Christine Crandell is President of New Business Strategies. A 25-year B2B expert in market strategy, driving demand, and building successful, profitable organizations, she is also the creator of the Sellers Compass™ Methodology.  Christine can be reached at @chriscrandell.

Q: What does the future of B2B marketing look like to you?

A: We’re at a key junction, Marketing is either going to reinvent itself or risk dying. The issue is about revenue, accountability and leadership. Today, when you talk to marketers, they’re not focused on how they can drive revenue. The conversation is about how many “likes”, how many opens and how many leads. The conversation should be about: “Do we know the customer through their eyes,” and “Are we pursuing the right customer?” And “how do we know that?” How do we engage the customer in meaningful value-based ways consistently across the entire life cycle?

Leading marketing organizations are moving from being a silo to being truly matrix-crossed functionally. You’ll find a thinner team with a different set of skill sets. Here’s a statistic: 81% of marketers know that their jobs will radically change in the next three years. But only about 14% know how to do anything about it. These folks are not looking to evolve their roles. They’re not looking to take command of what’s happening to their primary position. They’re just going to let fate happen.

That means today’s marketers are not setting themselves up for success. Their conversations with CEOs, with the head of sales, whoever, have to be in financial terms. It’s all about the revenue, and it’s all about the customer.

Q: What barriers do SMBs typically face when it comes to understanding and leveraging customer experience as part of their overall marketing plan, and how can they best address these inhibitors?

A: The barriers are threefold:

  1. Organizational silos.
  2. Product-centric culture.
  3. A marketing strategy that’s rooted in what competitors are doing, or in what sales wants, instead of how buyers are actually going about solving their problems.

The first place to begin tearing down these barriers is with a mind shift that has to happen. Customer alignment is no longer looked at as a marketing initiative but a company-wide initiative that’s owned by the CEO, even though it may be made operational by marketing. The ROI of any investment is going to be a whole lot higher, and a whole lot more sustainable, if companies actually have a culture and a set of values that are aligned to the customer.

The second place to start is to get to know your customers and involve them in your business. I know that it sounds scary, but the customer actually drives your business. So instead of putting these artificial barriers between the company and the customer, involve them. We have seen that SMBs can be an awful lot more agile and innovative if they actually do that. It’s very hard for large companies to do that because their culture and processes are  trapped in concrete. For SMBs, it gives them an extra edge in agility.

And the third is to know your buyer intimately. It’s about how the buyer defines value, and how they define trust. SMBs are, again, back to this agile point, in a better position to help that buyer be a lot more successful. Not just “the buyer” as in the company, but the buyer as in the individual. Because let’s face it, people don’t want to have relationships with brands. People want to have relationships with people. It’s an awful lot easier for an SMB to do that than it is for a large company. Customer alignment is a family affair; it’s how you drive customer alignment through an organization. And, by the way, that’s what drives revenue.

You can follow Christine Crandell at @chriscrandell

Thank you, Christine!