers they are trying to persuade, and a lot easier than trying to lose ten pounds.