According to Bain & Company
, 68% of B2B executives say clients are less loyal than they used to be.
The most common pitfall for businesses around the world is the belief that if they have a great product or service, customer retention will follow naturally.
It’s an especially dangerous game to play in a B2B purchase scenario because you generally have more than one buyer, a larger purchase price, and more users beyond an initial purchase committee. How do you create B2B buyer loyalty that leads to greater retention and in turn revenues?
The Importance of B2B Channel Loyalty Programs
Nurturing customer loyalty is essential for B2B companies since it allows brands to build long-term relationships and, eventually, gain access to more opportunities with their clients. Plus, the probability of selling to an existing customer is up to 14 times higher
than the probability of selling to a new prospect.
While the B2C world has been employing customer loyalty tactics for decades—such as your credit card that generates airline miles—the B2B world hasn’t quite caught up to speed. And, as a Forrester report finds
, applying tactics that work well in a B2C setting may not be as much of a stretch in B2B situations as you think.
B2B customers also represent a much greater pool of potential business engagements, which may be incredibly unique. Customer loyalty also morphs into referrals resulting in greater brand awareness, new customer acquisition, and new cross-sell/upsell opportunities.
Here are five B2B channel loyalty tactics to include with your B2B loyalty program strategy.
1. The Best B2B Channel Loyalty Programs Do the Research
Everybody is talking about loyalty nowadays. It’s not that customer satisfaction has fallen by the wayside; rather it’s that businesses recognize that a satisfied customer isn’t necessarily a loyal one.
Loyalty is driven by small things, the softer things that are harder to measure, and the little things which in isolation seem inconsequential.
The secret of B2B loyalty is finding small things to do that go beyond expectations and, as a result, make a big impact. You need to be relentlessly imaginative in finding a constant stream of new and different initiatives.
The quickest way to find the things that will win the hearts and minds of your business customers is to do the research. Ask them.
Find out what your ideal customers value, expect and want versus need from your brand's products and services. This will help you set appropriate goals, benchmarks, messaging and campaign strategies. It can even help you craft the bones to a B2B loyalty program that, based on facts and research, has a high likelihood of immediate success, rather than the trial and error you can find yourself in when crafting a program without the research.
And measure everything you do. Measure customer churn, measure complaints, measure customer satisfaction, measure the frequency of introducing new suppliers, and measure the likelihood of recommending. Through measurement will come an understanding of the degree of loyalty of your clients and the tools to ensure that it is driven to the highest possible levels.
When doing your research, don’t forget that your original buyers may not be the only role driving loyalty. Users of your products and services should be included in your efforts because of the strong advocates they can become.
2. Understand the New Buyer Journey
Research from Gartner
has revealed that not only does most of the buyers’ journey happen before the company is ever contacted, but only 17% of the cumulative time a buyer puts into making a purchase will be spent meeting with potential suppliers. That’s all of the potential suppliers a buyer will assess, too, not just the one solution they ultimately purchase.
Gartner’s research goes on to state, “When buyers are comparing multiple suppliers‚ the amount of time spent with any one sales rep may be only 5% or 6%.”
The customers in your loyalty program can help you attract new customers during their digital and sales-averse journey. Just encourage them to talk about you.
Create a referral channel for points or rewards for writing testimonials and reviews. Help them spread the word. Send them a small token of your appreciation after they do so. Give them something to give others and play into the pro-social angle of influencing.
Who better to help you attract new buyers than the ones who already have?
3. Have a Solid Communication Strategy
Intimate knowledge of the B2B buyer journey is crucial to creating a cohesive and effective communication strategy.
Consistency is achieved by emphasizing a recognizable look and feel for a business, alongside the emotional and functional benefits a brand evokes, and doing it on a regular basis. It means making sure every interaction, from email to social media to face-to-face, represents the brand.
It’s extremely important to communicate with new customers saying hello and thank you. Subsequent emails can introduce your organization’s team members or share the story of your business—why you opened your business, what services you offer and what makes you unique compared to competitors.
Focusing on the multiple advocates you have inside a business that has purchased something from you is a great idea. Helping them and communicating with them will look different. For example, they may find better use in a user group or forum to see how others use the tools; some may want a tip or trick along the way; still others should be on the path for further consumption or adoption of additional use cases. Think about who is using it and what will bring them the best experience —that’s what will ultimately create loyalty and then advocacy.
4. Include Inspiring Incentives
At face value, many credit cards are the same. But they differentiate themselves based on what they give back to the customer for their loyalty: airline miles, gas money and more.
The concept of “spend more, get more” is pretty ubiquitous in B2C circles. But—even though it’s a perfect match—many B2B companies haven’t yet made that leap.
One way of doing this is to reward your partners with points for every dollar they spend on your services. Go further than that and offer additional points by purchasing products from sponsoring manufacturers, which offers additional revenue for you and additional revenue into the program while providing a marketing opportunity for your manufacturers. This works incredibly well in wholesale and distributor relationships.
Another way to maximize your B2B loyalty is to offer incentives for tenure with your brand, reaching spending thresholds (that you know, but they may not), or even just offering gift cards, reward points and milestone gifts.
All of these can be a differentiator for your brand and a nice tangible reward for your clients.
5. Reward & Recognize
A little bit of recognition and appreciation for B2B customers goes a long way in ensuring their loyalty to you. After all, extrinsic awards are only one kind of motivator—other motivators like preferred customer status and public recognition are other great ways to ensure the loyalty of your team.
Conquer B2B Channel Loyalty Challenges
Today’s businesses face incredible loyalty challenges. However, many of those challenges can be conquered with a strategic B2B channel loyalty program.
One unique way of benefitting your company and your customers’ is showcasing customer successes. Case studies are proven to be an effective way to market your business, and publicly recognizing customer success is a perfect way of building rapport and loyalty. See for yourself in our own client story in which we helped to build a custom loyalty program for complex purchases.