When discussing the future of marketing, Couchbase CMO Peter Finter said that it’s not going to be about ABM—it will be about PBM, personal-based marketing. B2B companies need to make marketing personal via customer-centric strategies that respond directly to customer needs. This has become especially true in 2020 as businesses adapt to a rapidly changing world rife with challenges. Finter’s advice is to start by asking this question: “What can we be doing that demonstrates that we’re actually treating people as people through this process?”
Couchbase, and open-source database software company, answered this question in a myriad of ways in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, personalizing solutions for each customer depending on where they were feeling pressure. The goal was to help customers transition seamlessly into a #WFH world with empathy, not to push product or pressure customers to buy—to give away something of value without expecting anything in return. You can read highlights from the Renegade Thinkers Unite interview below. For the full episode, click here.
How have Couchbase’s values informed its business decisions during COVID?
Let me focus on our fourth value: “Solving hard problems driven by customer outcomes.” Some of our customers are facing unprecedented challenges, so one of the things that we can do to help our customers is give them the ability to leverage our product without having to increase their expense in the short term. We’ve been able to give some of our customers the ability to expand the use of the product without paying for it right now. We want to help them through this transitional period the best way that we can.
In some cases, it’s about helping them accelerate projects that they were already working on because those projects were designed to reduce the total cost to their business. Depending on the customer, we tried to think about what it is that they most need, we talked to them about where we can help them the most, and we tried to come up with a solution which will be most useful to them during this transitional period. We want to take the pressure off our customers. We can be there for them through it and be creative in the way that we stand with them, and we believe that will build stronger relationships. In the end, that’s what all good business is really predicated on—those stronger relationships.
How have you helped your customers adapt to new challenges?
This idea of transitioning in a seamless and non-disruptive way is going to give companies the edge. When you come along and say, “Let me throw out everything you had, here’s something brand new,” it’s extremely hard to adopt those technologies. But when you give them a path to say, “Bring with you the expertise that you’ve gained over the years and now apply that in this new environment,” we think that’s going to make it successful. Make it familiar enough that they’ll bring it in but give them the underpinnings and the new architecture to allow them to do things they could never do before. That’s the approach we’ve tried to take for our customers, and I think everyone who’s trying to leverage the cloud to give people more flexibility and agility is well positioned at this time to help their customers through this transition.
How have your customers responded during this time?
One of the things that I’ve noticed is just how much people want to be involved in solving the bigger problems, and the creativity and innovation that people are willing to put into it is tremendous. We didn’t go to our customers and say, “Hey, have you thought about using our technology to do something?” No, they are leveraging it on their own and they’re sharing some of the results.
As CMOs, our job is always trying to help point people to the value that we create. It’s extremely rewarding when you see people discovering that value for themselves and then telling you what value you create for them. That’s the virtuous cycle that I think we all aspire to as CMOs and it’s really been amazing to see some of that starting to happen during this time. It sometimes seems to me that it takes the really challenging situations to reveal some of the amazing things that would otherwise have gone unnoticed or maybe never even have happened. I am a silver lining guy.
How does Couchbase plan on generating demand right now?
We’re experimenting. I’m sure everyone on this call is experimenting like crazy to figure out the package that works. I think all of us are going through that transitional planning activity right now, but what’s at the heart of it for me is, do you really understand your target customer? Down to the persona level, what are the challenges that they are now facing? It may be different from what it was just a month or six weeks ago, but what are the things that they are now seeking to deal with, what problems are they now being expected to solve, and where is your relevance in that? Ultimately, pushing a product onto somebody whose world has been turned upside down is not going to be effective. It’ll actually be offensive, the totally out-of-touch organization that none of us wants to represent.
What’s the best way for brands to talk to customers at this moment?
It’s not about trying to join that line from COVID-19 to your product. That’s a mistake. That’s not where people are going to respond. What people are going to respond to is evidence that you are understanding and empathetic to the situation that they’re in. The more we can think like the very people that we want to engage, the better, so one of the actions we’ve taken is to flip our model a little bit. We’ve gone internal and asked our own developers to tell us how developers like them are experiencing this transition because developers are key influencers to the purchase of our product. We’ve given them access to the underlying code for our website and said, “Go rewrite the website for a developer-centric experience based on where you are right now and what you are thinking about right now.”
It’s an unprecedented step for us, so we’re taking a bit of a risk here, but we are really trying to align with our target audiences better than ever before. I think that is the advice I would recommend: Now is the time to really dig deep on your understanding of the personas that are the key influencers and decision-makers for your products and how they are responding to the change in their situation.
How can brands build relationships post-COVID?
The test for all of us is: Are we actually able to show up in a way that says here’s something that is going to give you some value without expecting anything in the short-term in return? People understand the transaction, the balance of value, but if you can defer the expectation of return on that investment in a way that they appreciate—it could be as deferral of payments, it could be a free use for a period, or it could be something that actually doesn’t cost you a lot but they might value highly. Education is a great example of that. We’ve made all our training for free during this period as a way of saying, “Look, we care about you and what you’re doing. We understand you aren’t going to be able to pay for this, but we want to make an investment together so that when you come out the other side of it, you’re in a better position to move forwards and we have hopefully helped use your time well.”