Marketing to business professionals is a challenge. We are in constant competition for their time, attention, and business and need to navigate our way through the maze of decision-makers. Throughout the hierarchy, each employee has a different background, need, and attitude. This ultimately generates a challenge for marketing professionals in the business-to-business marketplace.
What's more, B2B marketing has a tendency (for obvious reasons) to focus on lead generation. Clearly, as marketers, it is our job to generate interest in the products or services the company is selling.
While a B2B marketing plan focused on lead generation should continue to be a top priority, there is a new customer focused effort emerging. It only makes sense: The customer is already committed to your organization, you know who the decision-maker is, and you know what their needs are. Unfortunately, many B2B marketers do not focus enough attention on their best asset for revenue—their customers.
A customer-centric B2B marketing plan is about building a relationship and creating a conversation with your customers using the intelligence you have. In its most raw form, customer marketing complements the sales organization to understand what the customer is looking for through a dynamic and personalized conversation. This strategy requires us to see the world from the customer's perspective and understand how to keep, nurture, and develop profitable customers.
When customer marketing is done well, the needs of the buyer are understood and made a priority. For many B2B organizations, the needs of the buyer can range from technical support and product education to a simple product update making their job easier. Once you determine the needs of your customer, it becomes apparent how to focus on those needs and understand the value of customer marketing.
A B2B customer marketing plan consists of many of the same programs a lead generation plan has. These include marketing programs such as e-marketing, trade shows, social media, and more. Yet, do not dismiss the importance of those programs. Nurturing a relationship with your customers is still very much based on touch points and brand awareness. But, studies note it costs 10 times more to generate a new customer than to maintain an existing one. Therefore, there should always be a focus on customer marketing.
There are a few unique elements B2B marketing professionals can adopt that are focused entirely on the customer needs. These will help you build a genuine relationship with your customers outside the sales process. These programs include a customer network, customer care program, reference program and database, user group, beta program, customer appreciation events, case studies, among other components.
It is important to note these programs can be developed on a very small budget. For example, when Double-Take Software launched the Inner Circle customer care program two years ago, it was done so with an entrepreneurial spirit. Today, due to the value and success of the project, it has grown into a funded program. Thanks to a loyal customer base, support for this program was embraced and customers were eager to become a part of something developed exclusively for them.
The Inner Circle was originally designed to make sure the customer's voice continued to be heard. In return, Double-Take has created a genuine long-term relationship with their members and can hear first-hand their business problems and needs. Using this information, Double-Take has continued to develop new customer marketing programs that complement the sales strategy, make the up-sell process easier, and leverage the voice of the customer to support the entire organization's efforts.
The goals of the Inner Circle program continue to focus increasing revenue and brand awareness, enhancing the public relations program, strengthening customer satisfaction and retention, and growing the renewal rate. The benefits to the customer include press and speaking opportunities, thought leadership offers, first access to product news and updates, a customer network for peers in the IT industry, and special promotions. The ROI for Double-Take continues to be loyal customers who continue to buy and are actively engaged in a genuine relationship with their vendor.
Without a doubt, a customer marketing plan focused on customer retention has enormous strategic value for increasing company profit and growth. For B2B marketers, begin with understanding your customer needs and start a dialogue. Once the customer is actively engaged, then build the relationship and unleash the power of customer marketing.
Danielle Pryor is the customer programs manager for Double-Take Software.