by Mark Eardley (@mdeardley) “The age of the customer.” What a daft expression. In all B2B marketing’s history, when was it ever not, huh?

It’s the sort of dumb buzz-phrase that typically prefaces a deluge of drivel about B2B’s latest smoke ’n mirrors gadgety gizmo. It’s an early-warning signal that someone’s about to dazzle you with insights into the blindingly obvious, that they’re going to reveal ground-breaking stuff such as the notion of customers being really important.

It makes me wonder if there’s a whole eon of marketing that I never got to hear about, of a golden age when B2B firms didn’t have customers — presumably because they didn’t need them.


In this new era of marketing, it’s surely high time we added some suitably groovy terminology to its lexicon. I’m proposing that “connection marketing” (ConMar) should become the overarching umbrella title for a dynamically enhanced approach to succeeding in the age of the customer. It’s an angle that will rejuvenate the outdated concept of customer centricity. Its value lies first and foremost in its novelty. This will hopefully guarantee widespread adoption among marketers desperate to excel by unshackling themselves from any technique slurred by association with tradition and convention.

I will, of course, need to start the ICM — that’s the Institute for Connection Marketing — and launch a membership campaign. Prior to that happening, let’s do an early (and exclusive) deep dive right off the bat and unpack two of ConMar’s tactical wizardries: butt and dovetail.

But before we go there, it’s important to appreciate the strategic simplicity of ConMar. There are only two actors in this connective approach: buyers and sellers. The high-level essentiality of ConMar is all about joining the two together, engaging one with the other and constructing ties (or, more correctly, ‘link-bonds’) between them. I’m sure you’ve already gathered that ConMar thinking is avant garde and retro at the same time — it’s ‘avantro’. That’s another ConMar newism. Avantro cognation underpins a liberative mind-move that justifies the appellation of buyers as ‘customers’ because we’re now in the epoch of, you guessed it, the customer.


Obviously, we’ll be delving into a toolbox brimming with nova-age implements. These objects or, if you prefer, apparatuses, will empower rapidity-oriented dexterity in ConMar’s beach-heading.

That agility will be platformed on technological advances in metaphorical saws, mallets, chisels, planes and rulers. This will ensure that we’re cutting-edge, driving things home, removing excess, levelling the playing field, keeping everything aligned and measuring results.

Talk about ticks in all the right columns! Or, as we say in ConMar speak, we’re jet-streaming a pivot that’s tractioned to a nexus focus on customerisation (translation: the delivery of higher sales, margins and loyalty).


OK, here’s those snackable taster-definitions of two ConMar tacticos (sic).

1. Butt

This is the weakest but most commonplace of link-bonds between sellers and customers. Only minimal effort, training, practice and expertise are required to configure this simplest of joints. That’s why it’ll be so mega-popular.

To operationalise it, you need to position the two strategic actors (the bi-stractors) so that they butt one against the other. Gravity helps with this. Then hope they stay that way, thanks to optimism and wishful thinking — which are, after all, the most-abundant zero-cost commodities in many B2B marketing departments. No tools required.

2. Dovetail

The monarch of link-bonds. They’re ideal for marketers craving to create and maintain the integrity of robust and mutually rewarding customer bondisms. In comparison to the perfomatively low-indexing connectivityness of butts, dovetails require lots of effort, training, practice and expertise. They will appeal most to marketers who adore new objects/apparatuses (and somehow still have the budget to acquire them).

However, this one comes with a deployment caveat. Because there’s not likely to be enough effort, training or practice, there won’t be much expertise in ‘dovetailing’ with customers. Typically, by the time that expertise has been on-boarded, there’ll be another revolution in B2B marketing, and ConMar will be classed as boringly traditional, conventional and quickly forgotten.

It’s endorsed by real research. Really

Before ConMar’s demise occurs, I’m naturally buoyed by results from yet another insightful study by the B2B sales experts at The Miller Heiman Group. This one’s the World-Class Sales Practices Study, 2019. I’m buoyed because — joking aside — this extensive, global study fully supports ConMar’s ethos. Seriously, it does. Like this:

The main goal of customer engagement is for customers to perceive every interaction, whether with or without human contact, as relevant, valuable and differentiating.

Three customer engagement practices had the most significant connection to sales performance:

    1. Customers have consistently positive interactions in every channel they use to engage us.
    2. We consistently conduct mutually-valuable sales calls with customers and prospects.
    3. Our sellers effectively communicate value messages that are relevant to buyers’ needs.

That trinity of high-performing practices came out tops in analysis of data collected from 949 global sales leaders in the technology, manufacturing, healthcare, professional services and banking/finance sectors. Seems to me that the real-world moral of the study’s sales-boosting findings is quite simple: know your customers and sell ’em what they need.


Mark EardleyMark Eardley (@mdeardley) advises B2B companies on how to govern their marketing to attract and retain profitable customers; several of his clients have grown to become market leaders. Apart from his new column for TGIFood, he and Charlie Stewart have written Business-to-Business Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide (Penguin Random House), which offers practical, actionable advice on how to make marketing make money. His monthly “Back2Basics” column on MarkLives covers how B2B companies and their agencies should manage their marketing.

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