May 17, 2018 - By Ginna Hall, Senior Writer, Visual IQ
B2B companies have unique challenges when it comes to marketing. While B2C brands focus on reaching and engaging individual consumers, B2B marketers must engage multiple stakeholders within an organization throughout a lengthy sales cycle.
The traditional B2B approach involves a large sales force that focuses its efforts on C-level management. Today, many global organizations have shifted their strategy to build relationships with both executive and user-level personnel.
Companies such as Nielsen Visual IQ have found that supporting multiple functions within a customer’s organization leads to a better experience and outcomes. But this emphasis on customer success is a relatively new discipline for B2B.
To learn more, I asked Theresa Colarusso, Senior Vice President of Customer Success at Nielsen Visual IQ, how her team supports B2B customers. Theresa is responsible for ensuring quality implementations. She leads a team of relationship managers in coordination with subject matter experts on Analytics, Implementation, and Architecture to ensure customers are getting the most out of their deployments of the company's marketing intelligence platform.
Theresa’s background includes leadership roles in customer success, training, services and support in organizations of all sizes. Before joining Nielsen Visual IQ, Theresa was the director of global client success at IBM, where she launched a global client success initiative for the company's newly formed Analytics Platform Solutions division, and unveiled a Client Success dashboard to provide a view into the health of existing clients.
Here are Theresa’s insights on how customer success can help B2B companies meet business objectives and deliver value.
Theresa Colarusso: "The B2B space is interesting and complex. These sales involve one large organization trying to figure out how to navigate and deliver value to another large organization. At the same time, there’s consistency between B2B and B2C across profitability and optimization.
"Today B2B companies are trying to figure out different ways to engage with businesses. When I started at IBM, we had an old school approach to selling into businesses. The field salesperson would knock on the door, talk about the value and close the sale.
"Today, there’s a shift. Businesses are learning that there are champions and coaches within organizations and they engage in a different way. Rather than going right to the CIO and trying to sell them a huge technology stack, companies think, ‘Let’s open up our tech and have developers look at it and use it on a trial basis. Maybe the developer will see that they really need this and will start moving through the organization and talking about us.’
"B2B companies are moving from a focus on the top of the organization to a collaborative relationship at the user level. At IBM, we started taking a multi-pronged approach to sales and customer engagement. We began to individualize it and get buy in at different levels of the organization.
"We followed that model in customer success as well. We started looking at ways to get our customers to try things, to collaborate with each other, and to attend quick-hit webinars, for example. We take this modern approach at Nielsen Visual IQ as well."
Theresa: "Customer success acts as a trusted advisor. A lot of what we do is help our champions within the business understand their business problems. We help them refine how our solutions will help them address those problems.
"We also work with our champions to help them internally demonstrate the value of the solution. We help them pull together the big picture that allows their organization to make fact-based decisions and help them gain consensus across various channels and departments.
"With large global customers, we help them understand business problems across the globe and how to apply our solutions according to different regional requirements."
Theresa: "B2C companies have a different business problem to solve. They are trying to connect directly with individual customers instead of organization to organization. For example, a retailer targets you and your individual behaviors, then aggregates that information and tries to figure out what that means.
"The consumer market is evolving and dynamic. B2C brands want to understand the individual customer journey and we can help them with that. They also want to know what other companies in their vertical are doing. If you think about retail or banking, for example, the message has to be very focused because you’re targeting a particular type of person.
"B2B is more in a steady state and B2B verticals are more defined. There’s competition but it tends to be more segmented. When you’re looking at a B2B engagement, it’s about achieving business decisions and pivoting an organization to be optimized in the space that they’re in instead of just looking at an audience.
"Both B2B and B2C companies are asking if they’re going to be able to optimize their approach, but the end goals are very different. You also see totally different motivations for each type of client. Do I want this sweater? vs. Will this help my organization succeed?"
Theresa: "We’re always focused on driving business value. One of the challenges is understanding what value is for each business. I’m looking for measurable outcomes. We’re there to be the translator and facilitator. As long as we can work with an organization, document their desired outcomes, and provide value to the organization, we’re doing our job.
"For example, large B2B organizations drive for particular metrics: the business needs to increase profits by x% and decrease spend by y%. Customer success is there to help them understand how technology can bring them to that place.
"One of the elements of what we do is, in many cases, helping our customers navigate their own organizations. B2B organizations are very siloed. In some cases, the people driving ROI don’t have the connections within their own organization. They might understand the politics and the business needs, but we may be able to articulate what we need to drive ROI from a technology and delivery standpoint better than a customer can. We pull in the right people to build the business case, to move the decisions forward."
Theresa: "I like to say that we’re not Tinder, we’re eHarmony! We want long-term, committed relationships. We’re involved from just before the sale is completed throughout the engagement, into implementation, and through steady state.
"Most of what we do is enablement and articulating value. Our customers know what they’re trying to achieve but they don’t always know what we’ve put in front of them and how to leverage that to get to that value. We help companies understand what it is that they have in their hands.
"Customer success creates a feedback loop through all areas of the organization internally. We’re the voice of the customer throughout our organization to do things like help deliver products and enhancements that help meet our clients’ needs. We’re also the voice of Nielsen Visual IQ into the customer, sharing knowledge capital, best practices, content and enablement. We’re the throughput between our customer and the organization.
"A customer’s business is always changing. Just because we’ve implemented a particular set of features doesn’t mean that they won’t need further optimization. From an on-going closed-loop perspective, we’re always working on an adoption roadmap with our customers. In some cases that impacts what we deliver from a technology perspective."
Theresa: "Data is everything. From a customer perspective, data is knowledge. I’ve learned that every customer has a unique perspective on what “data” is.
"Different customers have different data needs, and every customer has a particular nirvana in mind. Our solution pulls together many different sources of data. While our solution focuses on marketing attribution and the customer journey, it can be extremely challenging for our customers to bring all of the data sources together in the right way. With the complexity, getting to a complete data set is time consuming. It takes a while to get there.
"It’s important that we educate our customer about the data and technology so they can leverage it prior to when they think they can. Customers think “data” means all of the data. Customers will say, “If I don’t have this particular piece of data, I can’t use your system.” But that’s not true.
"We look at how to drive iterative adoption. We help customers understand that if their vision is out in the stratosphere, we’ll help them get there. In the meantime we have insights that are really valuable that they can be looking at while we continue to drive other things forward."
Theresa: "We learn how to service each B2B company by seeing how they service their own customers. We spend a lot of time looking at how our customers run their businesses.
"B2B companies that are successful focus on broad scale enablement, content and repeatability so they have a long reach. They’re looking for stickiness with their solutions. They want to drive value and ROI. By replicating that, we’re enabling them to enable.
"At Nielsen Visual IQ, we’ve been cranking out excellent thought leadership, we’ve built out strong enablement programs, and we’ve invested in talent -- really bright people to work with our customers who come from the space or have years of experience and are focused on knowledge sharing."
Theresa: "When you bring a small organization like Visual IQ into a large company like Nielsen, the opportunities are endless. We have found post-acquisition that we have a much broader set of allies at our customers that we might not have known existed.
"Nielsen gets customer engagement. The way that they engage with their customers has brought a renewed energy around what customer success is and how we deliver it. It’s opened up a lot of doors for us. It’s changing the conversation. The Nielsen perspective, because they’ve been working with such huge volumes of data, is very compelling to our customers."
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