Frustrated personnel. Frustrated at not being able to do a better job. Frustrated at not being able to help customers. Frustrated at learning there are better ways but no plan in place to improve. Feeling helpless to do anything about their frustrations. Which is, until now.
The enabling wave of digital technology and the democratization of information is being felt among the end-user communities within organizations today. Awakening a voice of influence long silent and constrained by traditional hierarchies in place since the 1950’s. As B2B organizations become more global, flatter, and collaborative – the voice of the user will grow stronger.
B2B marketers and sellers have long looked at the buyer at the place where buying starts. We have come up with names such as triggers, pain, problem, challenge, and more to help us paint the picture of a buyer starting the buying process. This will continue to take place. However, we will see a growing trend where users take matters into their own hands.
In a recent conversation with a SVP for a major regional bank (qualitative interview on behalf an organization), I heard this:
“I expect nowadays for employees to come to me with not only problems but to show they’ve done a little research. Another words, they took the time to see how to fix problems and perhaps what options are available. It is what you need to do to stay competitive.”
Ten to fifteen years ago, I am not certain we would have heard a statement like this. Clearly, there is a green light in this environment to research and uncover options. Which translates to an evolving trend of users identifying problematic situations, researching problems, and evaluating options to present.
Here is another example from an interview related to an OEM integration of a high tech product:
“I am highly reliant on the opinions of my engineering team. So it is important they review the specs and see how this is going to fit into what they are working on. Some are very good at spotting what needs to be done and when an outside technology is better to integrate versus building in-house.” Vice President, Engineering
From a B2B Marketing and Selling perspective, it has been customary to view the single buyer identifying a problem, researching, evaluating, and making a decision. I reference in my previous article on B2B User Marketing, we have organizations, which are now flatter and more collaborative. This can result in problem solving becoming more of an organic process. Meaning users collaborating on problems and seeking solutions designed to help them be more effective.
What this can mean is this: users can be in the position of developing the first draft of the short list. This short list is then presented to buying committees and the team of decision-makers as well as budget approvers. An organic means of surfacing problems and identifying the short list of solutions.
For years, sales people called on buyers. Armed with presentations and collateral to be given to the single buyer. Or, given to a few people within an organization. Users were not privy to the messages and the content provided to help make decisions. Here is what B2B Marketers and Sellers have to guard against: walking around with these images in their head. There is a tendency to still think of users as silent in buying situations.
The Internet, digital technology, and democratization of information have made what used to be privy now widely available for all to see. Thus, when a user thinks “This is not working, there must be something better out there!”, they can now research and find options to talk about.
This trend has implications for B2B Marketers and Sellers when it comes to demand generation. Where will demand originate? It is a good question to focus in on. Depending on your industry, not building awareness among the user community can mean demand generation is not going to be effective.
Some industries have built-in advantages with user groups and communities. These, however, have been primarily oriented towards support, training, and development. Not demand generation. Other industries do not have these built-in advantages and do not know users as well as they can. They will certainly have work ahead of them to understand users more deeply.
B2B Marketers will need to think different when it comes to user demand generation. Avoiding the mistaken belief of using existing demand generation tactics already targeted at buyers. Two approaches, which can help to determine user-centric demand generation, are:
User Insight Research: understanding users, from a marketing perspective versus product development perspective, is a challenge. Most existing user research in B2B tends to center on usage, functionality, and usability. Uncovering the mindset of users as in how they think, their perceptions, their problem-solving behaviors, and more is what is in store.
User Personas: We have come 360 degrees. When personas first began as a research method, they began with user personas to help inform design strategy. Now, user personas can be adapted towards thinking on how to build awareness and presence among a user-based audience.
Interesting developments in the world of marketing, selling, and in demand generation are ahead. The wave of change taking place within organizations is impacting the status quo enormously. Just as buyer behavior has changed, we see user behavior changing. Are you prepared?