B2B Leaders Must Develop Unified Approaches to Buyer Strategies and Customer-Centricity
Even though the business world is experiencing tumultuous change, B2B’s structure and governance are still very much fragmented. Hierarchy dominates. Functions and departments are represented by an elevator button. Stop at a reception desk of a typical multi-story B2B corporation headquarters, you are likely to be told that the marketing department is on floor 7, sales is on floor 2, operations on floor 3, and executive offices are on floor 5. Despite the upheaval, the reticence to change structurally is prevalent. Resulting in fragmented buyer strategies.
For buyers, hearing and reading mantras of customer-focused, buyer-led, buyer-focused, customer-centric, etc. is one thing. Experiencing such is quite another. In my in-depth buyer interviews, a sentiment I often hear is the adage of “action speaks louder than words.” In other words, buyers can develop a mindset that the company they are interacting with can “talk a good game” but cannot deliver. Trust me, you don’t want to be at this place in a buyer’s mind. Changing this type of mindset is one tough assignment.
This level of fragmentation and silo orientation affects corporations’ abilities to execute buyer strategies. Having conducted numerous stakeholder interviews over the years, I can tell you the elevator reference plays out the same way. For instance, I will hear “this is our sales strategy” and “our marketing strategies are” – depending on which function I am talking to. Sometimes, it will get down to the nitty-gritty acronym granular level. Such as our “ABM” strategy or our “digital marketing” strategy.
What I am getting at here is this: although the different floors may congregate in an auditorium and hear how they must be buyer-focused or customer-centric, they return to their fragmented floors. Back to their respective areas where the focus is on accomplishing the function’s objectives.
Ultimately then, buyers wind up experiencing multiple and fragmented versions of customer-centricity and buyer strategies. They get marketing’s version, another from sales, and operation’s version. Even though marketers and sellers love the phrase “buyer’s journey”, and buyers hate it (an article for another day) – let’s use it anyhow. Use it for the purpose of illustrating that along a buyer’s journey, buyers are experiencing different touchpoints from different functions of a corporation. The more fragmentation there is, the higher the likelihood that buyers will get a different version of that corporation’s buyer strategies and customer-centricity efforts.
What then must leaders in B2B do, you ask? They must move beyond mantras and siloed dependency. Towards developing a unified approach to buyer strategies and customer-centricity. Led by insight and understanding about their buyers and customers. And, re-evaluate structure based on their abilities to serve buyers and customers.
I liked what Jennifer Stanley of McKinsey has been writing about an omnichannel approach to B2B. She and her colleagues have been noting that “omnichannel is here to stay” in B2B. From a quantitative surveying perspective, they are seeing the same sentiment. Buyers want a consistent version of customer centricity and buyer strategies aimed at helping them.
In Brent Adamson’s HBR article I discussed recently, he and his colleagues at Gartner are noting that the linear and siloed models of marketing and sales are becoming obsolete. The example of SMART Technologies offered in the article is a worthy attempt at creating a unified buyer strategy based on insights about their buyers.
For B2B executives, one important leadership priority needed in the future is developing unified approaches in buyer strategies. B2B leaders must take a hard look at their capabilities for earned buyer insights and understanding. Creating confidence in buyers’ minds that they will get the same level of understanding no matter with whom and where they interact.