By Katie Barrett, Marketing Manager
In an era where clients are more informed and discerning than ever, businesses need to reassess their client-centric approach. Traditional hard-selling tactics are no longer effective; instead, clients are seeking genuine relationships with organizations that prioritize their needs and provide measurable value.
At our annual MicroAge Summit event, we always invite a handful of clients to participate in what, for most organizations, is an internal-only event. Why? Because we recognize that staying in tune with what they really want and need – and building meaningful, face-to-face relationships – are integral to our ability to effectively serve them. Our CEO alluded to this in his recent blog, and I’d have to agree… we’re actually in the relationship business more than any other.
Complex Buyer Journeys Make It Challenging
It should be noted here that the client interaction paradigm completely shifted years ago. They are no longer so quickly sold by the latest shiny object; today, they have the inclination, power, and desire to do their own research well down the decision cycle.
This shift equates to the availability and ‘always-on’ nature of information in which everyone has abundant information at their fingertips, anytime, anywhere. While all of this isn’t news, it’s worth noting because the amount of information clients have access to, and the competition for that attention, is increasing and getting more complex by the year.
Our client conversations at the event underscored our long-standing belief that they are looking for interactions that educate them. They seek valuable data they can meaningfully use, new, innovative ideas, and partners who can help them make better and faster decisions.
This kind of market environment emphasizes the need for businesses to become more client-centric in their everyday sales, marketing, and support strategies.
But navigating the modern buyer journey is akin to deciphering a multi-layered puzzle. Clients today encounter an abundance of touchpoints and information sources, from social media reviews to expert opinions, buyer committees, and more, all helping to shape their perspectives before making a purchase decision.
This intricate web of interactions complicates the process for businesses trying to discern their clients’ genuine needs and wants. What clients express on one platform might differ from their expectations on another. Two contacts from the same organization may vary from one topic to the next, from meeting to meeting, or from one platform to another.
So, the challenge lies not just in gathering data but in interpreting it accurately. This complexity often leads businesses to rely on generic assumptions, missing the nuanced aspects of client desires. Consequently, despite best intentions, it becomes daunting to understand their needs consistently and wants comprehensively. To illustrate my point, here’s a ‘client journey’ map published by Gartner in 2019… it’s safe to say it’s even more complex today.
Understanding these complexities is crucial for businesses aiming to provide client-centric experiences. By acknowledging the intricacies of the buyer journey, organizations can invest in advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and data-driven market research.
Such tools enable you to untangle the convoluted threads of client behavior (which is not linear for almost any business these days), giving you insights into their preferences and pain points across various touchpoints. Embracing this complexity enhances a business’s ability to understand its clients and empowers them to offer tailored solutions, ensuring that every purchase decision is well-informed and mutually beneficial.
Understanding Client Wants & Needs
Here’s a closer look at the general headlines we heard from clients at this year’s event and what becomes the basis for how we carefully plan our client relationship strategies immediately and for the coming year.
1. Educate Me: Clients want to be informed.
They crave partners that educate them about their products or services, the industry, coming trends, looming challenges, and so on. To fulfill this need, organizations can create informative content, conduct webinars, and offer online courses related to their industry. By empowering clients with knowledge, you establish yourself as a reliable source of information.
2. Give Me Data: Data-driven decision-making is pivotal in today’s business landscape.
Clients want access to relevant data. To meet this expectation, organizations can invest in analytics tools that track various aspects of the business and their own client interactions, enabling personalized recommendations and more high-touch communications and support. Transparency with data not only builds trust, it also enhances the client experience.
3. Bring Me Fresh Ideas: Innovation is critical to attracting and retaining clients.
Businesses must actively seek and share fresh ideas. According to a survey by Nielsen, 63% of clients like it when organizations introduce new products and services. Engaging clients through brainstorming sessions, surveys, and feedback forums can yield valuable insights. By involving clients in the ideation process, businesses can tailor their offerings to meet real needs, demonstrating a commitment to client satisfaction.
4. Help Me Make Better Decisions Faster: Clients appreciate expert guidance in their decision-making process.
Only some businesses can afford to staff subject matter experts in every necessary area of IT and cybersecurity. Businesses can leverage the insights of partner subject matter experts (SMEs) and implement AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants, such as Microsoft Copilot (more on this in our CTO’s recent blog). Such tools can provide real-time recommendations based on client preferences, streamlining decision-making and enhancing client confidence.
Actionable Steps to Become More Client-Centric
1. Invest in Client Education
Develop online courses, webinars, and informative blog posts that deliver real value to your current and target client base. Engage with them through interactive content and real-time methods to address common questions and pain points.
Pouring continuous value into the market and your clients is precisely the goal, so don’t worry about ‘giving away too much.’ Educating is the ‘new’ selling, so if you’re not already doing this, it’s time to get on the bus.
2. Embrace Data Analytics
Implement advanced analytics tools to gain insights into client behavior. Use this data to create personalized marketing campaigns and product recommendations and enhance overall client experiences.
3. Encourage Innovation Collaboration
Host ideation workshops, online surveys, and feedback sessions. Actively involve clients in the creation process, making them feel heard and valued. Implement feasible suggestions and communicate changes transparently.
4. Implement AI-driven Decision Support
Integrate AI chatbots on your platforms to assist clients in their decision-making process. Ensure these virtual assistants are well-structured to offer welcome help and are capable of understanding client preferences and offering tailored recommendations.
In the End…
The evolving client landscape demands a shift from traditional sales approaches to client-centric strategies. By educating clients, providing valuable data, fostering innovation, and aiding in decision-making, businesses can build lasting relationships based on trust and mutual benefit.
If you take anything away from this post, remember one thing: stay closely connected to and communicate often with your clients. It builds trust and understanding that become the mainstays of success in countless ways.
If you’re on the path to a more client-centric model but not sure how to advance your efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team and schedule time to talk to an expert who can help.
“As MicroAge's Marketing Manager, Katie oversees a team of talented marketers from diverse backgrounds. Together, the team works on executing complex digital marketing campaigns, organizing events across the country, and implementing various lead generation strategies. Their ultimate objective is to create ample opportunities for our account managers and to enhance brand awareness and engagement for both existing and prospective clients.”Katie BarrettMarketing Manager