If investing in nurturing and growing relationships with clients is essential for a successful company, then this applies all the more to B2B businesses.
For starters, it is much cheaper to retain a current customer than it is to acquire a new one. In fact, not only is it five times more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain an old one, but businesses that increase customer retention by only 5 percent also increase their profits anywhere from 25 percent up to 95 percent.
Moreover, B2B customers are relatively more valuable than B2C customers, at least on an individual level. After all, B2B customers tend to pay ongoing fees, licenses, and subscriptions, all of which feed into the company’s cash flow, while B2C customers pay a one-time fee, and that’s it. Consequently, each B2B client that leaves takes with them a significant part of a company’s revenue, making retaining clients in the B2B sphere even more important.
A happy customer is more than willing to sing a company’s praises to whoever will listen. Not only is this marketing at minimal cost, but it is also the best kind of marketing: word of mouth.
On the other hand, a dissatisfied customer will speak ill of a company and post poor reviews, tarnishing its reputation and making life a little more difficult.
So, with all of this in mind, here are a few helpful tips for building stronger relationships with your B2B clients.
1. Start by listening to the customers
A company’s sole purpose is to serve its customer base and fulfill a need better than anyone else on the market. However, how can a company serve someone it doesn’t understand?
Listening to the client is the starting point for any company, and there are plenty of ways to do so.
Look at the data
Modern companies are swimming in a sea of data—some even run the risk of drowning! Yet, if a business learns how to harness this data, the returns will be lucrative, giving the company powerful insights into its customer base, with all its behaviors, wants, and needs.
Spend some quality time with the end-user
B2B companies need to see for themselves how their products or services are faring out in the real world, especially in the hands of the end-user. A lot of B2B companies belong to a long supply chain, one with several nodes, yet each company only comes into direct contact with the companies immediately upstream and downstream from it.
But, this is not enough. To truly appreciate how the supply chain can be improved, companies should strive to spend time with every one of its nodes, but especially the end-users, its final link.
Put a customer advisory board in place
If companies are willing to go one step further, they can turn their customers into willing partners through the creation of customer advisory boards. Simply put, give the customers a seat at the table and create a small, representative group willing to offer a company honest feedback as well as new ideas for products or services.
Once this board is in place, the company may host regular meetings where members of the board convene and discuss its latest developments. Alternatively, the company might decide to meet up with each board member individually.
In either scenario, the board will prove integral when making any large product or marketing decisions, and it can offer valuable insights before a product launch.
2. Focus on prioritizing value over price
Many companies fall into the same mistake of competing over price instead of value. They try to offer their customers the best “bargain,” failing to realize that they are selling themselves short and commoditizing their product in the process.
Instead, companies need to use what they know about their customer’s pain points to distinguish themselves from the competition by offering superb value and satisfying the customers.
So, what are some actual steps companies can take in this direction?
Companies should limit their focus to a few key customer segments instead of trying to serve everyone
Even though every company would love to grow exponentially, this might not always be the best strategy. Rather than trying to acquire every possible customer under the sun, B2B companies are better to focus on a few key customer segments that they know and can serve well. Otherwise, the company risks a high rate of churn and dissatisfied customers.
As for how to choose these segments, companies should start with those who have the highest potential to succeed by using the company’s product or service.
If a customer is a good fit for a company and its offerings, said company will have to exert considerably less effort to satisfy them.
Companies should aim to help their customers succeed on a personal level
In addition to helping resolve the customer’s pain points, B2B companies should strive to help the individuals inside each company. For instance, the person acting as a liaison between both companies has their own ambitions. If the company helps achieve them, the liaison will fight to keep the business relation going.
To that end, there are several ways a B2B company can contribute to its customers’ personal success. For example, a B2B company can have in place an excellent support system, take part in team meetings, or share extra data. Regardless of the action, companies need to become their customers’ best partner and ally.
3. Personalize interactions
Each interaction should be tailored to the customer at hand. This might be easier said than done: after all, it’s never easy to track every conversation, remember all the relevant information, and keep up-to-date with changing needs and wants. It is even more complicated when different employees end up helping the same customer.
The good news is that there are plenty of solutions on the market for that. Some solutions help keep track of relevant information, while others enable companies to build customer profiles and personas.
Here’s how personalization improves company’s activities.
Personalize every interaction
It’s not enough to tailor the language and information of the message to the intended individual, but the mode of communication itself.
For instance, when a customer indicates a preference for email over phone calls, the company should adjust all future interactions according to that preference.
Personalization allows friendly gestures that strengthen relationships
When a company keeps track of all the relevant information, it will know when to send an anniversary gift or note.
It will also be able to keep track of when the last engagement took place, and if it has been a while, reach out to the customer, checking-up on them, and making sure that they don’t need any assistance.
Personalization is vital to creating educational content
One of the more powerful tools to reach customers is creating educational content. Nowadays, customers have access to the internet and use it to answer most of their pressing questions. When they approach a company, they have usually done a significant amount of research beforehand.
B2B companies must provide these potential customers with the necessary educational resources to make an informed decision. However, to be effective, the content has to be personalized based on where the customer is in their buyer’s journey and their customer profile.
After all, if the content isn’t optimized – it won’t be doing its job!
4. Customer satisfaction is the entire company’s responsibility, not just that of the support team
Some companies delegate the job of customer satisfaction to the support team, thinking that is enough. However, it isn’t.
Instead, all departments play a part in satisfying a customer.
Creating an outstanding offer that brings satisfaction is part of it, but having different departments perform support activities also adds to the experience. It is particularly useful if those activities relate to the functions the departments in question already serve.
Sharing customer service responsibilities will help in more than one way.
The support team gets to watch up close all the frustrations customers have with a product or service
When different departments take part in customer service, they get to experience the customers’ complaints, as well as their praise, directly. Being involved gives them a better idea of what aspects need some fine-tuning, what works, what doesn’t, and how the different departments can improve.
When different departments take part in support, they can help with the more technical requests
Sometimes, a customer’s issue is so technical that the customer service agent is not qualified to help. If different departments pitch in, transferring these technical calls to the appropriate department should be a cinch, making life easier for the customer and the service agent.
The onboarding process improves
Once a company concludes a sale, it needs to onboard the customer to show them how to make the most out of it. This way, the customer gets the most bang for their buck, knows what to expect moving forward, and has the opportunity to look at other offerings.
When support efforts are divided among all departments, it’s easier to identify the problem areas that need more attention during onboarding.
The most important thing to keep in mind
Even though everything covered so far is critical for building good relationships, the one aspect that can make or break a relationship is: being human.
No customer wants to buy from a nameless, faceless company. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine in everything from the branding to customer support. Make your company values clear to the world and uphold them with pride!
Guest Submission by Jill Phillips. opinions expressed in the article are of the author.
Connect with Jill Phillips on Twitter @Jillphlps