The Best Way to Achieve B2B Customer Retention

The Best Way to Achieve B2B Customer Retention

Mark Herbert

b2b customer retention

Your company’s goal is to increase sales through customer retention. Only problem? Your company sells to other businesses, not consumers. So taking the B2C customer re-engagement route with stamp cards and promos is not only inefficient, it could be disastrous. As Sean Geehan, author of The B2B Executive Playbook puts it, B2B companies should implement strategies that make “sustainable, predictable, and profitable growth” possible. That is, focus on B2B customer retention by deepening your relationship with key decision makers through giving value strategically. So, how can you add value to existing clients the B2B way?

Separate B2B customers into tiers.

Giving the value your clients want to see begins with developing a robust customer loyalty strategy. But that strategy needs customer data to thrive, to help your company understand how to personalize what value means for each customer. How can you start collecting this data? With defined customer tiers.

Kick off your customer retention strategy by arranging your current customers into three defined tiers based on their value to your company. You can do this using the 20/60/20 theory. Take a look at this chart to get started.

Bottom 20% customers Middle 60% customers Top 20% customers
These customers will never spend more on you, most likely because they can’t afford to, or have a preferred vendor. There is room to make change in this group, the middle 60% majority. These clients are top-tier and are likely to be the most loyal to your company.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t engage them in a cost-effective way. Provide value to them with product insights that make their jobs easier and incentives for occasional repeat purchases. Your B2B customer loyalty strategy, engagement efforts, and incentive programs should target this group most. They have the most to offer in terms of ROI. Thank top tier clients with exclusive access to corporate events and travel incentives that reward their continued loyalty.

Sorting customers by their value to your company captures a clear snapshot of which group is the most loyal, most susceptible to churn, and those in between. That way, resources are spent efficiently and effectively. It also allows you to target specific client pools with individualized messages and calls to action that fit their industry, what they are looking for, and current pain points.

Depending on your company, clients, and industry, value could mean anything. A good rule of thumb, though, is to define client value by contract. Who spends the most? The least? From there, you can decide who is the most loyal and who may need more nurturing.

Customer engagement opportunities are endless when you understand the how, why, and where to providing value to your existing accounts. One benefit of having defined customer tiers is that you can single out and incentivize specific groups using B2B loyalty software that schedules sales promotions and rewards customers that meet purchasing milestones.

Collect customer data to personalize marketing and communications.

You’ve studied your customers, divided them up into specific tiers, and now you’re ready to engage them, but how? Personalized marketing, of course! Talking to your customers in their language, market, or competitive situation shows that you’re more than a nameless entity they purchase goods from – you’re an expert, business partner, and confidant all rolled up into one.

Before you pull out all the stops on marketing automation software (because, why not?), here’s some useful steps to make sure you’re ready to take the plunge engaging your customers in their own backyards.

1. Align sales and marketing to better leverage time and effort

It takes a village of sales and marketing professionals to retain B2B customers, so why would you kick start a loyalty strategy knowing that these teams are woefully misaligned? Hopefully, you wouldn’t. But if you’re thinking about charging ahead, here’s what you can do to assure your teams are aligned, and holding each other accountable for their respective tasks toward a single goal:

  • Standardize language, metrics, and view of the sales funnel.
  • Coordinate shared goals so that marketing can get sales what they need and vice versa.
  • Create accountability with a Service Level Agreement.

A report by Aberdeen Research discovered that “companies that are best-in-class at aligning marketing and sales experienced an average of 20% growth in annual revenue, compared to a 4% decline in laggard organizations.” In the B2B space where customer pools are smaller and contracts are significantly larger, there’s no room for laggard companies.

2. Integrate online platforms and business tools to house all customer data in one place.

Now that sales and marketing are aligned, integrate the software and business tools both teams use track leads, measure data, monitor sales and more. You can align sales’ and marketing’s language and goals all day, but it’s the integration of technology that puts both teams on the same playing field for the long haul.

Roll your CRM solution, marketing automation software, and B2B loyalty program (i.e. CRM Integration) together for a holistic view of sales and customer data. When sales and marketing teams can access, with single sign-on, data across multiple platforms, they can see what clients redeem, creating an opening for contact.

