If I had a nickel for every B2B tech/solution company that emphasized their customer-centric values, I would be in my private jet on the way to Bora Bora right now. There are two main reasons we all love this popular business philosophy – (1) Leaders KNOW they should be customer-centric. It is the right thing to do to be a business that provides value to others. That understands their customer’s needs. That works to solve customer challenges. (2) It sounds good. Am I right? “Our customers are at the center of what we do.” Check.

But there’s an ugly side to this approach and that is many tech companies make decisions that aren’t about the customer at all. For example, releasing features before they are fully tested to meet deadlines and appease sales; trying to make average news appear to be innovation to your customers; creating barriers in your solutions solely to benefit your bottom line. We’ve all witnessed these decisions and many of us have even thought to ourselves, this doesn’t feel customer-centric.

In marketing, we play an important role in this common conundrum – both as a contributor to the problem and a solution to the problem.

How Marketing Complacency Contributes

In a traditional marketing group you might putting together blogs, sales materials, or press releases where you are delicately trying to make something seem better than it is. Your boss (or sales manager or product team) might tell you to paint a picture of what the product WILL do someday, even though its not there today. They might suggest that it’s okay if the marketing isn’t totally accurate because sales will work out the delta with customers. Many teams take the assignment and point to the stakeholder when things get sticky: I wrote this because so-and-so told me to.

If you are anything like me, you will question this endlessly. Why? Well, it seems like everyone does this. And we’re just trying to create buzz, right? On the other hand, we know this isn’t how the customer will experience our solution. It’s not an accurate reflection of reality and at some point that could be a problem.

What can we, as marketers, do in this common scenario? Is there a right answer?

How Marketing Can Help

Part of marketing’s role is to lead the organization in maintaining customer-centric strategies. Be who you say you are. It’s easy to get sidelined by shiny new revenue opportunities but long-term growth comes from managing your customer relationships with integrity. If no one believes the content you are publishing because they are used to a spin – that’s a marketing problem.

As marketers, we can help companies tell great stories about who they are, while also being honest about what that value is to your customers. The best source of this data? You guessed it – your customers. Just listening to them talk about doing business with you checks your customer-centric box; you’d be amazed at how many of your competitors are developing strategies with no customer voice while portraying a customer-centric business model. Here are a few sample questions to ask in ANY MARKETING ROLE when you get an assignment that doesn’t seem to reflect your customer-centric values:

  • How will the customer experience this solution? Are we describing it in the way they will experience it?
  • What do our customers say about working with us and our solutions?
  • Was this strategy/decision/plan developed with our customer at the center?

Ask your boss, ask your boss’ boss, and don’t be afraid to point out inconsistencies in the strategy and plan. People will respect you for it because they are [likely] thinking the same thing. You will build your brand as a strategic thinker who challenges status quo. Other customer-centric thinkers will want to work with you and some people might avoid you (I promise, you will not mind).

If you’re not in marketing, lean on your marketing resources to challenge your commitment to customers in all you do. Encourage questions, feedback and concerns about strategy. Remember, being customer-centric IS the right thing do.  I’m downright customer obsessed!

TL;DR

B2B Solutions Providers are becoming complacent in using terms like customer-centric in their marketing materials with little or no connection to the actual strategic directives of the organization.

As marketers, we need to lead organizations in keeping the customer experience, feedback, and value at the forefront of decision-making and prioritization.
This can be achieved by speaking up and being a consultative marketing partner. Ask questions like:

  • How will the customer experience this solution? Are we describing it in the way they will experience it?
  • What do our customers say about working with us and our solutions?
  • Was this strategy/decision/plan developed with our customer at the center

Customer centricity is a great business model and marketing plays an important role.

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