In the past few years, companies in the B2B industry have experienced an awakening: they need to develop customer loyalty strategies that appeal to customers’ emotions and personal values. As business technology rapidly evolves, markets overflow with competition, and millennials concerned with corporate responsibility begin to make up the majority of B2B buyers, B2B brands must go beyond the cold, hard facts of commodities. Gaining the customer loyalty competitive advantage requires connection to customers, human to human. How do B2B brands do that? Here are four solid ideas:
- Develop a loyalty program that aligns with an overarching customer retention.
Today’s B2B technology—from CRM and marketing automation systems to sales enablement and channel management software—allows you to develop detailed customer profiles. You can segment customers by interest, region, order amount and frequency, and growth potential.
With all this customer data and segmentation capabilities, you can configure your marketing and communication to be highly relevant to individual customer needs and interests. If your loyalty program is a one-size-fits-all system where all customers receive the same rewards for doing the same things, you’re behind the times. Modern loyalty software allows you to segment program participants into different groups or tiers, targeting them with sales promotions and reward opportunities that best suit them. Run a sales promotion for a powerful heating system in cold dealer regions, for example, while you simultaneously run a promotion on HVAC coolant in warmer regions.
You can also reward customers for more than just selling products. Reward customers for completing training and education, submitting feedback and surveys, or to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
With a flexible customer loyalty system that can integrate with your CRM or corporate website, you can use the program to reinforce your value to customers, solidifying emotional and personal connection.
- Use trustworthy channel technology and be transparent about customer data.
Surrendering professional and personal data to companies is becoming more and more normalized, but most customers still aren’t comfortable with it. A recent PWC customer intelligence study found that 76% of customers say sharing their personal information with companies is a “necessary evil.” The study also found:
- 67% of global consumers say they have little to no control over how their personal data is used.
- 34% say that one or more companies holding their data have had a security breach.
- 85% say they wish there were more companies they could trust with their data.
- 83% wish for more control over their own data.
Ensure that any channel technology storing your customer’s data, whether it’s in-house or third-party, is secure. The data should be encrypted and that encryption should be tested and approved by tech security experts.
You can build customer trust and show that data security is a core corporate value by simply being transparent. Be upfront with customers about how their data is used, whether it’s shared, and how it’s shared. Promise that you will not sell customer data to third parties. This transparency will earn your customers’ trust and play a major role in building your customer loyalty competitive advantage.
- Balance automation and personal contact for a better customer experience.
The capabilities of today’s automation technology are pretty amazing. It can be tempting to automate as much as possible. You can deliver everything from email marketing and sales follow-ups to customer support and product information using little to no man-hours. But should you? A 2020 Walker Info report on B2B customer expectation says that you should think it through:
Determine where personal contact adds value. Building and maintaining strong customer relationships requires a balance between personal interactions and digital experiences. B-to-B must determine which parts of the journey can be automated to promote ease and those that still require personal contact.
Customers may appreciate an automated email containing specific information they requested through an online contact form, for example, but what about when they have a complex issue with one of your products? You don’t want customers to feel that they’re always interacting with a machine, rather than a real, trustworthy representative of your brand. Automated communication should be used strategically to enhance the customer experience, which builds customer loyalty.
- Build customer loyalty and confidence by giving customers the right info at the right time.
In 2020, Gartner released a B2B buyer study that revealed something interesting: customer satisfaction isn’t the strongest driver of account growth. What is? Customers’ confidence in themselves and their ability to make good buying decisions. Account growth is 2.6 times more likely when confidence is present.
Information is one of the best ways to build customer confidence. Many B2B brands take this to mean that they should unload as much product, white paper, case study, industry news, and technology specs onto customers as possible. It turns out, there’s an information tipping point. A 2019 B2B buyer journey study found that 50% of B2B customers are overwhelmed by the amount of trustworthy information they encounter in their purchasing decisions.
Rather than dumping a bunch of information on customers, deliver specific and relevant content to them throughout their customer lifecycle. Understand their unique needs, their relationship with you, and how you can be as helpful as possible. Building a detailed customer profile with integrated channel technology and maintaining a close-knit relationship with customers will allow you to figure out what information is most useful to them.
As today’s B2B markets fill with technology, competition, and constant disruption, it’s easy to get swept up in the newest marketing buzzword or platform. The strongest customer loyalty competitive advantage combines the power of advanced channel technology with helpful, one-on-one connections. Remember that tools and technology are there to reinforce a cohesive, customer-centric strategy, and you’ll have a clear path to customer loyalty.