“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”– Seth Godin

While you may start your customer acquisition planning by setting sales goals and determining profitability metrics, those aren’t the only things which should be driving the planning process… Here are five high-level considerations to keep in mind when you’re planning B2B sales campaigns. Use them to augment your existing program and ensure your sales efforts are optimized, relevant, and timely.

1. Your Customers’ Needs Change Markets change. Industries change. People change. What was once new is now old, what was once old is new again, and dynamic change can happen quickly. Your company may have a firm understanding as to what your clients want right now, but what about the future? Don’t assume your customer will retain the same attitude towards a product or service as when they first purchased it. Insightful research and predictive analytics can help bridge the gap between guessing and knowing what the customer truly desires When in doubt, just ask your customers what they think their future needs will be; they’ll tell you!

Tip: Conduct yearly Voice of Customer (VOC) surveys with newly acquired, current, and lapsed customers. Use the following question at the end of the survey or questionnaire: Imagine you had a crystal ball that showed your company in five years. What products and/or services will you be providing? Why?

2. Combine Internal Customer Data with External Market Data Customer research, mainly based on the feedback from sales personnel, is valuable, but it’s not nearly enough to deeply understand your ideal client. Salespeople, by definition, are biased as can be. Lost clients will give their salespeople the standard break-up speech: “It’s not you, it’s me. I just feel differently know. You did nothing wrong.” And although you love your salespeople, they may not be the right people to solicit for objective insights. Research from an objective third party provides far more useful information.

Tip: Combine external customer data with internal historical sales data on an annual basis to look for and describe your best customer. Bringing these insights together will give you a holistic look at your market and customers.

3. Build Customer Advocates If your customers like you, they’ll brag about you, so it’s worth the effort to maximize their client experience. You can measure your customer’s likeliness to recommend your products and services to friends and colleagues by a Net Promoter Score (NPS). The score even goes so far as to quantify those who are detractors (haters and trolls). This insight will help you align your products and develop value-add services to move detractors into advocates before you move on to ensuring that everyone in the company is focused on keeping your customers as advocates.

Tip: Consider adding an NPS question on all customer surveys: Using a 0-10 scale: How likely is it that you would recommend [brand name] to a friend or colleague?

4. Align Your Departments Customer retention is the entire company’s responsibility. In today’s market, this goes way beyond the age-old sales and marketing relationship. Every department involved in the retention process has to have a voice, from data teams to post-purchase salespeople and marketing to customer support. To do so, however, is to align the company with data. (Please see our insights on building data-centric B2B companies here.) B2B companies require that marketing and sales are dedicated to their existing customers. It’s their responsibility first and foremost to educate everyone in the company on what is important to customers.

Tip: Conduct annual data mapping exercises. Using the data from your VOC programs, identify the metrics central to customer retention and gather input as to who is responsible for achieving those metrics. Map the metrics to the departments responsible and share a monthly dashboard tracking those metrics. Be transparent!

5. Listen and Act People drive any B2B relationship, and everyone loves talking about themselves. Understand how your customers think and what they desire. Your role is to make their lives a little bit easier by addressing a pain for which there is no solution. That’s true value. Ask thoughtful questions and shut up. It’s that simple.

Tip: At the end of each customer interaction, simply ask: “What’s keeping you up at night?” Then work with your marketing team to figure out how you can create a solution for their problem.

Customer data gets to the core of strategic customer acquisition and retention—and is an integral part of what ColemanWick does for clients. Learn more about our analytics-based products or contact us to learn whether research makes sense for your organizations.