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: 



Hendrik-Jan Francke, Principal, Bright Orange Thread


Hendrik-Jan is the lead strategist at Bright Orange Thread. He and the Bright Orange Thread team apply their digital marketing, web usability and design expertise to deliver intelligently designed websites that create the best and most productive user experience possible.

When it comes to B2B marketing, his expertise is understanding how people consume information online.

Hendrik-Jan’s Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” means:
    • (1) understanding the pain points of prospects and
    • (2) understanding how people consume information online.
  • Buyer personas are becoming more and more critical. After winging it for many years, we find that personas stop us from trying tangential experiments that are doomed to fail. They allow us to focus our blog posts, our landing pages, and our conversations with prospects.
  • Lessons, tips or tricks about buyer personas: 
    • Buyer personas must anchor all marketing initiatives. We can all come up with some really innovative ideas, but will our prospects care? Check your personas! Only proceed if the persona would think the idea is great.
    • Check them often – not only to stay familiar, but to keep them up-to-date. Revise your personas every few months and tack on new insights you gleaned from clients – and even prospects you didn’t win.
    • Prioritizing your personas will help you prioritize your content. Content on your website, blogs you publish, even how you speak.

His Philosophy:

  • The best marketing advice he’s heard: “Talk to your prospects about their issues in their language.” I was trying to explain the concept of “client-in language” to a friend of mine, David Newman, when he burst forth with the perfect definition. Using your prospect’s language shows you understand their pain points and builds trust.
  • If companies are struggling to put buyers first: I recommend the CEO find a coach who will help him refocus himself and then the company. Without the leader of company setting the priority, it is going to be near impossible for marketing to anything but a crapshoot.

The Good Stuff:

  • To understand buyers, we dig deep in the beginning. We ask copious questions during the initial stages of the sales process to uncover their issues and find out who they really are.
  • We share personas, or information about our buyers with the rest of our company by keeping it easily accessible. We each have a quick bookmark of our “10 Pre-qual Qs for Prospects” questions and the Google Doc of our personas.
  • Putting it in practice: Prospects know if a website will be helpful in just 5 seconds! It’s important for companies to prove their relevance – and fast! We help companies see if they’re speaking to their prospects with “The 5 Second Test”.  How does it work? We come up with an “imagine statement” that encapsulates the search goal for their top persona. Subjects imagine they have that persona’s specific need and we show them the website for 5 seconds, then ask them if the website was relevant to their persona’s search expectations. Surprisingly, 61% of B2B websites aren’t relevant to their prospects. This is a problem we try to fix!

The Bad Stuff:

  • I think it’s hard for marketers / companies to create and use personas effectively because we assume we ‘get’ the persona. Without a regular re-read of the persona, our personal bias creeps in and shifts our understanding. For example imagine a software company who just released their latest version. It is so easy to write a serious of how-to blog posts sharing how the new features enable this and that. If your buyer personas are a CEO who focuses on the ROI of the software, technical articles are not giving them the information they seek. Blog posts focusing on success stories are a better option
  • I think the biggest challenge for marketers when understanding buyers and/or building buyer personas is putting in a set of fresh eyes. It’s crucial to look at things from the buyer’s perspective.





Thank you to Hendrik-Jan for sharing your perspective!

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