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: 


Erika Goldwater, VP of Marketing, ANNUITAS

Erika has over 15 years of B2B marketing, public relations and demand generation expertise. At ANNUITAS Erika manages all aspects of marketing including demand generation, content marketing, social media and public relations helping to build pipeline and drive results for the ANNUITAS team. Prior to ANNUITAS Erika was the strategic and partner accounts and event manager at Eloqua. In 2015, Erika was recognized by the SLMA as one of the 20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management.

Her hidden talent in B2B marketing is having a journalism background, with a focus in public relations. She loves to write and develop content from ideation, development, production, to promotion. Erika says, “B2B isn’t known for being sexy, but it isn’t about a pushing a product anymore. There is more to content today than ever before.”

Erika’s Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” means: It’s all about the customer. You better know your customer inside and out and think of them always. Otherwise, you are not going to attain your goals and that means in sales, in marketing, in customer satisfaction…everything.
  • Buyer personas are: A big priority. Without identifying key buyer personas – you can’t be customer-centric. They’re also personal. I worked on developing our buyer personas and learned a great deal about our buyers. You can’t assume anything in buyer persona development…it’s never what you know that makes the difference. It’s what you don’t know or don’t expect that has the most impact, especially in something as critical as this.
  • Lessons, tips or tricks about buyer personas: 
    • Assume nothing.
    • Make sure your opinions, research, or experience is heard and shared because it is unique to you. It all matters for persona development. Your insights may lead to uncovering something impactful that no one else caught or experienced yet.
    • It’s not done in a one or two-day workshop. It takes research and time. This is not a quick activity.

Her Philosophy:

  • The best marketing advice she’s heard: Never be afraid to fail.
  • To help sales understand our buyers, marketing needs to let them share their insights and then ask additional questions to dig deeper. We need to share our understanding and knowledge about buyers as we each have different experiences with our buyers. We also need to remember to gain information about our buyers from sources outside our own organization, as too often that information can be a skewed and may not provide a holisitic view of the buyer.

The Good Stuff:

  • To understand buyers, we do almost anything to gain insights into buyers for our clients. We conduct extensive first person interviews with buyers, potential buyers, and even the ones that got away. At ANNUITAS we do a lot of research into what outside factors impact our customers (new regulations/ laws/ acquisitions/ new technology purchases) and dig deep to understand where buyers go for information, how they like to consume content and especially, what the trigger events are that put them into an active buying process (because buyers today are always conducting ongoing research, they just don’t always know when or what they need to purchase until a trigger event occurs.)
  • My favorite way of conducting interviews with buyers via phone or in person and just asking a few great questions. I often start with “who do you trust for recommendations? Friends, family, peers, analysts, online sources industry experts or others.” It’s important to also ask where they go first when they want to find answers to something. Shocker – it is not always Google. Then, I like to dig deeper when they answer. It’s a way to learn a lot from a few simple questions.
  • We share personas, or information about our buyers with the rest of our company in more ways than I can list. Again, because nothing is more important than knowing the buyer – we share information in real-time via email or chat, put notes in our CRM, hold conference calls to discuss anything new or significant and always document any relevant data via presentations, and share everything via DropBox so the teams can access information at any time.

The Bad Stuff:

  • I think it’s hard for marketers / companies to create and use personas effectively because it takes a lot of time and energy to create personas and use them effectively…and keep them fresh. Like anything in marketing today, it’s never done. Optimization is a must and personas generally don’t change too dramatically over a short period, but it’s important to revisit them on a regular basis.
  • I think the biggest challenge for marketers when understanding buyers and/or building buyer personas is to not to rely on internal feedback/opinions (sales, marketing and others within the company). It’s too insular and to gain a true understanding of the buyer, it has to be research- based. Because buyer persona development isn’t profiling, it is actually understanding buyer behavior, that isn’t something that people know off-hand.

The role of marketing enablement:

I can’t stress the importance of marketing enablement enough for marketers and their organizations. The technology stack is ever-expanding and the number of applications we use to perform in our roles as marketers is significant, by my count at least 15 -20+ on a daily basis. The more proficient we can become in using core technologies, the better we perform. Ultimately, marketers and their organizations need to invest in developing and continuing to develop the skill-set of their team for optimal results. If organizations keep acquiring new technologies, but the teams aren’t well prepared to use them, we are wasting valuable resources. Bring on the marketing enablement.




Thank you to Erika for sharing your perspective!

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