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Listening (more closely) to voice of the customer

blog post by Matthew Schwartz of ZoomInfo
September 30, 2010

Ah, the halcyon days of b-to-b sales. It wasn’t that long ago that b2b sales execs would meet a client (or prospect) in person and pretty much know how the conversation would flow. B2b reps did most of the talking, of course, and that was fine because the reps controlled the information about the product and/or service and, to a large degree, the prospect or buyer had to go with his or her gut when making a decision.

We all know that the Web and social media have blown that model to smithereens and now the customer is firmly in control. But do marketers appreciate and understand the shift? “Marketers still think they at the center of the universe, but they’re not, they’re all at the mercy of the desires of the customer,” said Ernan Roman, president of strategic marketing consultancy Ernan Roman Direct Marketing and author of “Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5 Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.”

Roman addressed the (increasingly powerful) voice of the customer at a seminar earlier this week titled, “Listen, Engage and Drive Sales: How to Achieve Real Time Customer Engagement that Hits the Bottom Line.” The seminar was sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association.

Roman, whose clients include Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and NBC Universal, said marketers must abandon traditional “spray and pray” blasts of email, mail, TV and phone, which only serve to alienate prospects and potential customers, and, rather, home in on the particular buyer. He said VoC Customer-driven Relationship Marketing, initially entails three components:

  • ‘VoC’ Relationship Research: Use in-depth interviews with prospects and customers to understand how they define the value and relevance of your company. Segment your customer base so your messaging is more targeted and determine which channels (web, outbound marketing, events, e-mail) work best for each segment.
  • Opt-in Engagement: What are your audiences’ preferences and what information are they volunteering in response to your offers? Understand how they are responding to the information you are providing and how that fits within the sales funnel.
  • Preference Drivers: Ask customers how they wish to do business and, using multi-channel marketing, deploy media per customers’ individual preferences.

Asked how b-to-b sales execs can take better advantage of the ‘VoC,’ Roman said: “The role of the sales force has got to change drastically. [Sales execs] have to go from a purveyor of information to a consultative role.” He added that sales execs have to improve their skills at the “needs assessments” among their customers and have a better feel for clients’ pain points and what are the potential solutions in the sales rep’s quiver.

New Book Release: Voice Of The Customer Marketing
"This is the definitive playbook for this new customer-driven era."
—Frank Eliason
Senior Director, National Customer Operations, Comcast
"Thank you, Ernan, for tuning us in to the inner voice of our customers! A deep understanding of our customers' needs and preferences is essential for our future growth."
—Karen Galley
President, Patient News Publishing