Customer loyalty in B2B is a tricky beast.
What comes to mind when customer loyalty is mentioned? Points, stamp cards, promos, exclusives, tiers.
Rings like a B2C bell, right?
Well, it pays to know that retaining customers costs businesses up to five times less than getting new ones. In the B2B space where the cost of contracts are significantly bigger than B2C, the impact of retaining customers is even more pronounced.
Not to say that customer acquisition should be in the shadows–although, it has to be noted that retaining loyal customers also leads to referrals. The New York Times reported that companies say 65 percent of new business come from referrals.
Despite this, a lot of B2B companies still allot the bulk of their marketing resources to lead generation and customer acquisition. So much so that a lot of companies don’t have a defined customer loyalty program in place.
It’s an uphill climb but I think that with a bit of clarity about the different approaches to B2B customer loyalty, it shouldn’t be hard to get started. It is work–but it’s not difficult.
I’d like to share 10 tactics to jumpstart and kick your customer retention efforts to high gear.
Superb account management as a springboard
At its heart, customer loyalty is rooted in extraordinary, over-the-top account management. Especially when you’re competing in a saturated market, being the best in ensuring customer happiness will set you apart from the rest. In many cases, the best performing product in a niche isn’t the best product on all fronts. Often, though, they are the most customer-centric. They are the ones who look to solve their customers’ problems first before working on “innovative” bells and whistles in their offerings.
From onboarding until customers get the full hang of your product, you should deliver the best customer service you can. Constantly review and assess your customer success program–including your product.
Are you failing to deliver as promised? Did you overpromise? Is there a way to meet the gap between the promise and the delivery? Constant dissatisfaction with a product–even when it’s a very low-grade boil of disappointment or frustration–could push customers to make the switch and associate negative thoughts to your product.
IBM is one of the largest American multinational companies, and it can’t be such if not for their capacity to retain customers. IBM launched the hybrid design-engineering approach called IBM Design Thinking that helps their users carry out their business objectives better and faster. Over 100 product teams are using it to grow revenue by double digits.
Events for advocacy, training, and education
In-person events are a great way to promote and celebrate customer loyalty, introduce new product updates, showcase use cases and success stories, and invite feedback. It’s also a great way to gauge the loyalty of your customers. In-person events are recommended for B2B companies whose products are embedded into the customers’ daily processes. This is an opportunity for companies to engage with clients and gather data for more personalized service in the future.
Salesforce’s Dreamforce is one of the biggest conferences in business and is the superstar SaaS conference. It revolves around the Salesforce brand and it fosters loyalty among its users. The event is a big brand itself. Users look forward to it as it is a great venue to close deals as testified by a lot of past attendees. Most Salesforce users are sales and marketing professionals from businesses of varying size.
Dedicated account managers for hyper-personalized service
While this may sound inefficient and hard to scale, this approach should be reserved for your best customers: those that add the most to your bottom line and has the most propensity to refer leads. Personalized service to the kernel level should be provided to these customers.
The best way to approach this is through account-based marketing that extends after the closed deal. What is account-based marketing?
According to technologyadvice.com,
Account-based marketing (ABM) is about focusing your campaigns on specific prospects that you single out ahead of time. It’s becoming a more prevalent tactic as marketers align their efforts with revenue, and especially recurring revenue (i.e., contracts). Since ABM requires narrow focus and a unique approach for each account, it’s a great example of personalized B2B marketing.
Imagine this type of bespoke service offered to your best clients. Not only do you delight them on a constant basis, they also let you in on the more intimate details of their business processes. And we all know that the closer you are to their day-to-day ops, the better the situation is for breeding loyalty.
A low-cost way to provide delight to your customers, this tactic focuses on recognition that, depending on your customer, could be something they really value. Business is business and not all customers are created equal. Segment your customers post-sale according to contract size and value to the company. Designing the qualifying criteria is important–what kinds of spending qualify for which benefits. This will also help your company roll out rewards without having to give to all clients. Rewards and benefits could be “unlockable” on every tier depending on spending.
Feature their business successes
Following the recognition path, hitting two birds through case studies is an effective way to showcase your customer successes and engaging with them. Case studies are proven to be an effective way to market your business as well. Praise is still a great way to get on the better side of your customers–just make sure the compliments are thoroughly justified. Besides, commending them is commending yourself too. Some companies include customer success stories in their content plan, scheduled alongside the content they constantly put out. Some companies showcase the case studies right on a dedicated portion of their site.
HubSpot has a full design on how they showcase their customers throughout their web presences. Their website features a section dedicated to customer success stories segmented by size, industry, challenges, and other factors. It also acts as a marketing device for them. Showing use cases for a varied sample of businesses helps them by providing social proof.
B2B companies could also leverage giving customers exclusive access to new products, special services, promos and benefits. This particular tactic is effective for enterprise B2B for customers who value exclusivity.
Example: Medicision, a provider of population health management solutions, uses exclusive client-only webinars to drive customer loyalty and retention. They are a big player in the healthcare field and have According to Content Marketing Institute, webinars are second only to in-person events in B2B marketing tactics, according to their 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks and Trends.
Continuous education of customers through content
The more educated your customers are about your product, the quicker and better they can advocate for your company. This one’s part of superb account management as well–but it has to be said. There is a wealth of content produced for lead generation that content for retention is often overlooked.
Antavo. Of course, a customer loyalty tech provider gets it. Antavo has a client-only section in the academy section of their site. This section features advanced and tailored programs that are meant to share use cases and best practices, alongside a thorough guide for customers on how to maximize Antavo and its rewards programs.
Borrowing from B2C, discounts are a straightforward way to entice customers to continue purchasing. This approach works best for companies whose customers act closer to consumers. These companies are those who provide services and products that are bought per transaction instead of signing longer contracts. Providing discounts to higher-ticket customers are also a way to entice them to sign onto a loyalty program which pulls them closer to the company, making them a captive audience for retention and advocacy campaigns.
A word of warning: Don’t put your pricing strategy at risk. Definitely go to discounts after thorough evaluation of the circumstances. It sets a tricky precedent and can come off as a devaluation of your product rather than valuing of the customer.
Points & rewards (gamification)
Like discounts, rewards are straightforward. This works for companies which have a high level of stickiness to their customers–meaning they have a considerable control of their niche and their current retention emphasis is turning customers into evangelists. Rewards are usually company-branded merchandise, flight to company conferences, free services or add-ons, and so on.
Distinct moments where you delight, surprise, and wow your customers are what drive customer loyalty. Surprising them with pleasant benefits and rewards that are not advertised and are completely unexpected drive positive customer behavior.
In B2B, emotions play a huge role. Even during the sales process, buyers who feel they’re putting forward great risk from their part are less likely to buy. When they’re already customers, the same applies. You need to be stellar in delivering as promise–and be over-the-top with your service!
The exit interview is a standard procedure by sales and marketing organizations. It’s meant to find out what went wrong–and try to salvage the contract. This dual function serves businesses well in terms of helping them reduce churn and do a better job retaining customers. These two should always be in the head of the person calling for the interview.
Why? They’re still there as double agents so to speak. They should prepare for the call as they would for a sales call. Know the history of the company and the person on the other line. Know their account inside out. They once made the decision to purchase, they just need reassurance. Detect moments where you can still flip the situation. However, there are situations where your company isn’t a good fit–or, maybe you messed up. What you can do now is gather all the data possible so you can bring it back to the team to process. This way, you’ll have information to do a better job than you did with this particular customer.
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