5 Steps to More Loyal B2B Customers

5 Steps to More Loyal B2B Customers

Nichole Gunn

brand loyalty distribution channel partners

Is the word out about your B2B customer loyalty program? If not, we have a few creative ways to promote your B2B customer loyalty program. But let’s start with the basics. One of the best ways to successfully max out program enrollments and engagement is to show participants what’s in it for them. The trick is getting people excited about all the great benefits your loyalty program provides.

These first nine tips will help you promote your B2B customer loyalty program, and get everyone just as excited about it as you are.

Tip #1: Launch your B2B customer loyalty program with a contest.

Because who doesn’t love winning?

  • Invite your target audience to a loyalty program kick-off. How? A raffle or contest! These drum up interest in the program throughout your program launch.
  • A study from Open Forum found that contests are a proven way to increase engagement.

Tip #2: Get extremely personal.

But not in the weird, clingy way.

  • A of the most creative ways to promote your B2B customer loyalty program is to show your customer the value of your brand. Set up your loyalty program to be the mouthpiece for what your brand stands for. When customers understand your brand values, they tend to trust you more.
  • Personalization improves your customer experience. Even if it’s as simple as adding a name token in your incentive program messages, do it. A Feedback Loop study found a strong link between personalized subject lines and open rates. For example, the subject line: “[FirstName], how are things?” got a 40% higher open rate than “Any feedback for Feedback Loop?” (68.18% versus 28.57%).
  • Don’t be afraid to send participants personalized reminders about their reward points balance. These reminders keep participants active, reminding them to redeem or get items in their wishlist. For example, “Hey, Terry, are you still interested in a new juicer? It’s on sale in the online rewards catalog!”

1055195Tip #3: Go mobile, now!

There’s an incentive program app for that.

  • A 2015 Gallup poll found that 52% of people who own smartphones check their phones multiple times an hour. It’s been a few years since that study, and the number has doubtlessly increased since then. Nowadays, people’s work and personal lives happen on their phones. To get the most impact out of your incentive program, meet participants where they are – their phone!
  • Mobile apps take your incentive program to the next level. Not only will it make your loyalty program conveniently available on-the-go, it makes running your program easier. For example, when your salespeople want to submit sales claims from the field, they can upload it on your program’s mobile app.

Tip #4: Cut through the noise with direct mail.

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman!

  • A study from DashBurst found that 70-80% of consumers are more likely to open almost all their physical mail, including “junk”. It gets better. Seventy-nine percent of consumers say they act on direct mail immediately compared to 45% who say the same of emails. Where’d you put those stamps, again?
  • Before you start mailing your participants, please note that personalization is still king here. Snail mail is most effective when it’s personalized. So use participant data from your online loyalty program database to create personalized messages with effective calls to action.

Tip #5: Offer exclusive promotions to certain B2B customers.

VIP status, woo-hoo!

  • Specificity reigns with incentive plans, especially if you’re trying to get the most out of your programs. You should set up specific goals for specific groups. Once you have your groups divided up, create a VIP group for people who go above and beyond. A HelpScout study found that people were 15% more likely to respond to a message’s call to action when they were labeled as being exclusive.
  • Specialized promotions give you more perspective about the specific groups in your loyalty program. Do certain channel partners in a region or country outperform better than others. And under what circumstances? Promotions aimed at specific pools of people can teach you a lot about performance in your department, sales channels or customer bases. This gives you valuable market insights that can feed into your channel marketing strategies.

Tip #6: Roll out open enrollment for everyone.

Show them that they, too, can get involved! 5 Steps to More Loyal B2B Customers

  • Kick-off your loyalty program with open enrollment. Open enrollment lets any participant sign up for your program. Not only does this benefit the participant. It benefits you, too. You can find out who your sellers are (in some supply chains, sellers may be unknown). There’s more potential for you to have a larger, more engaged audience. The last benefit for you concerns data. When participants register for your program, they do so with a form. With the right incentive technology, you can manage your form your way. Meaning you can collect the participant contact and industry trends data you want to know at the start of the program.

Tip #7: Use CRM integration technology with your incentive program.

It’s kind of like the Beatles song about coming together – except with customer data.

