B2B marketers face unique challenges establishing connections with customers, who are often part of a team that collectively makes purchase decision. In a recent conversation with Direct Marketing News Bryan Pearson, author of The Loyalty Leap for B2B: Turning Customer Information Into Customer Intimacy and president and CEO of LoyaltyOne, addressed these difficulties, and passionately explained his strategies for successfully building trust and intimacy with B2B customers.
What are the characteristics of a successful B2B organization and how are they getting there?[One] characteristic of a successful B2B is that it’s focusing on understanding customers at a more granular level and working to create relevant programs and communications for them. It’s also about allowing it as foundation to foster better relationships with customers over time. That’s part of the DNA of the organization—developing deeper insight on customers and formulating integrated strategies.
You stress the requirement for businesses to develop trust. What are the best ways to accomplish this?
It starts with identifying and understanding key companies and customers and differentiating them from prospects. Tracking interactions over time and understanding the kind of activity they have over time in your business. Once you have that view of the customer, [then it’s] about how you actually act against that knowledge to build trust and relevance.
Trust is earned by using information you have to build the customer experience and streams of relevant interactions with those customers.
To understand various customer touchpoints you have to create relevance within those touchpoints. Make sure you’re getting feedback from those touchpoints so that you can figure out whether you’re achieving the mutual goals you have set with yourself and your customers. And make sure you continuously measure and adjust plans [based on] whether you’re achieving success and hitting your goals or not.
It sounds mundane but at the end of the day success with building trust within a B2B environment is really about understanding the underlying dynamics of your business. [It’s also about] being conscientious about how you architect the experience and touchpoints you have with your customers—to [achieve] the desired outcome from the customer segments you’re pursuing.
What are the difficulties of creating recognition for customer loyalty in B2B that differs from B2C?
I think in a B2C environment what you see is tiering…. That works well where there’s attribution back to an individual—and it would work equally well in small business environment. The problem is that when you deal with [midsize] business or enterprises, tiering itself doesn’t translate well into those environments. You need to look at other means to create recognition.
B2B companies have moved to giving out awards for customer recognition…. Recognition is still a powerful tool in the loyalty tool kit in B2B organizations—it just needs to be applied and thought of in a different manner.
How does a B2B best achieve enterprise loyalty?
Enterprise loyalty is about capturing information about your customers—organizing [that information] into the way you create insight and understanding, and using that as a platform across your organization to change the conversation and strategic context in which decisions are made. Most organizations are product-based—“what service do I sell?” They may understand the market they’re selling to, but they may not understand the full view across the whole organization about how their customers are actually embracing products and services, and how the organization can enhance what they’re doing to build a richer value proposition.
What are some key lessons you’ve learned throughout your career about creating customers for life?
1. Understand the purpose of your organization and ensure that you focus 100% on delivering against the experience customers would expect from buying that product or service.
2. Once you think you got it right, never stop focusing on what you can do better. The spirit of continuous improvement is what keeps you relevant, growing, and ultimately creates health and sustainability for your business over time.