Even with the best intentions and C-level support, it is difficult to transform a B2B organization from having a product-centric to an audience-centric go-to-market strategy. For years, companies have focused their sales and marketing efforts through a product-centric lens, which has resulted in many inefficiencies. Although many organizations recognize that their buyers’ expectations have changed, and increased audience-centricity is needed to meet those expectations, they fail to make the lasting changes that are needed. Cultural inertia — or “we have always done it this way” thinking — is hard to overcome.
People often say they are fine with change, as long as they are not the ones who need to do the changing. Organizations are no different. The very structures, processes and incentives we have set up have a way of rewarding the status quo and fighting change. With go-to-market strategy, this results in the audience-centric transformation paradox: We understand why addressing buyer needs will help us become more successful, but before we commit to the change, we paradoxically need to experience and get the success we need to change.
How To Overcome The Audience-centric Transformation Paradox
For most organizations, company-wide transformation is unattainable without the evidence of tangible results. Therefore, I often recommend that customers start small and run a pilot project. Begin with a product, business unit, region, or country where the barriers are lower and a smaller number of people need to be activated. In my experience, there is always an area of the business with more openness to trying something new. It some cases, leaders in this area have a growth mindset and are not averse to experimenting. In other cases, it might be because there is little to lose as business is not going particularly well and leadership is now ready to try anything. Whatever the case may be, a couple of steps are crucial in conducting an audience-centric transformation pilot.
- Establish support from the leadership team — particularly with the sales leader. In whatever area of the business you are going to run your pilot, you will need the support and attention of the sales team. You can create a great audience–centric marketing campaign that yields a ton of quality leads, but if sales is not willing or capable of taking the leads to closure, the pilot has failed.
- Focus on the right audience. Let’s be honest — we humans are easily sidetracked and tend to be overly optimistic about our own capabilities. To ensure we put our efforts toward the audiences that are most receptive to our offerings, we must objectively classify our target markets and buyer personas. Remember to not only look at the external attractiveness of a particular market segment, but also account for your organization’s ability to execute against that market segment.
- Buyer needs are the impetus for buyers to change their status quo. Make sure you capture as many of your targeted buyer personas’ needs as possible. Some may not be relevant initially, but as you build out your messaging, content, and the programs and tactics in your campaign, you’ll be surprised how often you can find a use for insight–driven and well-articulated buyer needs.
- Define and measure success. Agree in advance with the pilot’s leadership team what success looks like. What specific outcome metrics do you need to hit? Do you have the mechanisms in place to measure them? As a best practice, build a dashboard that shows the same metrics for your pilot as for the areas of the business outside the pilot.
I believe that everything we do is written in pencil. There is no need for perfection; that’s why we have erasers. Too often I see a customer trying to do every little step perfectly while the real power of audience–centricity is in iteration. Don’t wait to launch the campaign for your pilot until you have the perfect persona details. Start with what you know now, and as you learn more from your ongoing work, refine your insights and efforts. Enable sales and other customer-facing roles with current insights, and teach everyone that if their customers are constantly evolving, so should they.
These four steps will help you break the audience-centric transformation paradox. What’s trending in portfolio marketing? Check out the role-based agenda at the upcoming B2B Summit North America to learn all about the audience-centric transformation.