Know Your Customer’s Customers (Better Than They Do)

How Symrise, a global leader in flavors and fragrances, uses a proprietary consumer panel to grow their business with current customers.


“Do your homework!” may bring back memories of a nagging parent but like it or not that same plea is constantly on the lips of your B2B prospects and customers. Pressed for time, the last thing they want to do is educate you on their business or spend time with someone who doesn’t know their category. Conversely, imagine the competitive advantage you might gain if you knew more about your customer’s customers than they did.


That is exactly the rationale behind Symrise‘s Flavor Designers Club. Started at the end of 2007, this closed online community consists of 800 handpicked individuals who are passionate about topics that are important to Symrise’s food and beverage industry customers. A zesty example of Marketing as Service, Symrise’s club has helped them increase revenue and loyalty, revealing in the process six questions any B2B company should consider.

1. How can you learn more about your customer’s customers?

As a B2B supplier, it is common practice to deliver what you deliver and leave it at that. Symrise, on the other hand, decided they might be able to gain competitive advantage taking things a step further, providing their customers with access to a steady stream of market research. Explained Emmanuel Laroche, VP of Marketing & Consumer Insights at Symrise, “it’s a tool we put in place to help our customers solve the challenges they were facing.”

2. How can you get involved earlier in your client’s decision-making process?

A constant lament among B2B companies is, “if only our clients brought us in sooner, we could help them so much more.” Yet very few go to the trouble, like Symrise, of establishing a credible reason why their clients should bother. Noted Laroche, “with the Flavor Design Club we have the ability to interact with customers much earlier in the process of product innovation by guiding them on which flavor profile they should look at for expansion or as a new concept.”


3. Are you proactively delivering new ideas to your customers?

Most B2B companies are too busy chasing new customers to put equal energy against current customer growth let alone bring their customers fresh thinking. One of the most potent aspects of Symrise’s online community is its ability to generate insights and ideas. Instructed Laroche, “we put together some concepts for a beverage company and now are finishing extensive research on the next generation of ready-to-drink tea products focused on women 35+ and Millennials.”

4. How can you take some of the randomness out of consumer research?

Even if your company decided to field some research for a client, there is always the risk that the results will be unreliable. Symrise’s decision to create a closed proprietary panel took a lot of the randomness out of the results. Offered Laroche, “we know exactly who our individuals are so we can trust the information that they are sharing with us.” Leaving nothing to chance, Laroche’s research team screened more than 5,000 consumer profiles, hand picking each for their passion about particular food and beverage topics.

5. Are you really partnering with your customers?


In the early stages of most B2B relationships, both parties express the importance of having a mutually beneficial partnership. Unfortunately, true partnerships are tough, requiring a degree of trust that can only be earned by actions, not words. To this end, Symrise earns the trust of its clients by not just delivering products requested but also ideas for products down the road. Instructed Laroche, “we have companies that use the tool in partnership to gather their next two or three years of flavor ideas.”

6. Are you giving the crown jewels to your new customers?

The tendency in B2B pitches is to promise new customers the moon, often at the expense of your best current customers. Recognizing this risk, Symrise is very careful with the Flavor Design Club, only offering it only to “strategic accounts.” Explained Laroche, “this is not something we share in the first meeting and is only for customers with whom we have a business relationship.” Added Laroche, “the whole idea was to bring insights to our [current] customers.”

Final Note: Though having proprietary consumer panels is not a new idea, Symrise is the first and only flavor and fragrance company to develop such a resource.

About the author

Drew is the founder of Renegade, the NYC-based social media and marketing agency that helps inspired B2B and B2C clients cut through all the nonsense to deliver genuine business growth. A frequent speaker at ad industry events, Drew’s been a featured expert on ABC’s Nightline and CNBC