  • Integration can be a beast. Everyone wants it, but few have the tools or technology to get it. The best way to integrate your existing software with your incentive program is to bring on an incentive management company. Use an incentive provider that makes the transition easy. The company should offer to integrate your CRM with your loyalty program database. In theory, this should help you get holistic customer data from sales claims submissions into your CRM system, and vise versa.
  • On the “macro” marketing level, you get a more detailed picture of your customers. This helps you develop better marketing strategies, so you can identify customer trends, preferences and demands.
  • Even more, you get more details about your customers. This helps you create a more personal, relevant marketing message that speaks to their unique needs, preferences, purchase habits, and more.

Tip #8: Jumpstart their incentive journey with sign-up bonuses.

Give them a headstart with a few loyalty rewards.

  • Marketing professors Joseph Nunes and Xavier Drèze discovered something strange. In their Endowed Progress Effect study, the academics saw that customers were more likely to use “free car wash” customer loyalty punch-cards if the cards had ten spaces with two space already punched. If they were given the same card, but with no spaces punched, they were less likely to return. The former loyalty card produces an “artificial advancement” effect, even though customers still have to work similarly for the reward. The punched card made 34% of people act on it versus 19% who had the blank card.

There are ways to make your B2B customers feel like they’re halfway there. One good idea is to give enrollees points just for signing up for your program. Or, give them rewards to update their profiles. Use visual cues like graphs and thermometers to represent a portion of their goal a progress. These are just a few creative ways to promote your B2B customer loyalty program and get the most out of it, quickly.

Tip #9: Get inspired by your loyalty program reports.

Let customer data be your muse.

  • When you look at your user engagement activity reports available in your loyalty program, what do you see? Any spikes in activity during certain times? What about during the holidays? If you see spikes as the holidays approach, consider running a holiday-themed campaign to encourage reward redemptions.
  • Every customer loyalty participant audience is different. Activity reports that are native to your loyalty program software tells you how to best motivate your channel partners. So go ahead and explore your program reports regularly to identify growth opportunities and areas to improve.

The main drive of a business should be to keep your clients coming back (revenue) and not lose them to your competitors (turnover). Recent research from Inc. says that it costs a business about 5-10 times more to acquire a new client than it does to sell to an existing one — and on average those current clients spend 67% more than a new one. Basically, keeping existing clients around is like earning free money! Losing them is like giving money away.

But how do you keep them coming back? Aside from an excellent product or service, many clients will stay with a business if they are a member of that business’s B2B customer loyalty program. They’re a great tool to enhance your business.

What about when your loyalty program is up and running? How can you make sure it stays engaging to customers and gains ROI? Let’s look at some ways you can keep things running smoothly.

Five ideas for a high-performing B2B customer loyalty program

  • Don’t Complicate Things – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) is the way to go if you want your clients and channel partners to engage in your program. People don’t want to have to do complex math and/or need a calculator and a notepad to make sense of the value of the points they earn. It should be simple, like “x points = x dollars.”
  • Use a Tiered System – Give a small reward as an initial offering for joining the program. You can then encourage them to move up the “loyalty ladder” by increasing the value of the rewards as they progress. This will ensure that they continue making purchases from you, and that they feel they’re being rewarded for their increased loyalty. It answers the question of “what’s in it for me?” for all parties involved.
  • Paid VIP Club – In some instances, a one-time, annual fee that lets them bypass certain purchasing requirements in the program can actually be beneficial. They may want to participate in your program but don’t want to have to buy the first 15 items to get the points later on from buying bigger items. A pay “VIP” club lets them get in on the action they want without having to trip over the small details.
  • Discounts – If you want them to keep coming back, but don’t want to have to do the whole program thing, try offering promotional coupons and discount codes. This idea works even better when partnered with a B2B customer loyalty incentive program. Providing value to your clients can oftentimes be just as fulfilling for them as a reward is. Doing this allows you and your programs to appeal to your entire customer base, and not just some of it.
  • Gamify It – Gamifying your loyalty program is an incredibly fun and easy way to encourage repeat purchases. And depending on the type of game you choose, you can also help solidify your brand’s image and relationship with the customer. Fun promotions make the customer feel much more intimately linked to your brand, and relationship is crucial to keeping it on top of your customers’ minds.

Today’s B2B buyers expect experiences that are rewarding, personalized, and connected. Luckily, the right loyalty program strategy can help businesses achieve these outcomes.

b2b loyalty program strategy infographic

Personalize B2B relationships.

