Yoav Kutner is the founder and CEO of open-source commerce technology pioneer Oro, Inc. Previously, he was the CTO & cofounder of Magento.
Every B2B merchant understands the importance of strong and enduring customer relationships. It’s estimated that it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to keep one, and loyal returning customers account for about 80% of an enterprise’s revenues.
So, it’s clear that merchants can no longer afford to take customer loyalty for granted. It’s time to take some cues from the B2C space and find new strategies to proactively earn and retain customer loyalty.
Five Ways To Drive B2B Customer Loyalty
Here are five areas in which B2B brands can lean in to drive customer loyalty.
1. Offer structured loyalty programs.
Formal loyalty programs might sound like a quintessentially consumer-facing strategy, but they can work for B2B sellers, too. You’re probably dealing with a procurement team rather than an individual buyer, though, so you need to tailor any perks or other benefits accordingly.
Tailored pricing models and discounts or sneak peeks at new products or features can be a great way to reward long-standing customers. Another great option is to create a community around your products, with top customers earning invites to live events, workshops or digital forums in which power users can share insights and strategies.
2. Recognize your top customers.
Recognizing your top customers can be a great way to drive lasting value that goes beyond the transactional give-and-take of B2B commerce. Formal awards programs that recognize companies that exemplify best practices or use your products in innovative ways can be an effective approach—especially if your customers go on to promote the accolades they receive through their own marketing and PR channels.
Consider involving top customers in your own marketing efforts, too. Featuring a customer in a press release or highlighting their success using your products and services in a blog post or whitepaper can be a powerful way to earn their loyalty—everyone loves free publicity, after all! Such initiatives also make your customers a true partner, helping them feel invested in your company’s success and reducing the chance of them considering your competitors’ offerings.
3. Provide the white-glove experience your customers want.
Of course, you want to give every customer an amazing experience each time they place an order. But winning customer loyalty means recognizing that as customers deepen their relationship with your brand, you need to go beyond that baseline and offer services that are carefully tailored to the specific needs of the customer in question.
That might mean giving customers the tools they need to easily self-serve a complex recurring order, for instance. It might mean giving them white-glove service for a particular high-stakes purchase. Or it might simply mean making sure they have a clear point of contact who understands their value to your business and who ensures prompt resolution of any problems that surface.
4. Ask for customer feedback—and then act on it.
Loyalty initiatives should make customers feel special, and that means they can’t be one-size-fits-all programs. Use automation and self-service tools to streamline the sales process, by all means, but make sure your human sales reps and customer support agents use the time that’s been freed up to build stronger relationships and solicit feedback about what’s working and what could be working better.
Once you’ve collected feedback, show that you’re acting on it. That might mean building specific features your customers are requesting and closing the loop by inviting them to beta-test new tools. Other options might include recognizing customers’ changing business needs and proactively offering exclusive deals or other benefits that support their growing businesses.
5. Promote values that your customers share.
Promoting your company’s core values might not seem like an obvious way to win B2B deals, but the reality is that B2B buyers care markedly more than consumers about issues such as social responsibility. In fact, 72% of B2B buyers say they’re “more likely to buy from socially responsible businesses”—17 points more than consumers who are asked the same question.
Of course, B2B buyers don’t just want merchants to parrot platitudes. They expect clear, detailed explanations of how you’re putting your values into action—in part so they can pass the same information along to their own customers. This means B2B merchants have a chance to drive loyalty by offering clear product information identifying the environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, sourcing or materials used in specific products.
Loyalty Has Never Been More Important
For B2B merchants, improved customer retention has been shown to increase total profits by up to 95%. With loyal customers proving more receptive to upsell and cross-sell opportunities, customer loyalty should be a top priority for all B2B sellers, especially in a challenging economic environment.
That’s doubly true because, in the digital-first world of B2B e-commerce, it’s never been easier for buyers to find an alternative source for any given product or service—all it takes is a few clicks. That means B2B selling is no longer simply about a great product and an easy transaction process. To succeed in this era, B2B merchants need a clear strategy for winning and retaining customer loyalty.
Right now, this is something not all B2B merchants have realized—and that creates an important opportunity for brands that move quickly to establish successful customer loyalty strategies. Brands that establish themselves as loyalty leaders will find it far easier to retain customers—even in the volatile digital-first world—while also converting happy customers into brand advocates who spread the word and help them gain new customers.
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