Ever since the mighty three joined the Miami Heat, the great Shaquille O’Neil has been relentless in his criticism of head coach Erik Spoelstra, Chris Bosch, and the Miami Heat’s ability to play with the “big boys.” Even an NBA championship didn’t seem to make a difference. This weekend, Heat fans across South Florida were rewarded with Shaq finally admitting he was wrong. In Sunday’s Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Shaq was quoted as saying “I was wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was wrong. The game has changed.” Finally, Shaq was acknowledging that there were more ways to approach winning in the NBA than having “bigs” in the paint. He understood that the Heat organization had changed the paradigm of the game by playing small and nimble to reach the finals last year and to win it all in 2012 . . . with more to come in the future as this new paradigm quickly becomes an NBA reality.

Being such a huge Heat fan, I loved reading this over the weekend. But what does this have to do with B2B marketing?

It took Shaq more than two long years to admit that the game had changed. B2B marketers cannot afford to wait any longer to recognize that the marketing game has changed forever. What used to work to drive interest and fill the funnel no longer delivers. Customers are now in control, and B2B marketers must wake up and recognize that the time is now to adjust marketing strategies to these new realities. You can no longer push product-focused marketing messages to customers. Your customers are more than two-thirds of the way down the buying cycle before you even know about it. They are out there on their own doing research on the best way to solve their problems on the Web, in blogs, in communities, with their peers, and more. And if you aren’t working to develop a relationship with those customers along the way, you won’t even make it into the consideration set. Game over.

So, what’s a B2B marketer to do to get started? The focus of my current research on B2B marketing aims to answer these questions. Should you:

  • Develop a rich understanding of your customers?
  • Outline your customers’ buying journey and the questions they look to answer along the way?
  • Know where they go for their information and be present there with thought leadership and information to help answer their questions?

The buyer’s journey paradigm has arrived for B2B marketers. Are you ready?

I’d love to hear from you and include your perspectives in my research. Please reach out to me at via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts. I’d be happy to set up a follow-up discussion. And for your participation, you’ll receive a final copy of the finished report.