B2B sales and marketing, with its lengthy sales process, buyer committees, and intense competition, can seem overwhelming. So where do you start? Sometimes it helps to see things in a visual format. Here are some ways B2B incentive programs help you stand out and create B2B customer experiences that are more rewarding, personalized, connected, and profitable.

1. Personalized Value

B2B customers want to know: “What’s in it for me?” This could be exceptional service, a great product, or your expertise…but those qualities are hard to communicate. Educating customers on those things takes time. But customer rewards present personalized value adds that everyone understands! Try incorporating them into your marketing efforts to build investment so that you have time to educate B2B buyers on your more substantial differentiators.

2. Omnichannel Communication

Customer experience is king. Today’s B2B buyers expect customer-centric, omnichannel engagement – from anywhere, around the clock. Luckily, modern B2B loyalty programs include one-stop digital hubs where customers can connect with your brand. Loyalty programs also introduce new touchpoints you can integrate into your B2B loyalty marketing, such as custom emails, SMS, push notifications, direct mailers, loyalty boxes, and reward redemption invoices.

3. Interactive Brand Education

The customer education process for B2B customers can be lengthy and – let’s be honest – a little dry. Incorporating interactive quizzes, trivia, surveys, and including educational collateral with your B2B loyalty program communications is a great way to break this information down into engaging, bite-size pieces. Plus, customers will be more engaged to begin with, since they have the opportunity to earn millions of rewards.

4. Recognition

Everyone wants to feel like their contributions are valued. Today’s B2B customers know they have options. They know their business is valuable. Loyalty rewards help you show your B2B customers that you recognize how important they are to you. Segmenting your audience and awarding bonus promotions to top performers ensures that your loyalty program is scalable, cost-effective, and more personalized.

5. Fun!

There’s an old saying about mixing business and pleasure, but fun is a powerful emotion that does influence B2B buyer decision-making. In fact, to quote Dan Grafstein and Bailey Nelson from Gallup:

Science tells us that our emotions influence the decisions we make — more so than rational thinking and objective data do… Gallup research demonstrates that emotions influence business outcomes more than leaders realize. In fact, behavioral economists have estimated that emotional factors comprise up to 70% of economic decision-making.

Rewards already inject fun into your B2B sales and marketing strategy. But you can incorporate elements of Gamification to make your loyalty program even more fun and engaging.
Exchange feedback: Finally, you need to capitalize on the connectivity and relationship capital your loyalty program provides by making it a two-way data exchange with B2B customers. Easy-to-use data upload tools and filesharing let motivated B2B customers supply more complete sales and marketing data, which in turn allows you to personalize your offers and your messaging.

6. Feedback

Exchange feedback: Finally, you need to capitalize on the connectivity and relationship capital your loyalty program provides by making it a two-way data exchange with B2B customers. Easy-to-use data upload tools and filesharing let motivated B2B customers supply more complete sales and marketing data, which in turn allows you to personalize your offers and your messaging.

Inspiring ongoing channel partner loyalty.

Many manufacturers struggle to stand out from their competitors. Creating a channel marketing strategy that helps you secure B2B customer loyalty is a never-ending effort. But if you break your duties down into these five steps, it will help you focus and devote your time and resources to strategies that result in loyal B2B customers.

1. Keep the B2B customer experience consistent.

Incorporate your brand values and image into your customer interactions whenever and wherever you can. This helps B2B customers build a stronger mental and emotional connection to you.

2. Base content on B2B customer data.

Whether you get customer data from your CRM, your B2B loyalty program, invoices or emails, you need strategies that feed all this information into one place, so each customer has a “master record” that includes all data. Use this data to develop content and experiences relevant to your customers.

3. Tailor your B2B loyalty program to different customer tiers.

Flexible, online B2B loyalty software will allow you to separate B2B customers into “tiers.” High-volume or VIP customers vs. low-volume, infrequent customers, for example. You can then create promotions and offers that are specific to their tier.

4. Educate and engage.

Communicate with your B2B customers by engaging with them on social media, offering high-quality content on your site and making education fun and rewarding. You can encourage participation in online training, quizzes, surveys and trivia by offering them rewards through your customer loyalty program.

5. End the relationship if they’re the wrong customer.

Sometimes even your best efforts at marketing your products and engaging with your customers fall on deaf ears. If that’s the case, you may be wasting resources on a customer that no longer has goals and values that align with yours. Know when it’s time to invest elsewhere to achieve loyal B2B customers.