I just got back from vacation. Actually, “vacation” may not be the most accurate word. It’s more like a family retreat. Each year, we head to Northern Michigan to relax, refresh and reconnect. We reconnect as a family, but we also reconnect with our “vacation” friends. These are folks that we’ve gotten to know as a result of renting the same cottage on the same street for the same two weeks over the last decade and a half. One of those friends is Bill, a successful business man who, in his 50’s is semi-retired. Bill built and sold his business about 5 years ago, and now finds time to consult and counsel other business owners.
We caught up with each other, exchanged “How’s the family” stories, and then shared what we were each up to on the business front. Bill told me of a company that he had consulted for year and a half, an engagement that ended in frustration. Bill said, “The owner of this company needed to make some tough decisions about his product based on what his clients were telling him. He didn’t want to change, so I ended my consulting engagement with them”.
Unfortunately, this is an all too common tale. We ask the customer, we listen, but then we just give lip service and keep doing what we were doing in the first place. This plays itself out in demand generation all the time. Sure, there’s a lot currently being written about understanding the “buyer” (building personas, knowing the buying cycle, customer centered content, etc). But talk is cheap. Most of the companies I interact with fail to truly live out a customer centered demand generation approach. My conversation with Bill got me wondering, “Why is that?” Although it’s not an exhaustive list, here are some reasons (based on my experience) why marketers fail to put the buyer in the center:
- We’re inherently self centered
Let’s admit it… “They” are not what we initially think of. It’s “I”. This is just the normal human condition. Intuitively, putting someone else first does not come naturally. When it comes to putting the buyer in the center, we’re being asked to go against our instincts. But we don’t. Instead, we unconsciously communicate with the buyer from a “this is what I want from you” mindset. The problem is, the buyer is very alert to self centered marketing, not willing to engage when it seems the seller’s best interests are what’s most important
- We’re arrogant
Not in a puffed chest sort of way (although some are), but in a “we know what’s better for them more than they know what’s better for them” way. I was working with a VP of Sales once who said, “Give me every lead so my team can talk to them and tell them that they need our product?” Really? That’s somewhat of an egotistical view. Why do you think this same VP was having so much trouble converting leads into sales?
- We’re afraid of what the buyer might say
Consider yourself forewarned: Buyer centered demand generation is risky. It’s risky because it starts with finding out what the buyer wants. If you ask them, they may tell you. And what they tell you may not align with your beliefs or perceptions about your product/service offering, your message, your strategy, etc. Realigning around what the buyer needs and wants takes some courage. After all, you may find out that you don’t know as much as you think you know.
- We like shortcuts
That‘s a nice way of saying “We’re too darn cheap”. Look, becoming a buyer-centric marketer takes time and money…resources that too many executives don’t think are worth the effort. Those are usually the same executives who wonder why they’re not able to increase pipeline, convert opportunities and close deals. Conversely, I’ve had the chance work with quite a few companies over the years who made the investments in getting to know the buyer. And guess what…ROI and revenue increases followed as a result. Go figure.
If you want to make a significant difference in your demand generation program, then invest the time and resources to find out what your buyers want, what they think they need, and how they think they need it. Then, respond according to their mindset, not yours. I know it’s not instinctive, but it’s effective. Trust me, I’ve seen it work every time it’s been tried.