3. Create and consistently update master records for each client.

A fortunate byproduct of integrating your business tools and B2B loyalty software is the relative ease your sales and marketing teams should have creating and collaborating on a master record for each client. Use the customer data in the customer’s master record to understand their needs, purchasing habits and unique business challenges. Master records help marketers predict a client’s future needs and help them see what products address those needs. For efficiency, store all master records in one place, so that salespeople and marketers access it with ease.

Invest in account-based marketing (AB marketing) to increase customer retention.

A research study conducted by Bain & Company reports that B2B companies can expect between a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits with just a 5 percent boost of their customer retention rate. Another big statistic, this time from the Harvard Business Review, says that

“it’s 25 times more expensive to bring on a new customer than to keep an already existing one.” The best way to reap the benefits of B2B customer loyalty? Three words: account-based marketing.”

A Tenfold article describes account-based marketing (or, AB marketing) as “focusing your campaigns on specific prospects that you single out ahead of time.” AB marketing can better align your customer retention strategy with revenue simply by zeroing in on what your customers want and how their businesses are unique. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator make listening and responding to your current customer’s needs easier, boosting your ability to be proactive and intentional in your interactions with them.

Need more data? Offer a B2B loyalty program that rewards participants for completing surveys to acquire more customer intelligence. While B2B customers enjoy engaging content and games, you learn more about them and can make better forecasts.

Educate B2B customers on your product’s value.

Your customers may not always know why your products are a great fit for them. Make it easy for them to educate themselves on your products by providing a training program. Go a step further and offer existing clients incentive rewards for completing this training (see Learn and Earn). Training reminds customers of your value proposition and rewards them for taking steps to learn more.

Don’t be afraid to develop webinars, workshops, and even customer-centric blog posts that highlight the importance of an underused product or service features, new industry insights, or product functionality. By creating specialized training and content, you show your customers that you’re more than invested in their success. You’re coaching them through their goals.

A word of advice – no training blitzes! A recent HubSpot article advocates for

“education to come in stages [as] it only makes adoption more likely when information comes in bite-size chunks [and] makes you look like the gift (or company) that keeps giving.”

This is why customers should be able to access your training platform or content at their leisure. Mobile-friendly training platforms make this easy, especially when there are redeemable rewards attached to that certificate of completion.

Add recognition to your B2B customer retention strategy.

Recognize your customers for their achievements in case studies and other content. Ultimately, their success is your success. In fact, after Oracle began actively engaging with decision makers of a particular client, its customer retention rate was more than 20% higher. But be intentional and honest about it. Tenfold states,

“praise is still a great way to get on the better side of your customers – just make sure the compliments are thoroughly justified.”

Develop the best B2B customer loyalty program around gamification.

Make doing business with you even more fun with a B2B loyalty program that utilizes gamification. Gamification adds unique features to your program such as enrollment bonus points, and virtual games like Spin to Win and Scratch off to win extra points. Benefits like these help keep your customers engaged and coming back for more. How else can you keep customers excited about working with you?

  • Offer a fair pay-out system that rewards that are proportionate to the effort they put forth.
  • Offer exclusive chances to earn 2X or 3X more reward points than normal on certain products.
  • Keep it fresh, keep it fun! Provide diversity in rewards and promotions. The best way to do this is with a reward catalog that has millions of reward options.
  • Partner with non-competing companies in your industry, so that they have more opportunities to rack up points in other places.

Offer corporate events and incentive travel opportunities that strategically increases B2B customer engagement.

Celebrate your customer’s continued loyalty with events that introduce new product updates, invites feedback, and highlights customer’s success stories. Offer incentive travel to those top 20% or 10% of your customer base. Both well-placed events and incentive travel show your appreciation for your customer’s loyalty and builds an unbreakable bond with them. Oxford Economics reported that companies who properly manage their incentive travel events see a 4:1 return on investment (ROI).

In B2B, your most loyal customers are the backbone of your business, and incentive travel is one of the most lucrative loyalty rewards you can offer. Celebrating success together and exchanging ideas in a fun, relaxing environment creates shared memories and long-lasting bonds that take B2B relationships from merely transaction-based to trusted, value partnerships. Incentive travel is the pinnacle of offering customers a unique, personalized experience with your brand.

