Knowing Your Customer—When Your Customer Is a Business

Posted on by Alison Durant

The heart of any transaction—be it between you and your barista or between a Fortune 500 business and its software vendor—is a person-to-person interaction. But today’s data-saturated and information-driven world can make that easy to forget.

Marketing departments across industries have taken advantage of cutting-edge data-gathering tools by responsibly collecting and collating relevant information about customers and potential customers. They can then use this information to create models that can help them make decisions around what method of messaging will resonate with a person, in order to make them aware of products they’ll genuinely enjoy through channels they’re receptive to.

This is what today’s marketers mean when they say “KYC” (Know Your Customer), and in the modern marketing world, it’s table stakes. But while these methods have become second nature in B2C, many B2B organizations have not embraced this strategic shift. By balancing the cold, hard facts behind data-driven personalization with a warm, more human approach, B2B businesses can build enduring, fulfilling relationships with the customers they serve.

Upfront Personalization

Marketers are trained to imagine the ideal customer: her specific demographics, her hobbies, her purchasing behavior. But for those of us in B2B2C software, this approach doesn’t always help us meet and surpass customer expectations—and that’s especially true for some markets, like utilities.

However, that doesn’t mean we don’t use KYC strategy. It means we expand it. Our goal is to understand what our customers need to make their own customers happy. No need is too niche. When your customer is a business, your success is really tied to their success—it’s so important to think of yourselves as partners in a shared goal, rather than simply vendors. With a focus on shared success, encourage your teams to consider the entire customer journey of each individual that engages with your product.

Traditional KYC tactics are focused on how to reach people and convince them to become customers, but in B2B2C marketing, KYC efforts have the strongest impact after a customer’s business has been won. The weeks right after kickoff of the relationship should be a sort of honeymoon period: They may have just signed, but the relationship is blossoming.

Success in B2B2C spaces is tied intrinsically to the success of the customer, so it’s imperative to understand how their businesses operate and what success looks like to them. It’s crucial to go beyond an especially available customer service team—it’s active engagement with a vested stake in their success. This kind of upfront personalization is an investment in customer happiness and retention.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that investment and engagement with customer success stops once the honeymoon is over. If you’ve come to truly understand your customer’s business, you’ll be able to take stock of their performance against their goals and can make recommendations tailored just for them to set them (and you!) up for continued success.

A Caveat

One thing to be wary of: This kind of bird’s eye view can lend itself to a “flattening” of the customer, reducing the richness and subtleties of an entire company to a dataset. If, day in and day out, you view your customers not as human beings but as blips on a screen, understanding their choices and experiences solely as historical data on graphs, you’re in danger of forgetting the simplest truth: Customers are people. And people can always surprise you.

This is true even in the B2B2C software space, where your customers actually aren’t individual people, but rather businesses. But at the end of the day, businesses are made up of people. It’s crucial you don’t assume you know them better than they know themselves, particularly when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses; their needs and wants vary enormously and can be very idiosyncratic.

On-the-ground Engagement

Just like the best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them, the best way to get to know a business is to watch it operate. In my experience, there’s nothing quite like spending time—in person—with an organization that uses your product. Visiting a customer’s office provides invaluable data that you can’t gather from behind a screen.

There are some things that predictive data analysis can’t tell you, and pain points that you can’t fully grasp until you see them in real time. Every time you visit a customer’s office, you establish a more personalized appreciation for your customer and the way in which they benefit from your solution. This helps you create more targeted products and resources, designed to address specific issues.

Designing based solely on trends and insights from your data may make you think you know what an organization needs, but if you’re wrong because you’re missing context only gained from engaging with the people within your customer base, it could be a costly waste of resources.

Face-to-face engagement is also a way to build positive relationships by showing your customers that you, too, are a person, and intent on fostering good, old-fashioned human connection. Here’s an example: If you visit a customer office, you may notice an abundance of swag from a particular football team. The next time that team wins a game, shoot the office a congratulatory note. If you remember that someone on the development team has a green thumb, you might send a small plant to liven up the office. That’s knowing your customer. This kind of human-to-human engagement is self-fulfilling—the more you do it, the more you want to.

Cutting-edge innovations in the tech and tools that marketers have available to them may have made some of us a little—dare I say it—arrogant. Data gathering and analysis software has become so advanced that some marketing professionals feel like they can predict their customers’ futures or divine their pasts. But truly ‘Knowing Your Customer’ means both leveraging data to make informed decisions and going beyond the digital to understand things the data can’t tell you.

Alison Durant is Chief Marketing Officer at InvoiceCloud.


Related Posts

Comments are closed.

Chief Marketer Videos

by Chief Marketer Staff

In our latest Marketers on Fire LinkedIn Live, Anywhere Real Estate CMO Esther-Mireya Tejeda discusses consumer targeting strategies, the evolution of the CMO role and advice for aspiring C-suite marketers.


Call for entries now open