For B2B, nurturing existing customers is even more important than in B2C. Your business depends on recurring business—and oftentimes from fewer clients. You need a revenue stream that flows every month…you’re not just luring in random new customers with “The Biggest Sale of the Year.”
The customer retention danger zone? Complacency.
Assuming your customers are happy is a dangerous. If you’re sitting on the status quo, confident your customers are secure because you’ve been working with them a long time, it’s time to take a look at just how much things have changed…and how these changes have brought us full circle, back to personalized human-to-human customer service.
Excellent customer service isn’t a new concept, but it got lost to technology for a long time. Automation killed the personal touch and with nowhere else to turn, customers put up with it. There are some perks to automation, like reminder triggers and easy ordering, but customers today want more: They want a deeper understanding of your company and the products and services you provide.
Here are 3 ways you can deliver more than expected and retain more customers:
#1: Open the Doors of Communications
Achieving primo customer service starts with communication. Don’t accidentally mistake advertising for communication. Advertising is telling customers why they should buy your product. Communication is asking your customers how you can improve, and then responding with meaningful action.
Bill Gates may have put it best years ago when he said,
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
Here’s a great B2B example:
Hootsuite is a set of tools for social media monitoring. After launching a new update, they responded to customer complaints about their “terrible” new interface by channeling a Jimmy Kimmel show bit that’s become a cultural meme: “Mean Tweets.” The important thing to understand is Hootsuite’s response. They acknowledged the validity of the criticism (despite the curse words) and redesigned the UI for a cleaner, prettier, and more useable interface.
#2: Encourage Customer Loyalty
Everybody loves swag—and customer loyalty programs are remarkably effective. IBM does B2B customer loyalty exceptionally well, even offering deals you can offer to your customers to help build your business. Their incentives don’t stop at completion of the initial sale, they continue throughout the business relationship. Well done, IBM.
#3: Create Helpful User Tools
Gordon Food Service is a food distributor that goes well beyond its purpose to help business working in the food-service industry. On their website, restaurant owners can find menu planners, cost calculators, a staff scheduler, and much more. By investing in technologies designed to help customers effectively run their business, GFS competes against some very formidable businesses.
We all know B2B is all about developing long-term relationships, your customers’ expectations go far beyond what’s on sale today. They want to deal with businesses they know and trust. Careful consideration goes into that decision to work with you, and it’s up to you to deliver on that promise of service. These three approaches can help you deliver more than expected helping retain customers and increase sales.
No matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up, so traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore. Check out these five B2B case studies and learn replicable marketing strategies from leading manufacturers. Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B company. Get ahead of the curve.
When a successful marketing campaign attracts new customers, do you spend a lot of time celebrating the win? We all do—it’s just human nature. But one great campaign isn’t really the big win. The big win is in developing that relationship with your customers over the long haul, creating more repeat customers. That’s why follow-up is so important: you need to continuously syncing with your customer’s train of thought before they switch tracks and leave you standing at an empty station with bags full of what-happened-to-my-business.
Too many businesses let existing customers get off the train without so much as offering a courtesy cocktail that might convince them to extend their journey.
How do you know what your customers want?
Believe it or not, it’s likely you already have the majority of the tools you need to sync with your customer’s mind and react in a positive and meaningful way. The more you sync, the more repeat customers you’ll gain. You just need to know HOW to keep that repeat customer feeling happy and good about their relationship with your business.
Ask. One of the most direct ways to reach your customers? Just ask! When a customer makes a purchase, send a follow-up email a few days later to ask how they liked your product or service. Ask how they think you might improve. Offer drawings or rewards to improve your response rates.
Respond. If your customer takes time to give you a detailed answer, be sure to respond. People feel best when they know their comments are heard. Even better: move the conversation from email to social media. To drive traffic to social, include an invitation in your email response, such as, “We loved your idea and we happen to be discussing that issue on Facebook. Come join us and post your ideas.” Allow your customers to share their ideas on social to encourage even more prospect and customer engagement.
Analyze. Carefully examine your customer interactions for patterns. Use a CRM to track your customer service activity. Are the same issues, complaints or compliments continuously cropping up? Analyzing your customer data is a great way to identify strengths and weaknesses—and your starting point for developing a plan to address the most urgent and/or frequent problems and issues.
Listen. Your customers are already all over social media expressing their likes and dislikes. You can use any one of half a dozen tools to monitor social media for keywords, your products and services, your brand or company name (include common misspellings), or even your slogan.
Research. Let’s not forget online reviews. While you can’t control what people post about your business or products on Yelp, Amazon or TripAdvisor, you can research these services to understand how your customers use your products and/or interact with your business—not to mention, it’s a great way to keep tabs on your competition. Ensure your info is up to date so your customers don’t feel misled by an outdated menu or price list. You can even contact customers who complain to see if you can do anything to fix the issue. Hey, they might even update a negative review if your company goes above and beyond to fix a problem. You might also retain that repeat customer, so it’s win-win!
Your goal should be to enrich your customer relationships throughout all 5 stages of the Growth Cycle Marketing process, so syncing with your customer’s train of thought all along their journey is priority.
While it’s always exciting to see your customer list grow, it’s your existing customers that’ll ring up the biggest dollars for you. In fact, it costs at least six times more to woo a new customer and make that first sale than to sell an existing customer. That’s why it makes perfect sense to offer incentives to new customers to invite them in and bring them back again and again.
