That insight is what marketers lack in general, Patterson emphasizes. She sees four areas where marketers stub their toes every day with respect to a focus on the customer:
1. No understanding of how customers purchase and decide to buy. They’re so used to pushing marketing out that companies are not paying enough attention to the feedback coming in.
2. Enablement of the sales organization is almost entirely product-oriented. “What’s typical of the B-to-B environment is talking about product features, loading up the team with product-oriented tools that don’t help them understand what’s in it for the customer,” Patterson explains.
3. Working from customers’ language. “Oftentimes we don’t use words that the customer uses. We come up with our own language inside our companies. But customers have a language, and it’s important to be able to speak in their language for our marketing,” she says.
4. No really good measurement processes and tools for looking at things from a customer-centric point of view. “One of the things companies have been looking at is customer engagement,” notes Patterson, “but even that metric has been hard to get your hands around—and is still measured in terms of things behaviorally that companies have decided is important” rather than the opposite direction.
What Are the Beginning Steps?
For companies looking to better serve their key customer segments for stronger performance, Paulsen recommends starting small. “The best advice that I have is to start with some scheme at the five- or six-segment level and just be relentless about ‘deaveraging’ those segments and coordinating across the operating units of your company—whether they’re retail stores, field sales, whatever it is. But be relentless about breaking down the barriers to get better service to those customer segments,” he says.
Patterson also emphasizes the need to set up ways to listen and learn from your customers. “I’m amazed at how few companies, especially B-to-B companies, spend any money on customer research. This includes setting up customer advisory boards and third-party research.”