Taking a Long View of B2B Customer Relationship Management

Customer relations is a crucial aspect of any business strategy. And for good reason. Amy Gallo of Harvard Business Review writes, “Depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.” The importance of customer relations is especially true in the B2B context. Typically, B2B companies are working with a smaller pool of customers than B2C companies, and each customer, therefore, makes up a larger share of revenue.

McDonald’s doesn’t want to lose customers, but it’s a lot less painful for McDonald’s to lose a customer than for Boeing to lose one. Similarly, many businesses serve both consumers and businesses. Consider a rental car or hotel company. They obviously have many individual consumer customers, but they also serve large organizations, such as corporations with staff who travel regularly.

So how do you maintain those crucial strong relationships with B2B customers? Here are some tips.

Taking a Big Picture, Long Term Approach

This may seem obvious, in principle, but this message needs to become a part of your company culture from the top down. It needs to be a part of every touch point with customers. Your sales reps need to deal honestly and fairly with prospects and customers, for example. Securing a sale by questionable means could damage a long-term relationship for an immediate gain.

Go easy on negotiations. Playing hardball with your B2B customers might pay off in the short term, but they will remember it if you’re lucky enough to have them around for a while, and the next negotiation could be more difficult and less lucrative for both sides.

Making and Maintaining a Connection

Larry Myler, writing for Forbes, reports that, “According to a Bain & Company study, 60-80% of customers who describe themselves as satisfied do not go back to do more business with the company that initially satisfied them. How can that be? Often it’s due to a lack of connection.” Myler is talking primarily about B2C relationships, but the same can apply to B2B.

Based on the size of many B2B arrangements in terms of revenue, you want to move your customer’s view of your relationship from transactional to personal. You don’t want customers to jump at the first sign of a slightly cheaper product or service. You want them to appreciate the intangibles you provide: how your company understands their needs; how their employees are familiar, and have good working relationships, with your employees.

Establish a line of communication with mid- and even senior-level executives. Having a single point of contact is risky if that individual leaves to take another position elsewhere. A broader base of contacts can help minimize risk. In addition, have a clear escalation process for conflicts that might develop at lower levels. And consider having regular leadership calls to discuss any outstanding issues and, more importantly, to build personal relationships. It’s hard to drop a supplier when you know them personally.

Think of Your B2B Relationships as Partnerships

Promote your business as a partner to your customers, not just a supplier. This means more than just telling them you consider them partners. Put yourself in their shoes and consider what’s at stake for them in doing business with you. For instance, the purchasing manager working for your customer is spending a lot of money on your product or service and needs to show results to their management to continue justifying giving you business.

It may seem counterintuitive, but B2B relationships are typically much more human than B2C relationships. Why? Because you’re working with a smaller group of customers on purchases of greater significance and you’re likely to have more, one on one connections that you would when dealing with a mass B2C audience. Take advantage of these opportunities to establish relationships that can ensure a long customer life cycle.

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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 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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