In a recent study we read, the role of marketing is changing to become the chief advocate for customers. In fact, the #1 priority of B2B marketers in 2016 will be “understanding buyers,” according to a recent survey from the IT Sales and Marketing Association. In today’s world of empowered buyers, the marketers who are getting it done are those who understand their buyers best. Customer-centricity is a competitive advantage!

We tapped into the growing Cintell community for perspective from the front lines of customer-centric marketing. Here’s one of their stories: 



Donna Danis, Senior Director, Strategy Consulting, Demand Spring

Donna is the Senior Director, Strategy Consulting, responsible for Demand Spring’s Strategy Consulting line. In this role, Donna helps clients with demand generation strategies, demand generation process and practice redesign, customer buying cycle and persona analysis, sales and marketing alignment, and lead management processes. Donna is a senior demand generation strategist and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing. She lives with her husband and daughter on a beautiful lake in Southern New Hampshire.

When it comes to B2B marketing, her expertise is writing. “I’ve done every type including catalog copy – for clothing and truck accessories — where every single word has to count.”

Donna’s Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” means every part of an organization is committed to improving the customer experience – from R&D and marketing to sales and support.
  • Buyer personas at my company are a passion. We help our clients discover their personas through primary research; and, then we help them operationalize around those personas throughout their sales and marketing efforts.
  • The role of buyer personas to me are more than an academic exercise. They are the life of your entire go-to-market strategy.
  • Lessons, tips or tricks about buyer personas: 
    • When doing primary research, it’s really important to screen participants to ensure they will help you achieve your goals. For example, when conducting buyer journey research, you will yield the best results from people who have played a primary role in the process within the last 12-18 months.
    • Visual mapping helps others within your organization understand and internalize the buyer journey more quickly.
    • Asking buyer journey research participants to provide a visual of how they feel about their role as a buyer can provide some unique – and often humorous – psychographic insights.

Her Philosophy:

  • The best marketing advice she’s heard: “Think outside of the box. As it relates to buyer journeys – understand the channels and content buyers rely on at each phase, and then present your case in a compelling way that makes you stand out from your competitors.”
  • Companies and marketers who are customer-centric: outperform their competitors by driving more pipeline and revenue.

The Good Stuff:

  • My favorite ways of conducting interviews with buyers are using a mix of focus groups, one-on-one interviews and quantitative surveys because the mix gives you a deep and broad base from which to understand personas and operationalize around them.
  • Here’s a story about a time we put customer-centric marketing in practice.
    One of our clients aggressively invested in buyer persona analysis to deeply understand their buyers. They used this knowledge to inform their strategies, tactics, and use of MarTech to engage in a highly personal, relevant manner across multiple channels – email, their website, RTP, and paid media. As a result, they were able to reduce their MQL to win time frame by 40%.

The Bad Stuff:

  • I think it’s hard for marketers / companies to create and use personas effectively when they don’t get organizational alignment before undertaking a persona analysis project. You must engage key stakeholders from sales and marketing and obtain leadership’s commitment to customer-centric transformation before you begin your research. The only way you can reap the full rewards of your research is when you use it to drive change.
  • I think the biggest challenge for marketers when understanding buyers and/or building buyer personas is keeping them up to date. When your persona research becomes outdated, your personas are no longer relevant, and sales and marketing teams will revert back to product-centric bad habits. While you may not be able to invest in focus groups every year, you can keep personas fresh through annual surveys, 3rd party research, and one-on-one discussions with your customer base.




Thank you to Donna for sharing your perspective!

Follow Demand Spring on Twitter, and stay tuned for more  in our series, Habits of Customer-Centric Marketers.