Focus B2B loyalty strategies on customer retention.

Customer retention is the very lifeblood of your marketing. This being the case, a B2B customer loyalty program should have different strategies and implementation than a B2C loyalty program. While a B2C company may market their customer loyalty program to be far-reaching and focus on mass appeal, a B2B loyalty program should focus on being more customized and individualized, to retain certain VIP customers.

Here are a few strategies for giving your B2B loyalty program highly a customer retention focus:

Promote your brand values through your loyalty program.

Being upfront about your brand values garners trust and helps you attract customers whose values align with your brand’s. A study conducted by Google and CEB found that B2B customers’ loyalty is far more influenced by a company’s brand values and trustworthiness than business value.

Your brand values may be focused on safety, innovation, energy efficiency or cost-effectiveness. Whatever they may be, your values can shine through in how you present your loyalty program and its purpose, how you communicate to program participants, the kinds of behaviors you reward and the types of loyalty rewards you offer. For instance, if your brand image is of an innovative company that’s ahead of the curve technology-wise, you might want to focus on rewarding B2B customers for selling new, cutting-edge products.

You’re much more likely to seal the customer retention deal if customers easily understand your brand values and identify with them.

Improve customer experience with online technology.

Many B2B companies can’t do much to distinguish themselves in terms of product due to industry standards that dictate much of manufacturing. When that’s the case, elevating the customer experience is a great way to stand out and secure customer retention.

Customer experience once belonged only to the storefront, B2C world. But thanks to the Internet, customer experience has expanded into new realms—realms in which you can control and improve that customer experience. A loyalty program results in your customers associating their purchasing experience with rewards that enhance their lives, especially if your program has features like wishlists, profiles and avatars that personalize the program.

On top of that, online loyalty program technology allows you to communicate with participants in various ways. Built-in communication capabilities allow you to send push notifications, texts, emails and more to select groups at select times. This allows you to connect to those who prefer digital messages easily, while still sending flyers and postcards to those who still prefer old-fashioned snail mail.

Provide convenience through a loyalty app or mobile optimized program.

Studies show convenience plays a major role in customer retention. This is especially true of B2B customers, who are particularly busy. They may spend a lot of time out in the field, visiting inspection and installation sites and tending to other demands that keep them away from a PC or laptop. They need a fast loyalty program that’s easy to use and keeps up with their on-the-go lifestyle. You can offer them this convenience with a mobile-optimized loyalty program or loyalty app.

Loyalty apps allow your customers to receive push notifications about new program updates, check on promotions relative to their current location and client needs or upload invoices, warranty registrations and other documentation on-the-spot to authenticate their sales claims and receive their loyalty rewards instantly.

Offer training incentives.

A study conducted by Objective Management Group found that a shockingly high number of sales reps—three out of four—are woefully underperforming. This is likely due to many misconceptions about sales, namely how much (or little) training is needed to be a salesperson.

Offering training incentives through your loyalty program can help you abate some of these struggles with salespeople. Use loyalty program software capable of delivering configurable training content and rewards, so B2B customers and sales reps can earn instant incentives for enhancing their knowledge of your products or services. Online surveys, quizzes and daily trivia, for example, are easy to access. Convenience and loyalty rewards give participants extra incentive to keep up with important product knowledge, which increases their confidence in selling your brand to contractors or end-users.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You’re looking at two companies with the same product. How do you decide? Odds are, you would choose the company that gives you the most personal value. The one where you feel rewarded for being a loyal customer. This is why your B2B customer retention program is so important. Your business needs to make sure your customer experience and loyalty value stack up to the competition.

Are you doing everything you can to keep your customers happy with your business? Is your B2B customer loyalty or retention plan good enough to be a contender? Follow the infographic below for some tips to help you improve your B2B loyalty program!

The Best Way to Achieve B2B Customer Retention

In B2B markets, where a small handful of customers can often make or break your business, customer retention is crucial. Anything you can do to enhance the customer’s experience and make your brand more valuable to buyers is a wise investment. Operating a customer loyalty program the right way—by focusing on customer retention rather than acquisition—is one of the best ways to keep customers loyal.