Cultivating Customer Advocates in a B2B Environment

Hiring marketing or content marketing talent?by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

 

Few things can be as effective at generating sales as positive customer reviews. Similarly, and conversely, few things can be as damaging to sales as negative customer reviews. In terms of online retail, a recent survey found that positive reviews influence the purchase decisions of 90 percent of respondents, while negative reviews influence around 86 percent. But that’s in the B2C (business-to-consumer) world. In B2C, there are a relatively large number of customer interactions compared to B2B (business-to-business). This means that while B2B has fewer potential customer reviews to base a purchase decision on, each one is that much more impactful.

It also means that the relationship between the business and its customers is closer and stronger. Unlike in B2C relationships, it is common for B2B companies to reach out to their B2B references directly to help them promote the business by speaking at company events, participating in case studies or making themselves available for discussions with sales prospects. For example, FeaturedCustomers cites a Hawkeye study, which found that 71% of B2B buyers in the awareness stage and 77% in the evaluation stage cited testimonials and case studies as the most influential types of content.

Here are some key strategies to build and maintain customer relationships and leverage them for future B2B sales.

Cultivate Satisfied Customers

It should go without saying, but in order to get positive B2B references, you need to have satisfied B2B customers. The first step is simply doing the job well and being responsive to customer concerns. Enough said.

But Don’t Ignore Customers Who Have Had Challenges

The fact that you want to have happy customers talking to sales prospects doesn’t mean that you should hide customers who have had challenges with your products or services in the past. A customer who can offer a narrative of working with your company to address and overcome challenges can be a great reference to help demonstrate your commitment to your customers and commitment to do whatever it takes to provide a quality product or service.

Keep Them Happy and Stay in Touch

It’s often the case that the sales staff is not fully in the loop with a customer situation following the initial sale and rollout. At some point, managing that customer experience is delegated to the customer service function. So it can happen that sales staff are surprised to find that a once-happy customer is now a poor reference. It’s key for sales staff to stay in touch with customers as well as those within their own company tasked with supporting those customers to ensure they are aware of the situation on the ground and can escalate if necessary.

Focus on Experience with Common Challenges

A big benefit of customer references is that they possess a perspective on common challenges your sales prospects may have within the industry — a perspective your own staff may not possess. Even if your sales reps were once employed in the industry you are selling to, things change. Your customers are great resources to talk about the challenges they face in the industry and how your company’s products or services help them overcome those challenges.

Credibility is Key

Just because you have a customer that is willing to talk to sales prospects about your business doesn’t mean they will be seen as credible by those sales prospects. The prospects may be suspicious that customers are being given discounts to regurgitate your company’s standard sales pitch, for example. Additionally, it can be challenging in some industries to use current customers to advocate for you to potential customers if they are in the same industry and are current or potential competitors. It’s important to keep this in mind when selecting your customer references in general, as well as with respect to specific prospects.

A strong network of customer references in the B2B world can greatly improve the sales process. With relatively little effort, customer references can act as a neutral source of information and personal experience and can provide the type of credibility company-employed sales representatives have to work extremely hard to develop.

How are you doing with that?

 

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About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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