B2B companies that have historically overlooked the importance of nurturing a loyal customer base are beginning to recognise the need to implement a non-price differentiation of their own. B2C is not the only arena where purchasing decisions have an emotional factor and brand image affects the end user. It’s not news that corporate accounts are actually just groupings of individual customers, but the idea of B2B loyalty can still be challenging to conceptualise – let alone put into practice.
The B2B market has been complicated by the amount of information and expectations available to individuals across the board. Getting your product in the door isn’t enough. B2B customer loyalty is about building a brand reputation that will allow your fan base to thrive. Obviously, appealing to C-level decision makers and end users is important, but the key to B2B loyalty is nurturing relationships with the middleman.
Identifying the influencers.
Architects, developers, and internal experts whose contact information probably isn’t in your current CRM, are most likely to influence your brand reputation and your balance sheet. Although they’re often ignored, these figures are the nerve centers of tech deployment within organisations, and their experiences and issues with your product will ultimately determine the fate of your account. This is where B2B customer loyalty should live. Identify these individuals, get to know them, and start schmoozing.
Build loyalty through rewards and appreciation.
Once you know who to target it becomes easier to determine the best methods for building a successful loyalty program. These folks are experts and have invested time and effort into learning your products inside and out. When they contact you for support, they should be treated as such. Implementing methods to fast track support queues and ensuring they receive top-notch service shows that you value their expertise.
Providing online tools and supporting collaborative environments are other ways to show your appreciation and help them do their job more effectively. As the internal experts, the more knowledgeable they are about your products, the better your brand reputation will become.
But simply providing information for them isn’t enough - you have to listen to them as well. The best way to achieve this isn’t by an annual survey or questionnaire, but rather a dedication to continual support.
Maintain an internal brand that upholds your image.
Branding within the organisation instills a level of trust within the staff which is then passed on to the customer. Employees engaged by internal brand building efforts are typically more satisfied at work, which leads to better morale and lower turnover rates. As a consumer, there is nothing worse than being forced to rely on a revolving door of customer service reps, or encountering disgruntled support reps during a crisis.
Internal branding, across B2B and B2C markets, has a major influence on an organisation’s success. In a recent Watson Wyatt study, organisations with high employee trust levels outperformed those with low trust levels by 186 percent in terms of earning per share performance. Technology brands (such as B2B software vendors), have seen a particularly positive relationship between brand-building and financial performance, according to Techtel, a technology consultant that has been studying the correlation between marketing ROI and stock return since 1984.
There is a sense of pride in the familiar that is only attainable through successful branding. Building a reputation by supporting influencers will instill loyalty that outgrows the organization and spreads throughout each individual’s career path and network. But offering a superior level of support requires a team that will deliver that exceptional customer service.
It is possible, therefore, to instill customer loyalty in the B2B world. Big businesses, like individuals, don’t weigh purchasing decisions based on data and metrics alone. Even large enterprise customers exhibit preferential loyalty based on emotional factors. By identifying the individuals that influence loyalty and increasing your focus on internal branding, you can implement a B2B loyalty program that will grow with your business.
Image courtesy: Amy Ashida/TechnologyAdvice
About Charlotte Ritter
Charlotte Ritter is a staff writer for TechnologyAdvice. She covers business intelligence, gamification, project management, and other emerging technology. She has also written about startups, company growth, and talent management. Connect with her on LinkedIn.