Over the years, I've worked for (and with) many people who've committed their careers to making other companies more successful. As I do so, I write down any idea or perspective that seems to me to be particularly profound and important. Here are five of the best ideas:

1. Base your strategy on your customers' customers.

Plenty of B2B firms are "customer focused" in the sense that they're aware of what their customers need. However, the ones that really thrive focus instead on the needs of people that their own customers sell to. Once you understand why those customers are buying from your own customer, you can more easily figure out how to help your own customers satisfy those needs. More important, this knowledge allows you to create products and services that are crucial to your customers' success. Source: Philip Styrlund, CEO of the Summit Group.

2. Research who's buying but not considering your firm.

Many businesses examine situations in which they've won in order to replicate that success. Some companies examine situations in which they've lost so that they know what to avoid. A few companies examine situations in which no decision was made, so that they can avoid chasing phantom deals. However, if you really want to expand your business, examine cases in which your potential customers bought from your competitors and your company wasn't even considered, because it's the only way to uncover the weaknesses of your marketing efforts. Source: Jim Dickie, a managing partner at CSO Insights.

3. Consider the entire customer experience.

Many companies think of marketing, sales, and service as three separate functions, with their own separate goals. However, your customers don't see it that way. From the moment they first hear about your business, they're assessing and reassessing whether you're the right supplier for them. They're going to judge you by the proverbial "weakest link," which can easily be your marketing if it's out of sync with what the sales and support teams can actually deliver. Source: Patti Bancroft, VP of professional services at AchieveGlobal.

4. Measure marketing by sales-lead conversion.

Rather than treating marketing as something that vaguely "creates demand" or "builds brand awareness," measure every marketing activity by how many customers that activity actually creates. If you run Web ads or mail a direct marketing piece, track the clicks and callbacks. If you do print advertising, have a unique identifier in the ad. If you go to a trade show, measure the number of attendees who turn into customers. As a bonus, you can run an ROI on every marketing expense in order to decide whether it's worth doing again. Source: Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of SalesOpShop.

5. Hire marketers who know how to sell.

The purpose of marketing is to make it easier for customers to buy, which generally means making it easier to sell your products or services. However, selling is a little like sex. Until you've done it a few times, your advice on the subject is pretty much useless. Therefore, when your company grows to the point that it needs to hire professional marketers, you'll get more value from the investment if you hire folks who have firsthand experience in doing what they'll be helping others to do. Source: Jim Dickie

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