5 Things Every B2B Service Business Should Know About Their Customers
Customer-centric B2B businesses know that understanding and solving for client needs is the key to building long-lasting relationships with the individuals they serve. They step outside of the business to talk to customers and appreciate the challenges of the buying process, what drives their decisions, and what success looks like for them.
Your job as a service business owner should be to deliver solutions that help your right-fit customers succeed. It’s really that simple. Before you can do this, you have to get to know your customers, beyond the day-to-day meetings and transactions.
And, you want to be prepared to engage with customers on their terms – by delivering helpful, digitally powered and personalized service experiences. This is what today’s B2B buyer expects. A recent McKinsey study shows that 2 out of 3 B2B buyers prefer digital channels for finding, evaluating and interacting with the service providers they ultimately choose.
Being prepared starts with knowing your customers. To help you get there, here are five things that every service business should know about their customers to find success.
#1. Your success starts with your customer’s success.
You probably have an idea of what success looks like for your business. Meeting certain financial goals for instance. Having that sense of accomplishment that comes from creating an outstanding service that a lot of people would pay a premium for. And maybe success for you means having enough time to relax with a good work life balance for you and your team.
Having a clear definition of your own goals and aspirations is certainly a wise start to a great marketing strategy. However, don’t stop there. High performing service businesses also understand and share accountability for their clients’ success as well.
Here’s a question: have you asked your clients what success looks like for them?
Your job as a service business owner should be to deliver solutions that help your right-fit customers succeed. It’s really that simple. Before you can do this, you first must know how your customers define success for themselves. How do you find out? You simply ask them.
At Bevelroom Consulting, we typically start our engagements with that very question for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great way to begin thinking about goal setting and measurement, in the form of OKRs (objectives and key results). It helps us stay focused on the client’s end goals.
Second, we believe it is important to build marketing strategy upon a solid understanding of customer success. Why? Because, your customers (especially today’s B2B buyer) buys solutions, not products or services. They expect solutions to their problems, and ways to meet their own goals.
Your job as a service business owner should be to deliver solutions that help your right-fit customers succeed.
You’ve probably heard the now famous adage, ‘people don’t want a ¼ inch drill bit, they want a ¼ inch hole.’ True, but the story doesn’t really end there. You should keep asking ‘why?’ Why do they want the hole? Is it to mount a shelf, to hang something, to get stuff organized? Is it for them or someone else? Why is this important to them? Eventually, you’ll get to the real motivation for buying that ¼ drill bit. And this higher-level IQ about your customers is what separates successful customer-centric businesses from the rest.
In Josh Kaufman’s book, The Personal MBA, he describes five core human drives that motivate behavior, including buying services. These are:
- Drive to Acquire: the desire to collect material and immaterial things, like a car, or influence.
- Drive to Bond: the desire to be loved and feel valued in our relationships with others.
- Drive to Learn: the desire to satisfy our curiosity.
- Drive to Defend: the desire to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property.
- Drive to Feel: the desire for emotional experiences like pleasure or excitement.
Most likely, the main reason customers seek your services will fit into one or more of these categories. Knowing what drives your customers to make the decisions they make is a powerful force multiplier that gives even the smallest, solo business the strength to punch above their weight competitively and stop wasting time and money on solving the wrong problems.
#2. Most customers aren’t ready to buy.
There are plenty of people and businesses in the world that may eventually want your services. But the fact is, the vast majority of these people and businesses have absolutely no interest in what you’re offering, at least not right now. For the ones who are in your market, they have already made up the majority of their purchase decision before you know who they are.
Here are a few statistics to keep in mind:
- Your B2B buyer has already made about 60 to 70% of his/her decision before they engage with you.
- 97% of your prospects either aren’t interested or aren’t ready to buy.
- 90% of B2B buyers ignore cold calls.
Are you focused on the right customers?
Your right-fit customer is simply the best customer type that will drive future value and growth. They are your most valuable type of customer because of the ideal match between their needs and your offering – and you have a differentiated approach to create value for them that they appreciate. Having this focus and a superior understanding of right-fit customers gives small businesses the advantage to ‘punch above their weight’ in terms of competing more profitably.
This customer-centric approach requires a re-thinking of how you run the business to focus on the most valuable customer relationships, then matching your offering and business processes to that.
A deeper look at segment planning helps to focus your efforts on the right fit customers by answering these questions:
- Which customer types are most important for future growth?
- How large an opportunity do they present?
- And how much can, and should we invest?
Demand Generation Checklist
10 steps to growing your service business using a customer-centric approach to demand generation.
