Customers often complain that vendors don’t understand their business. The CAB program and a Buyer’s Journey assessment give you a two-pronged opportunity to show you are listening.
These tools share a common objective: to develop an in-depth appreciation and understanding about your B2B customers. When used together, strategically, you strengthen customer loyalty simply because it becomes immediately clear that you are paying attention to their needs. This alone gives you a competitive advantage (i.e. staying power) in a marketplace where the average vendor cares only about making a quick buck.
The Customer Advisory Board
A CAB program is a strategy-level set of ongoing conversations between a dozen decision makers from your most strategic customers and members of your executive staff. These discussions revolve around trends, drivers, and priorities your customers face. Although we do want to collect information and guidance on product roadmaps, the CAB is not a product focus group. Instead, the CAB is a tool used to better understand how your company’s vision and value proposition will help your customers achieve their business goals. And, you want to know how their priorities may be evolving in the future so you can guide your business accordingly. This is the key to ensuring your business maintains its leadership position and remains relevant to your customers in the future.
The Buyer’s Journey
The Buyer’s Journey is often confused with a company’s sales process. It’s the exact opposite. They Buyer’s Journey is an illustration of the process, questions, and decision steps a customer goes through before making a purchase decision. In B2B contexts, the Buyer’s Journey is often complex. Consider that as much as 80% of this process may take place before you (the vendor) are even aware they that are looking for you.
Understanding the Buyer’s Journey allows you to answer questions like:
- What are the primary stages of their journey? (For example: problem trigger, operational assessment, business case, technical criteria identification, beta, vendor selection, etc.)
- How long is each stage of their process?
- Who’s involved?
- When did they first become aware of you (the vendor)?
- How, when, and where did they look for (and find) information?
- What information is/was most important to them, and how did they use it?
- What information was difficult or impossible to find?
- How, when, and why did they finally decide to purchase from you?
- And of course: What does all of this mean for your vision, value proposition, and marketing and sales approach?
Building a framework
A carefully managed Buyer’s Journey project will provide you with a framework for your content strategy and lead generation programs. But it gives you much more than that, too. It provides you with proper context for aligning your company’s vision and value proposition.
However, before you dive for the phone and start calling customers, take heed. You must be well prepared to target specific customers and ask focused questions. Having random conversations with ad hoc customers may provide some insight, but that approach will not scale. You will only confuse yourself.
Instead, you need to treat this as a strategic project, complete with a clear objective, timeline, and expectations for success. It is also imperative that your team embrace some Buyer’s Journey training so you can hone your interviewing skills. It is not enough to hear the answers; you need to learn how to listen for clues customers offer that are hidden underneath their words.
Testing the Buyer’s Journey with your CAB
Once you collect this information, you can build a hypothesis. Now you need a place to test it. The CAB is a perfect venue to share what you’ve learned. Ask your CAB members to fill in the gaps. You will learn things you did not know before about your customer’s buyer process, their values, and how you can help them succeed.
Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator of advisory board meetings and a marketing strategist.For more tips and tricks for conducting a world-class Buyer’s Journey analysis or guiding your CAB, please contact Mike Gospe or visit KickStart Alliance.