"If we can arrange things in such a way that our interests are aligned with our customers, then in the long term that will work out really well for customers and it will work out really well for Amazon." -- Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Amazon is an amazing company. I've heard mixed reports on what it's like to work there, but they all follow a consistent theme: put your customers first. As a platitude, that's easy. In real life, this means figuring out how to fix problems at 3AM. It means working around faulty services from other groups, causing rework and hurt feelings. It means short-term loss due to fraudulent replacement orders. All because customers don't listen to excuses. Online, there are a million other places to get a better experience and the same product. Customers don't listen; they simply leave.
Over the long term, this strategy has been phenomenally successful for Amazon. eCommerce is not a brand-friendly business: most people don't care where they buy their Xbox. They just want an Xbox, as cheap and fast as possible. Amazon Prime customers, on the other hand, don't comparison shop. They come back and simply buy, trusting Amazon's price and speed. Amazon built a brand.
In the B2B world, companies that put the customer first still win. It's a different world, though. You can wake up at 8AM with a burning desire to buy a new hard drive, and despite never having been on amazon.com, by 10AM, you're a customer. At most, you saw 2 hours of Amazon marketing.
The trouble is, B2B means there's always a team involved. At AppNeta, it can be anywhere from 1 week to 1 year between the first time somebody visits our website and the time their company purchases. This is pretty typical of B2B SaaS products: I've heard executives brag about the fact that they got their buying cycle time down to 45 days. And before that, you better expect that they've been on your website and reading your blog for 6 months before they picked up the phone.
8 months! 8 months before a person is considered a customer. 6 months of which they were learning about you, where they had no access to the product. If you keep this customer for 3 years, they will have spent 18% of their time with your company outside of your product. Instead of 2 hours with the marketing team, they spend 8 months with them.
During that 8 months, marketing has to create a product. If the B2B product is valuable to teams, marketing's product must be valuable to individuals. Maybe that's the free version in a freemium product, or maybe it's an email track with curated news about the prospect's job. Many companies fall into a trap where you explain your own product in detail, because that's easy. Ultimately, it's not relevant, and users don't care.
There's no magical "corporate America" or "enterprise landscape" where people aren't people. Everybody is a consumer, everybody is human, and everybody has a million choices to solve their problems. No matter what you do, think about the person on the other side. They are your customer. Put the customer first.