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: 



Matt Heinz, Customer-Centric Marketer

Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 15 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways. Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. Matt is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers.

When it comes to B2B marketing, his hidden talent is “getting sales & marketing to work together more effectively.”

Matt’s Take on Customer-Centricity:

  • To me, the phrase “customer-centric” means: making decisions based on what the customer needs and wants. This applies to all facets of the business – sales, marketing, finance, service, product, etc…
  • Buyer personas in my company are: required input and required reading. We talk regularly about who our ideal customers are, what they need, how we solve those challenges for them, etc. We bring this customer-centric approach to every client engagement as well.
  • The role of buyer personas to me are: fundamental to effective sales & marketing. For me, sales & marketing starts with a spreadsheet – what am I trying to achieve, and how will I measure that. I still can’t write a plan or start to execute unless I know the buyer. Metrics plus buyer personas is the foundation of great sales & marketing.
  • Here are some tricks and tips I’ve learned from creating personas:
    1. Don’t boil the ocean, start with the basics and build from there.
    2. Learn from your internal, customer-facing employees – early and often. Include their feedback regularly to adjust your understanding and execution.
    3. Make them highly visible across the organization, reference and use them regularly, surface them so much that you think people are getting sick of them. Only then are they probably starting to become institutional, actionable knowledge as broadly and deeply as you would like.

His Philosophy:

  • Some of the best marketing advice I received is: from those who don’t consider themselves marketers. We (marketers) get wrapped around the axle and think too narrowly about our craft sometimes. Perspectives outside our normal worldview can be incredibly valuable.
  • If companies are struggling to put buyers first, I recommend: adjusting quickly before you’re forced out of business (by competitors, your own customers or both).
  • Companies or marketers who are customer-centric: spend less time arguing and more time doing. It’s not about debating internal viewpoints when you can focus instead on what your customer needs. That voice stands alone.
  • To help sales understand our buyers, we: we share transparently and regularly across organizations. Buyer personas are NOT just a marketing tool. To be effective, they need to be developed, circulated and leveraged by all departments in the organization.

The Good Stuff:

  • To understand our buyers, we: we talk to them! It’s not rocket science, just ask good questions. Encourage more of your people to do this more often and you’ll have a daily stream of feedback.
  • My favorite ways of conducting interviews with buyers are casual conversations. The more formal, the less likely they’ll happen and the more “prepared” their answers will be. If you want raw, if you want real, if you want honest – just start talking & asking!
  • We share personas, or information about our buyers, with the rest of our company by every means possible. Team meetings, hallway conversations – they all count and are important to reinforce who we sell to.
  • Here’s a story about a time we put customer-centric marketing in practice. Our content strategy is a living, breathing manifestation of our buyer personas and customer understanding. You’ll notice on our blog we talk mostly about sales & marketing, but also address productivity best practices, business travel advice, nachos and more. Our customers are deep and well-rounded. Our content reflects that to best attract and earn their attention.

The Other Stuff:

  • I think it’s hard for marketers to create and use personas effectively because: sometimes your customers or buyers will give you answers you didn’t anticipate or don’t necessarily want. But the truth is the truth – you might as well embrace it and reduce friction between yourself and your primary source of revenue!
  • Here’s a horror story about a marketing campaign that didn’t go quite as planned: Without naming names, I’ve seen numerous campaigns built not based on the buyer personas but instead based on an executive’s opinion. Sometimes they guess right, but why guess in the first place?!
  • I think the biggest challenge for marketers when understanding buyers and/or building buyer personas is: having the means, tools and infrastructure to execute well and fully leverage that intelligence moving forward. Know any good tools to help with that?

[Editor’s Note: Thanks for the plug, Matt! Sign up for Cintell here.]

Anything else we haven’t asked about that you’d like to talk about? 

You haven’t asked a single question about traffic cones. What happened to the old faithful cone? Why were they replaced by those larger traffic barrels? Aren’t they more expensive? Are they really any better? I could see the cones just fine! Those people need driver personas…




Thank you to Matt for sharing your perspective and love for the old school traffic cone.

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