A Basic Worth Repeating: The Importance of Listening
A Basic Worth Repeating: The Importance of Listening

When it comes to B2B channel marketing, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to work with our co-marketers and channels in order to increase the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns. That’s good, because communication is important, particularly when it comes to cross-promotions.

On the other hand, what we can sometimes forget is the need to communicate effectively with our customers. Many times, our customer communication is one-sided. We send them marketing messages and hope they will convert into sales. But, how often do we really listen to what our customers have to say?

The need to communicate effectively was highlighted recently when Marketing Sherpa interviewed Kristin Zhivago, President of Zhivago Management Partners, Inc. and author of Roadmap to Revenue, after her keynote speech at their B2B Summit.

Zhivago explained how a program she initiated helped boost sales by as much as 40 percent. What’s even more impressive is that the program cost the company nearly no money at all.

Here’s what they did. First, they created a list of the different categories of customers they typically sold to. Then they picked three of their biggest buyers from each category, and sent them an email asking if they could briefly interview them over the phone.

They asked each customer what they liked about their interactions with them and their partner, and what they didn’t like. The conversations were recorded and transcribed (with permission). Names were then eliminated from the conversation, and the positive and negative information gathered was summarized in a report.

Then, her team looked at the results and spent time brainstorming how to fix the problems that were identified and build on the efforts that were appreciated by their customers. In many cases there were problems that they had no idea existed before, but were easily fixed. For example, one of their sales managers was making promises to clients that they could not possibly deliver on. Replacing that sales manager had a positive effect on both sales and company reputation.

Doing this took a fair amount of time and effort, but it didn’t have much of an impact on their marketing budget at all – yet it increased sales and revenue for everyone involved.

It’s a valuable exercise that nearly any B2B company can use, including those with extensive channel marketing relationships. Use this approach to see what your customers see at the business end of your marketing programs and partners. It could help your company improve your marketing efforts for years to come.