Upon reflection of the year in B2B marketing: 2016 version, it seems too many marketers have their backs turned toward their customers and prospects. Corporate marketing and communications teams are so focused on internal initiatives and processes that they’re missing opportunities based on prospects’ interests and actions. It’s time to start looking at the world from the reality of the customer perspective.

At Fahlgren Mortine, we have been working with our business-to-business clients on an outside-in connected approach. That approach is gaining momentum as customer-centricity and account-based marketing (ABM) take hold within client organizations.

Fundamental to this shift is the move from focusing on touch points to focusing on the connected customer experience. As McKinsey says, “To maximize customer satisfaction, companies have long emphasized touch points. But doing so can divert attention from the more important issue: the customer’s end-to-end journey.”

Marketing research and technologies – and the strategists who understand how to transform data into insights – help create the map for connecting experiences. You may say that marketers always have attempted to nurture prospects through a sales funnel. I think the inward-out sales funnel is akin to the printed TripTik in its relevancy; an outward-in buyer-centric approach is today’s Google Maps with real-time traffic updates and dynamic results based on personal preference.

So, how quickly can your 2017 marketing plan connect with a prospect or customer who decides to take a new route? Here are five tips that may help:

  1. Identify the triggers for change: What causes your customers to think about making a purchase or evaluate current equipment? In the B2B space, these are rarely impulse buys based on creative advertising.
  2. Understand purchasing mindsets: A colleague of mine often says, “Purchasing isn’t a department; it’s a mindset” shared by a growing number of influencers in an organization. She’s right. And so is LastMinute.com’s Chief Commercial Officer Alexandra Di Lorenzo in this Marketing Week article saying, “Don’t talk about fancy behaviorial targeting if you can’t get age and gender right.”
  3. Plot purposeful explorations: Utilize your research to hone your marketing campaign to focus on the likely places where prospects will seek insights. And it’s not exclusively your sales team. It’s online or offline without you. Be present and participatory with educational and informative content. Forrester Analyst Lori Wizdo says, “Today’s digitally empowered buyer controls the buying process far more than vendors control the selling process. B2B marketers must rethink their customer engagement strategies to catch up with an already evolved buyer.”
  4. Enable evaluations: At some point, the exploration will transition to evaluation. Determine the experiences that help Sales convert the prospect to a customer. Augmented and virtual reality are great options. So are online calculators and product comparison tools.
  5. Form Relationships: It seems too simple to think that the most fruitful business growth pool exists with existing customers. Yet, a lot of marketing plans discount this segment in favor of acquiring new customers. And just because you didn’t get a sale with a customer doesn’t mean that they should be excluded from nurture tracks to eventually bring them into the fold.

We’re fortunate to work with many clients going through this evolution. The shift isn’t easy nor is it often quick. But making the shift from an internal to external focus as soon as possible is critical for marketers and company executives. Start now or be left behind.