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How VOC enhances B2B marketing effectiveness

Most healthcare and manufacturing companies believe they know their customers pretty well, so they don’t often reach out directly to them and ask about their expectations, preferences and aversions.

That’s a mistake.

B2B brands who fail to use voice of customer (VOC) research and insights to guide marketing strategy, spend priorities, and message/content strategy are in danger of their marketing programs resembling the Kool-Aid man – messaging that bursts through computers, phones, tablets and magazines with no regard for readers’ interests.

Business Marketing Association’s MN chapter convened a recent panel to share best practices for leveraging VOC in a B2B marketing strategy. I had the privilege of participating alongside VOC-savvy leaders from HID Global, U.S. Bank, SmartBase Solutions and Tunheim Partners. Here are a few highlights from our lively discussion.

Making the business case.

A smart VOC strategy can yield benefits across your organization, from business development and product strategy to marketing and PR. Here are the top 4 marketing and PR benefits that apply to both healthcare and manufacturing companies:

  1. A better and more accurate understanding of your prospect’s path to purchase. There are survey tools that can identify what information buyers need at each stage in the decision journey and through which channels you can reach them. These insights are invaluable for lead nurturing because they enable companies to develop content that helps move buyers all the way through the funnel.
  2. A directional compass for your messaging across all channels. As content production has proliferated, it’s become increasingly important to appeal to your prospects’ needs. The only way to do that effectively is by asking about their needs, and using those insights to drive your messaging strategy. With VOC insights, you don’t have to wonder whether the messaging you want to deploy is on point.
  3. Thought leadership. Every B2B brand wants to be a thought leader. There’s no better way to develop your POV as a thought leader than to focus on customer interests and needs and how to solve their challenges. You can’t appeal to the emotions of your prospects if you don’t know what makes them tick or keeps them up at night.
  4. Lead-gen opportunities. VOC insights should be leveraged as owned media to capture leads. An original research report is one of the top performing pieces of gated content. We pitched this idea to Stratasys Direct Manufacturing in 2015. Even though it was only in-market for 5 months of the year, the gated research report was the second highest lead generator for the year. It generated 1,300 leads in 5 months, 26 of those leads converted to sales.

There are always surprises. A VOC project we conducted for one of our clients revealed the company was focused on the wrong audience. They’d been focused on convincing mid-level managers to adopt their technology, when they’re already using it loyally. Instead, they need to convince the C-suite. It turns out there’s also an opportunity to leverage the mid-level managers to influence the C-suite. That was an unintended benefit they would never have realized without VOC.

Avoid common pitfalls; embrace VOC.

  • Beware the limitations of a DIY approach to VOC. Cost-effective online survey tools are great, but they have shortcomings for VOC. If you want statistically-relevant, unbiased, quantitative insights, engage a research partner. Don’t try to cobble it together on your own. Research partners specialize in nailing question design based on your objectives to get the insights you’re looking for. They’ll also ensure data analysis doesn’t get clouded by your motivations and biases.
  • Budget for VOC on a regular basis – and reject the notion that it’s cost-prohibitive. VOC doesn’t have to cost six figures; it can be affordable. Quantitative studies can be done for $25K-$40K and 1:1 guided qualitative interviews can be done for $1,500-$1,800 each.
  • Involve your marketing and PR vendors in the VOC process. They can push you to consider survey questions designed to deliver marketing insights and value, in addition to business value.
  • Listening is one thing. Hearing and acting are another. To leverage the full benefits VOC insights can deliver, you must be prepared to not only listen to your customers, but respect what you hear and be willing to act – even if the required change is hard. If customers tell you where to go and you ignore it, your business will struggle to be successful.

At Inprela, we frequently spearhead VOC projects for healthcare and manufacturing companies because it makes our work smarter and capable of delivering greater value. Our motivation is wanting our work, as content producers and as storytellers, to move the needle for B2B businesses.

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