Even in the B2C world, it costs more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. But this is especially true in B2B markets where you work with drastically fewer customers. Customer retention is the very lifeblood of your marketing. This being the case, a B2B customer loyalty program should have slightly 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 who’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 notification, 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.
Integrate your loyalty program with CRM technology.
Integrating your loyalty program with your customer relationship management (CRM) system allows an exchange of customer data between the two platforms. Collecting and streamlining more customer data helps you create a more complete picture of your B2B buyers, their purchasing habits, their needs, their average spend, etc.. Then you can market to them more effectively with specific messages. More specific marketing and interactions leads channel partners to value your brand above others and becoming more loyal customers.
Reward VIP customers with something major: incentive travel!
Incentive trips are a bigger investment than other loyalty rewards, so they should be reserved as special opportunities exclusive to your most important, loyal customers. 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. Oxford Economics reported that companies who properly manage their incentive travel events see a 4:1 return on investment (ROI).
Why are incentive trips so effective? Celebrating success together and exchange 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.
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.