One of the challenges business owners face is attracting new customers while trying to retain current customers. Choosing where to spend your energy and how to divvy up your time between the two (especially when it comes to marketing), can be challenging. B2B companies tend to focus more resources on attracting new customers than retaining current customers. Because it’s much tougher to “switch brands” when it comes to complex B2B products and services, B2B companies make the mistake of taking their customers for granted.
What does your B2B marketing program have to do with your customer retention strategy? Should they be two separate initiatives, or can they overlap? Let’s look at three ways you can use marketing and customer experience to engage your customers.
1. Understand what really matters to YOUR customer.
A loyal customer is not made through the deliverables, the products or the metrics, though those things do matter. Instead, it’s making the client or customer feel like you care, like you are paying attention to what matters to them and are making consistent progress on initiatives or improving the products they use. If you can convince them of those things, you are golden.
How to Delight a Customer: I am a [somewhat] loyal Apple fan. I’ve bought into the ecosystem and use their products to get things done. About six months ago, I purchased a new iMac and have only experienced technical problems since that purchase. Having taken that model into the shop at least four times, I was not feeling good about the quality of the product and my experiences with their repair people.
I called Apple’s customer service to report an issue I had with one of their certified Apple repair retailers. That customer service rep could not technically solve my problem in that very instant, but he made me feel like he cared. He used empathy to connect with me and soften my sentiment towards Apple.
After chatting with him on the phone, I felt like writing a raving review about Apple. It only took one conversation with a real person to make me a loyal Apple fan again. Then, three days later, I received a big box of swag from Apple. Sealed the deal.
Some of you may already think you know your customers, but have you ever asked them what they think of you, your services or your programs? What could you improve? What got their attention? Interview them informally by asking good questions at the right time.
Avoid giving them a formal survey because it will give them too much time to think about how to word feedback—try to catch them in the moment. And, please don’t send one of those emails asking for “5-10 quick minutes of your time for us to improve your experience.” It’s a one-sided engagement and a waste of their time.
You need to know how your customers came to be your customers to find out how to keep them as customers. If they chose you above a competitor because you provided a higher value service or product, don’t use a price reduction tactic to entice them to renew their contract or purchase additional products. Instead, figure out how you can provide their business even more value for a fair price.
Remember customer loyalty is dependent on the people you hire and the experience customers have with them.
2. Figure out your customers’ love languages.
There is no cookie cutter formula about how to treat your customers, no matter what the experts tell you. B2B customers don’t often get surprises. They don’t get those extra 40% off your next purchase coupons or a free manicure with your next haircut vouchers. So, how could you delight your customers with something simple, yet unexpected?
Oddly enough, The Five Love Languages is a classic that sums up how people want to be treated and how to determine which love language speaks to them. Though the book was written to help families develop close relationships, I think our customers fall into similar categories. Figure out ways to nurture them and to appreciate them, just as you would nurture a relationship with someone you care about.
Here are some examples of applying the five love languages in a marketing context:
- Words of Affirmation - Handwritten notes, like this one I received from Chewy.com, mean a lot to me because words are my “love” language. Shout outs on social media are another good example.
- Acts of Service - Reading and sharing their content, participating in their survey or helping them make their company better.
- Receiving Gifts - Sending swag or surprises to customers is a favorite of marketers, but it should not be overused.
- Quality Time - Giving them more time on phone calls, being available when it’s inconvenient and going out of your way to show them they are a priority.
- Physical Touch - Not really applicable in most customer settings, but there are some professional relationships that could benefit from a firm handshake or pat on the shoulder.
Remember, a little appreciation goes a long way.
3. Your prospective customers will notice how you treat current customers.
When your prospects see how you treat your loyal customers, they are going to want to join your club to get the same VIP treatment. This Forrester Report: B2B Loyalty, The B2C Way emphasizes the opportunities B2B companies can explore that have already worked well for B2C companies. (I recommend giving it a read.)
How Not To Do Treat Your Customers: One example of treating loyal B2B and B2C customers poorly is Comcast. Their marketing and sales strategy is to woo customers with low prices for a year, making them feel like they’re getting a deal, and then [almost unexpectedly] hike prices on them after one year. Shouldn’t loyal customers be rewarded instead of punished? It’s no wonder many businesses and consumers are hoping for Google Fiber to come to a city near them.
Showcase how you treat your loyal customers regularly on social media, your website and other places (online and offline) where your prospects frequent. You can toot your own horn a little, as long as you don’t overdo it.
There’s also nothing wrong in recommending your customers to another business who might benefit from their services. Nobody ever got into trouble by providing a solid recommendation. If they’re on social media, give them shoutouts or share their content when it makes sense.
It’s time to revisit your marketing and customer retention strategies. Are they working together? What could you improve? Which tactic are you going to use within the next 30 days to ensure your customers feel like you care? I’d be interested to hear how you are delighting your customers. Tweet me @mindirrosser or email me to share your story.