Have you heard the phrase, ‘use your inside voice?’ It may work to quiet down noisy kids in the house. But it’s not the best advice for marketing. Most businesses have a natural tendency to want to talk about how great their business is. Their portfolio of services. The features and how it all works. Their expertise and their team. The great reviews and endorsements they have.
There’s nothing wrong with describing your mission and offerings and touting all the ways in which you are different than the rest. Eventually, customers will want to review all of this information to ensure you’re the right fit for their needs. Some may even want to dive into the details. But to be clear, your buyers mainly care about how it relates to their specific situation.
Having too much of an inward focus, i.e., an ‘inside voice’ about how you present your brand to the market isn’t what potential customers care about or want to hear.
Your customers have a different voice, an ‘outside voice’, that you have to learn how to speak. This is a voice that uses the language and tone that your customers speak and understand. It’s the language of answers to their questions, solutions to their problems. It isn’t spoken in company jargon or features. It’s spoken in the language of ‘what’s in it for me?’ tangible benefits and reasons to believe and trust in what you do.
For example, do you:
- Provide what they need to take their business to the next level?
- Make them a hero by choosing the right solution?
- Eliminate the risk and stress of having to change service providers?
- Give them an hour back in their day?
If so, then all you need to do is be very clear, specific and concrete about describing the benefits you provide and the customer problems you know how to solve. Use case studies to quantify and provide evidence of that value. Learn to speak in your customer’s voice.
In short, translate what you do into what they care about.
#4. You have their permission, as long as you deliver on your promise.
Most people don’t won’t be sold to and their trust in promotions and ads is at an all-time low. Every day, consumers and business buyers get a barrage of spammy emails and digital cold calls in addition to all the other emails that take up their attention.
This is interruption marketing, the old school of marketing. It just doesn’t work anymore.
Does it work on you?
People don’t want to be interrupted. What people do want from brands are solutions in the right moments, answers to pressing questions they have on their minds. They want to be listened to, helped and appreciated. They want an easy, enjoyable experience that caters to their unique needs and challenges. They want to be remembered and acknowledged on a personal level as-if they were having a conversation with your business.
In other words, they want to experience your brand on their own terms.
They will find and choose your brand once they decide that you are the best fit for them. At this point of consideration, they’ll gladly raise a hand, exchange a contact, request more information and give you permission to reach out. This is what Seth Godin refers to as permission marketing.
Once a person enters your conversion path and shares their contact and other information about their needs, you have their permission to engage in a conversation — in return for a promise. Your promise to them? Provide them with the most useful resources at that moment in their purchase journey to learn and make the decisions they need to make to find success.
Your promise: provide the right solutions that deliver success for your customers.
Once qualified as right-fit, these people represent a significantly more valuable asset to your company than any cold lead or purchased contacts. They can be targeted and marketed to on a one-to-one basis, bringing them closer to becoming a customer, and remaining a customer for a long time – as long as you deliver on your promise of value.
#5. They value relationships over transactions.
Think about all of the brands that you enjoy working with and continue working with because you choose to (and are not forced to.) Is your loyalty based on transactions? Or is it because you have developed a relationship with that company?
Most B2B businesses are built on relationships, developed over long sales processes. The value of those customer relationships goes way beyond the transactional value of a contract. It also includes the potential for referrals, and the goodwill generated from testimonials and case studies, and they value those provide in use during the consideration stage of the funnel.
This is especially important for businesses purchasing services because their buying journey is long and complex. Services are intangible, which makes understanding and comparing them harder for buyers. So, your customers are taking a risk from the start, even for simple services, as they may only know the true value of your service after they receive it (often with full effects taking place weeks or months later). Your new clients are essentially buying based on trust that they will receive the benefits they expect and that you have promised.
Durable customer relationships are cultivated through intentional design and delivery of valuable, remarkable and memorable brand experiences at every touchpoint, across the customer’s channels of choice.
Traditional outbound marketing methods such as non-targeted ads and generic content that doesn’t communicate a clear value proposition to a specific persona is not effective in today’s world of the modern customer. Modern, ‘smart’ marketing uses data driven insights to deeply understand customer motivations and behaviors, and personalized experiences to build relationships and brand loyalty.
Service businesses thrive on relationships. Those relationships are strengthened by knowing where customer and business goals meet and acting on this insight to build a more customer-centric business model.
Do you have room to grow?
We are brand marketers, digital strategists and design thinkers who help startups and small service businesses find, engage, close and delight their ideal clients using customer-centric approaches.
We help growing service businesses who:
- Are unsure where to start in marketing their business
- Don’t know how well their marketing is doing
- Want to be more customer-centric and data-informed
- Need to prioritize limited resources for the biggest return
If this is your business, let’s talk!