Years ago at a conference, I heard a now-former publisher of Chatelaine talk about doing what she called a “tubside tour” with readers – actually going into their bathrooms and seeing what products they used – not what hit their carts in the store, and not what they told someone in a focus group that they used. These days I know some anthropologists who do consumer research, talking about the most intimate details of their lives, going grocery shopping with them, watching them cook dinner in their homes, the real details of their lives, as a way of understanding what products and services they might see value in.
I would argue the Mezzanine model is a sustained, ongoing study exactly like this, but in a B2B context. We work day in and day out with B2B companies on a project basis in our consulting practice and on an ongoing basis in our outsourced marketing service. We see where they live, go with them to trade shows, and take part in sales meetings. We stick with them through lean times and celebrate their successes with them. We are with them through their major business decisions and their near-death experiences. We help them see when their great new idea is going to end up sinking them, and we get as excited as they do when the work we do together doubles leads. (We also offer guidance and help to problem solve when that exposes issues with sales capacity!).
Many of our clients come to us trying to better understand their customers – how they make decisions, what their preoccupations and concerns are, where they see value. When they have businesses that allow them to have regular customer intimacy, often they are ahead of the game, because they already know their client base deeply and have well-informed hypotheses, which we can then test. We certainly find that our lived experiences with our clients allow us to generate insights that are far beyond what would be possible if we didn’t have these two sides of our company fused together.
We’ve been working on consolidating and sharing our knowledge base in the B2B space by blogging, circulating white papers, and reaching out personally. We’ve even written a book to help B2B companies learn from our experience and from each other’s to build marketing capabilities and grow.