What Are Your Customers Hungry For?
The answer isn’t always cupcakes. Although cupcakes are never a bad idea (who doesn’t love cupcakes?), some customers are looking for information or are more interested in saving money. The incentive you choose should reflect your business and answer your customer’s needs and wants.
The most popular incentives include:
Discounts on targeted goods/services
Co-branded deals with complementary goods/services (buy milk and get cookies at half price)
The Incentive to Offer Incentives
The best reason to offer incentives is to spur flagging sales, but that’s not the only reason you should consider it. As part of your overall Growth Cycle Marketing plan, you’ll have the opportunity to contact your customers consistently, without pestering them…to give ‘em a new reason to come back to your store or website and explore, or to participate and engage on social media. Keeping customers engaged is a great way to keep their business and incentives are a tried-and-true engagement method.
For new customers, think in terms of outselling your competition. Your job is to lure customers away from other shops, so your cupcakes should be bigger, sweeter, and maybe have bacon on top. Offer up something that’s really hard to turn down.
Free Stuff Fail
Some companies manage to win and fail at the same time with incentives programs. DIRECTV, for example, offers a great referral program: invite a friend and get a discount for a year—and your friend also gets a discount. (Win!) They also offer their popular sports package free to new accounts. Existing customers pay for the same service…a lot. (Fail.) To add insult to injury, after the first year of service, they charge automatically, whether you ordered it or not. It’s probably a good idea to offer incentives that aren’t designed to tick off existing customers and don’t come with pricey strings.
It’s like a yummy-looking cupcake with anchovy filling. It looks like a great deal, but it ultimately leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Analyze Your Measurable Results
Once you’ve launched your incentive program, it’s important to watch the numbers. How’s your campaign performing? Are opens, clickthroughs and conversions up? If your numbers go up, you’re doing it right. If there’s no change, consider mixing it up. If your open rates are low, you may want to try different subject lines or experiment with the best time to send emails. If, on the other hand, your emails are opened but customers aren’t responding, the problem might be that your content is not compelling or your CTA needs to stand out more.
Figuring out what incentives work best for your business won’t be rocket science. If you’re paying attention, you know what your customers want. You just have to figure out how to give it to them…and still make money. Consider the long game, and remember, when you’re passing out the cupcakes, put your existing customers at the front of the line so they don’t miss out on the best flavors. They might be delighted to discover something new from you and they’ve already sampled your tasty wares.
Gaining new customers is like panning for gold: you can spend hours of back-breaking labor panning for just a few occasional nuggets. Your existing customers are the real mother lode—thick veins of gold you can mine for years on end.
Is it possible they don’t know about the hidden goldmine in their existing customer base? If you’re spending all your time panning for new customers and ignoring the mine, here are 9 reasons to reconsider…
Repeat customers are cheaper. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs says it costs at least six times as much to make the first sale as it does to make the second (or third, or fourth…). When you figure the total cost of attracting a new customer, your profit margin for a first-time sale goes way down.
You’ll build brand recognition AND brand loyalty. Making a name for your brand isn’t easy in a crowded marketplace, but when you build a legion of customers who love your brand, you’ll gain new ground via (the oh-SO-coveted) word-of-mouth. Your customers are also your fans, your influencers, and your evangelists. A satisfied fan base will spread word of your product or service in an honest, organic way by recommending you to their friends and followers.
You’ll boost your bottom line. Most businesses lose 15% to 20% of their customers each year. What if you could cut those losses by half? You’d more than double your company’s growth rate. When you add up the value of a customer, it’s not about a single sale, it’s about total sales over the life of your relationship.
Repeat customers spend more than new customers. You haven’t yet established a trust relationship with a first-time buyer. They don’t know if you or your product will deliver the quality and customer service they expect. By the third or fourth sale, they’ll be spending nearly twice as much as a first-time purchaser—and the amount they spend typically keeps growing over time.
Loyal customers are loyal. They’re simply less sensitive to price changes and less likely to abandon you when a better deal comes along. They already know and love your company, so if you focus on customer appreciation, they won’t be eager to jump ship to an unknown just to save a few bucks.
Marketing to existing customers is less expensive. Your customers are already a captive audience. You don’t have to lure them in or chase them down. You know where they are, who they are, and what they want. You can easily use your customer data to deliver offers they can’t resist without spending big bucks.
Your customers really appreciate loyalty rewards. When you offer your existing customers incentives, you strengthen your relationship and entice even more sales.
You can easily encourage loyal customers to rope in their friends. DIRECTV, for example, offers a referral program that rewards both the existing customer and the referral. Each party gets a $10 reduction on their monthly bills for a full year. By stretching the reward out over time, the company assumes less risk of losing money on short-time customers and gives both customers a nice incentive to stay on board.
Existing customers will answer your questions. You want to know what customers want, right? With an existing customer base, you can ask and they’ll tell you. It’s like magic. Shiny happy customers will give you advice, tell you what’s bugging them, and let you and everybody else know what you’re doing right.
Treating your customers like the gold they are pays off in a BIG way. Your Growth Cycle Marketing strategy should include tactics for attracting new customers AND rewarding existing customers. Keep panning for new customers, but never forget where the mother lode is.
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