Marketer, Meet Your Market

Too many marketers don’t know enough about their market.  This is especially true in B2B marketing, where the marketing department often relies on the sales force to provide all the input about the market based on current customers’ needs and wants.  There are two problems with this approach:

  1. The marketer is not getting information about the total market, just about current customers.
  2. The information comes with all the sales force’s biases about what the marketing department should be doing.

Marketers who are really interested  in the market’s needs and wants, need to talk to the market, including clients.  These discussions can be invaluable in learning what makes buyers tick and what gets them ticked off.  Listen to how buyers express their needs and wants.  Capture the words they use.  And there is nothing like meeting the client face-to-face to build rapport and trust.  Here are a few ideas for meeting the market:

Trade Shows – When I was head of marketing for an insurance company, I liked to work the trade show booth at industry conferences.  Many people in the company, including some of my staff, thought I was crazy, but it was an excellent opportunity to meet buyers in a casual environment.  I was able to build relationships over time, which led to important insights about the market.  An extra bonus: Many of our competitors were there and we could do some competitive intelligence gathering while we were at the show.

Company Sponsored Events – If your company hosts customer or user conferences or relationship building events for prospects, they can be a great place to speak with buyers.  Breaks, lunches, cocktail receptions and dinners are times when you can network.  Again, don’t expect to get a lot of information on first discussions, but they can be nice introductions that lead to long-term relationships and valuable views about your company and the market in the future.

Industry Events – Even if an industry conference doesn’t have a trade show component, you can network in between sessions and during scheduled networking events to build relationships with buyers or get reacquainted with those you met before.  And some industries have purely social events for networking.

Write a Case Study – A case study is a wonderful reason to meet with a customer.  Try to interview the key people at their facility.  It puts them in their comfort zone and it gives you a better sense of the corporate culture.  Since they will have total approval of the final product, you have lots of leeway in asking questions about problems the company faced, alternatives they considered and why they went with your company’s solution.  The case study is also going to make your customer look good so it reinforces the client relationship.  Not to mention its promotional value for public relations, web site articles and mailings to prospects.

User Groups – Members of these groups have a vested interest in your company because their companies have made a sizeable investment in your company’s products and it would be very difficult to change to a competitive product.  The members of the group provide input about current performance and make suggestions about improvements.  If you are not already running these groups, you should be sitting in on these sessions.

Effective marketers can’t just look at survey data and talk to their sales people about the market.  They need to get out and talk with buyers to get a real sense of what is important to buyers so they can respond appropriately through their marketing efforts.

© 2011-2018 Bill Fellows, Top-of-Mind Branding All Rights Reserved