Buyer-driven Communication: Stop Selling. Start Listening.

Public relations and marketing, no matter how good, cannot make a buyer buy. This is especially true in a BtoB environment, where purchasing decisions are often made by committee, impulse buys are rare, and emotions – though not irrelevant – play a secondary role to rational considerations.

In today’s information-rich environment, buyers are in control of the sales process – so understanding what makes them tick is essential. However, as BtoB communicators, it seems we’ve lost sight of this critical point. It’s understandable. In recent years, we’ve been bombarded with the mandate to drive ever more leads through email marketing, overwhelmed by the social media du jour, and enthralled by the promise of marketing automation.

Simply put, we took our eyes off the ball. We know effective marketing starts and ends with the buyer. We always knew it – we just forgot it temporarily. It’s time to reorient ourselves, and our organizations. It’s time to stop selling and start listening to the buyer. It’s time to embrace buyer-driven communication.

This is a way of thinking that places buyers and their needs at the center of all communication priorities. Understanding what buyers care about, how they make their decisions, and how they want to receive information, makes PR and marketing about them, not about us.

Buying-cycle changes brought about by the Internet and social engagement are forcing BtoB marketers and PR professionals to retrench and place the buyer at the center of our world. And for most marketers, resources continue to be constrained, and our teams are being asked to do even more with even less – so focusing on what’s important is essential.

If the program, strategy or tactic does not clearly impact the buying decision of a customer or prospect, then it’s not relevant, and not deserving of execution. But, for a given tactic, how do you determine its relevance to the buyer? Well, one way is to ask them. If the last time your marketing team interviewed customers was when Mosaic was a popular web browser, you need to get out more! With buyer information and opinion in hand, you can then develop buyer personas to help the communication team understand buyer motivation, and drive decisions that respond to their needs, desires and concerns.

While the Stop Selling. Start Listening. approach certainly can use “big data,” behavior-based marketing, and deep customer and prospect segmentation, it doesn’t have to be that daunting. For example one can simply start by:

  • Interviewing 10-15 customers
  • Regularly joining sales for a day of calling on prospects, or
  • Spending a few hours in your contact center listening to incoming customer calls.

The more you bring prospects and customers into your PR and marketing efforts, the more success you’re going to experience. Testing messages and marketing campaign concepts with buyers, approaching PR from the buyers’ view, and ensuring your website speaks to buyers’ needs – not your greatness – all deliver big results.

PR and marketing professionals win by initiating conversations with customers – would-be and current – then using that intelligence to craft campaigns and communications that speak to buyers in their terms, answer their questions, and meet their specific information needs. Remember, now is the time to stop selling and start listening.

Want to join the movement? Visit www.arketi.com/stopselling and join in the discussion.

Mike Neumeier, APR is principal at Arketi Group, a public relations and digital marketing firm that helps business-to-business technology organizations accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, public relations, messaging, branding and demand generation. Consistently recognized by BtoB magazine as one of the nation’s “Top BtoB Agencies,” Arketi helps its clients use marketing to generate revenue. To view all company blogs visit here, and for more information call 404-929-0091 ext. 202.

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