Early in my career, I worked for Larissa Herda, a CEO who taught me a valuable lesson in marketing:

If you compete on price, you’ll lose on price. If you compete on experience, you’ll have something no one else can compete with.

Larissa was smart when it came to business success. As she worked her way up from the sales team to the corner office, she knew what customers cared about. It didn’t matter how good of a deal they got if, overall, the experience wasn’t fabulous.

I worked for Larissa as the world was beginning to lean into digital transformation. While that conversation seems light years away, her lesson still rings true. Since then, we dove into social media, content marketing, tech stacks, and personalization. Marketers now need to move beyond engagement and look at the natural expansion into customer experience.

Changing consumer behavior has driven changing B2B buyer behavior. Because customers own and control the access to information, the quality of every connection becomes that much more critical. It’s time to think beyond best-practices in tactics and strategies and look at the bigger picture of marketing’s role in customer experience—all while we tie it to driving growth and revenue for the business. Today, marketers must move from an approach based purely on engagement to a deeper ownership of the customer experience.

5 Steps to Move from Engagement to CX

  1. Champion the customer. This seems like a no-brainer. However, I’m consistently shocked at the number of marketers who’ve never spent face-to-face time with customers. (Focus groups don’t count.) It’s impossible to champion an idea or a person purely by looking at data. Learn first-hand what a day in their life looks like—I guarantee you’ll realize two things: First, your product is not the center of their world. They see it as a means to an end to address a bigger need. Second, you’ll find opportunities to help them in ways you never imagined. This is the experience that customers care about most and a silver bullet to creating an indispensable relationship with them.
  2. Expand beyond the funnel. Marketers are just starting to get the hang of creating connected content that guides people through the buyer’s journey. To be successful at owning the customer experience, we have to look at a much larger group of moving parts. What does a complete customer journey look like? What goes on in their world before they ever look for someone to solve their problem? How can we be helpful by showing up in ways we never imagined? For example, one airline prompts people to apply for TSA Precheck to avoid long security lines at the airports. The frustrations for some customers going through security—like families with young children—can make the difference in whether they decide to travel by plane. This airline helps make that decision easier.
  3. Create connected experiences. Connected customers mean smarter customers, but we have to reevaluate what “connected” means. Technology has significantly changed people’s expectations of how companies should interact with them. Buyers expect responses in real-time. However, while we live in a digital-first world, customers still value human relationships and empathy in interactions. We have to connect people from one experience to another, while also seamlessly integrating online and off-line interactions.
  4. Strategically pick points. B2B customers are empowered to communicate, research, browse and buy wherever they are and whenever they want. But let’s face it: we don’t have the budget to be everywhere for everyone. That’s why we have to know our customers really, really well, and understand how they prioritize their interactions. It’s better to be jaw-droppingly great at six interactions than mediocre at twenty.
  5. Look for bigger-picture insights from data. Today’s marketers need to understand how to stay ahead of changing customer expectations and avoid getting passed from behind. B2B customers expect companies to quickly innovate based on what they prefer—that means looking at the behavior that triggers an interaction and why. What trends do we see across numerous customer interactions that tell a different story than when we look at individual touchpoints? For example, one transportation company looked at customer behavior within individual transactions and felt they were headed down the right road. But when they brought in a broader perspective from people outside of marketing, they had a completely different view. They now saw opportunities to solve bigger problems with little effort on their part. This takes us back to why we need to understand our customers’ journey if we’re going to be able to deliver the highest quality—and value—experience.

Looking Ahead

Marketing will perpetually evolve. But today we’re at the threshold of one of the biggest opportunities to change how people perceive the work we do and the impact we can have. Marketers need to understand what CEOs like Larissa Herda already believe—it’s time marketing strategy became synonymous with business strategy to deliver smarter, more valuable and highly intuitive customer experiences that drive business growth.

Download The Guide to B2B Content to learn more about the future of content from today’s marketing leaders.

Guide to B2B Content

Carla Johnson

About Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author. Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators, and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action through amazing experiences. Her work with Fortune 500 brands set the stage for many of her eight books. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital, and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.