There’s a quote above the entrance way to our building, it reads:
“We will not be great by what we accomplish,
rather by what we help others accomplish.
To actually help, we must follow first to fully
understand a person's goals and challenges.”
It’s a sentiment with broad appeal. We hold it as a core belief. Yet this is a truism often overlooked in B2B marketing, and we know that because we are B2B marketers who work with hundreds of other B2B marketers.
Your marketing and sales activities should help your customers accomplish their outcomes, but often B2B marketers think it’s easier to sell their products and services than it is to truly understand what customers need and want. That’s why we developed Follow Your Buyer. Simply stated, it’s a methodology to help your customer, not sell your customer. Learning to follow your buyer requires a change in mindset where you’ll get to know your buyers from the inside out and embrace a collaborative role in solving their challenges.
This approach helps B2B companies to
attract, influence, and understand their customers
by providing targeted, helpful content throughout
the entire buyer’s journey.
Why Another Marketing Methodology?
We developed the Follow Your Buyer methodology after decades of seeing B2B marketers take the same missteps, including:
- Marketing to everyone in your target market (instead of tailoring content to individual personas within individual companies).
- Measuring old-school marketing metrics (instead of looking at behavioral data collected throughout the entire buyer’s journey).
- Applying B2C marketing best practices to a B2B sales cycle (instead of understanding the complexities of the ever-expanding B2B decision-making loop).
- Building entire marketing strategies around product-centric content solely intended to get bottom of the funnel leads (instead of producing content to help solve your customers’ challenges and build awareness of your brand early in the buyer’s journey).
These shortcomings of traditional B2B marketing often result in frustrated marketing teams. And you should be frustrated when you struggle to get your fair share of budget, don’t feel respected by your executive leadership team, endure ongoing communication challenges with your sales team, and ultimately fail to create meaningful, lasting customer relationships built on trust.
We think marketers – when armed with the right strategy and actionable data – are the lifeblood of successful B2B companies. The Follow Your Buyer methodology reminds marketers why that is true. It’s a methodology developed from more than four decades as a B2B publisher, with insights gleaned from some of the brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing, including the experts behind Selling To The C-Suite and The Challenger Customer.
What Is Follow Your Buyer?
Follow Your Buyer is both a mindset and a strategy to course correct the way you and your organization “do marketing.” It is rooted in content marketing best practices that will ultimately elevate marketing’s status within your organization. By “content marketing,” we mean delivering specifically helpful content to targeted personas during each step of their decision making process that will guide them through their buyer’s journey.
This is not a fancy software tool in a marketing tech stack. It is not a flavor-of-the-month-campaign metric. And it’s not some new marketing model preached by a consulting firm. Follow Your Buyer is instead a methodology that can and should fundamentally change the way you approach B2B marketing by putting customers and their challenges above all else.
There are five cyclical stages to Follow Your Buyer: identify your buyer, learn your buyer, help your buyer, engage your buyer, and understand your buyer. As you read the description of each stage, put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
1. Identify Your Buyer
You must know who your buyers are before you can begin to follow them. Consider the environment they’re working in: today’s decision makers are increasingly overwhelmed, have access to a wealth of information, and often rely on team consensus for purchasing decisions to reduce risk and personal accountability. That’s a heavy burden to carry — and one your voice needs to rise above.
In the identification stage, use a Market > Company > Persona model to align the stakeholders (personas) you need to influence. Be sure to invest sufficient time to uncover each participating persona and look for ways to validate your thinking.
2. Learn Your Buyer
After identifying the buyer personas, next comes the work of learning them. Start with basic demographic information and characteristics. Then learn what drives their attitudes and motivations for the business challenges they face.
To learn your buyer, work through a series of prompts to examine your buyer’s experience to discover what each buyer persona values and how to support them throughout the buying journey. You’ll learn about what influences their opinions, behaviors, and experiences, as well as the rational and emotional factors behind their business purchases. Validate your learnings for accuracy – these insights will become the guideposts of your strategy.
3. Help Your Buyer
In stage three, pause for reflection and analysis before the work of helping your buyer begins. At this point, you’ve identified the issues each buyer persona faces and what drives them. Now, your task is to determine themes that will genuinely resonate with your personas based on what you’ve learned.
Only after determining your themes can you expect to influence your buyer in a helpful way. Helpful content provides answers, piques curiosity, educates, and builds affinity. More importantly is what helpful content doesn’t do: sell. When your content planning and creation maps closely to the needs of your buyer at different stages of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be on the path of helping your buyer.
4. Engage Your Buyer
Today’s buyers move at their own pace and direction in the buyer’s journey. You must be prepared with the right (and helpful!) information for each stage at the very moment your buyers need support in whatever space they may be — virtual or physical. Solutions to a buyer’s challenges are sought through web search, social networks, personal networks, industry sites, events, research, reviews, videos, and word of mouth.
Buyers seek this information prior to visiting your website or engaging with your sales team. Appeal to your buyer’s specific preferences for absorbing information and distribute your content in the places your buyers are most likely to be present.
5. Understand Your Buyer
After you’ve begun to help and engage your buyer, your efforts should turn to disciplined review of their behavior. You begin to genuinely know your buyer when you use tools to identify trends, look for buying signals, and measure the performance of your content.
In doing so, you’ll uncover ways to offer additional content or support that helps your buyers solve their problems. Understanding your buyer is not the finale — this stage produces a stream of intelligence that loops back through all prior stages of Follow Your Buyer to fine-tune your strategy.
First Steps To Follow Your Buyer
Most B2B marketers know more about their own products and services than they do about their prospects and active customers. The reverse needs to be true in order to follow your buyers. The authors of Selling To The C-Suite state, “To truly focus on solutions means to solve problems. To talk about problems is to abandon the self-indulgence of promoting our products. This is not a comfortable place for most marketers.”
A good way to get out of your comfort zone is to start by mapping out your markets, the target companies within those markets, and personas/roles within those companies that are involved in purchasing solutions like yours. You may think you already know enough information about your buyer, but chances are that information only exists within the context of your products and services.
Do you know how each persona is evaluated in their role? What does success look like for that persona? Can you provide details around what attitudes and beliefs guide each persona’s buying decisions? Do you know what their biggest challenges are? Answer those questions and you’ll be on your way to following your buyer.
Follow Your Buyer is an approach that brings clarity to all the factors involved in the recommendation and purchase of your products and services. The interconnected stages are designed to help you truly know the people involved in the buying journey — what challenges they face and the approach you should take to begin helping them. This understanding becomes your guide for attracting, nurturing, engaging, converting, and keeping your customers for life.