Developing Stronger B2B Customer Relationships: 3 Customer Engagement Tactics

March 18, 2013

Developing Stronger B2B Customer Relationships: 3 Customer Engagement Tactics

How important are strong B2B customer relationships? You might be surprised how these three customer engagement tactics can help impact your bottom line.

A common misconception of business relationship management is that B2B buyers aren’t as emotionally invested in the relationship as their B2C counterparts.

At first glance, a Gallup study seems to confirm this: Only 22% of B2B customers termed themselves as “Engaged,” and only 13% are “Fully Engaged.”  However, very few B2B companies invest the time in attempting to engage their customers.

While customer satisfaction is an important driver of retention, it is not the only predictor of loyalty. It is important to get your customers emotionally engaged.

Why Should You Engage Your Customers? What Are the Benefits?

The Gallup Study above found that: “Fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth, while actively disengaged customers represent a 13% discount on the same measures.”

How to Get Your Customers Engaged

In the research studies I’ve run over the years, we have tested the biggest drivers of customer retention extensively. What we have commonly found is that emotional dimensions such as “Integrity, Pride, etc” play as strong a role as objective measures such as “Price, Product Features, etc.” This holds true for both B2C and B2B companies.

Building Trust is Key

At OpenView, we solely concentrate on the B2B SaaS space. Over the past few months, the Research & Analytics team has talked to many prospects and clients of SaaS companies and found a similar result to what Gallup reports. In the crowded SaaS space differentiation is very difficult. Of course a stellar product is required, but customers want more.
Most prospects and customers reported that trust is an important factor. They want to be able to regard their chosen vendor as a trusted adviser. This requires frequent touchpoints: emails checking in, phone calls to discuss what is going on in their company, and any new products or services that might be useful to them. They need to feel confident both parties are fully vested in the relationship.

Customer Engagement Role Models: The Automotive Industry

In the B2C world, the automotive industry does a fantastic job of including prospective buyer opinion throughout the development of a prototype vehicle. They produce teaser shots and solicit feedback on blogs, Twitter, and message boards to build a buzz and — more importantly — develop a connection to their product. Before a car is formally introduced, a microsite goes live where the public can configure various options and learn more about the automobile prior to release. They also offer up their product design teams to the press. The logic is, no one can speak with more passion and enthusiasm than the very people who created the automobile.

3 Customer Engagement Tactics for B2B Companies

Of course, in the B2B world not all of this is possible. In the spirit of keeping things simple, here are a few tactics:

  1. Keep customers informed of new product releases and exciting features via phone or email.
  2. Solicit questions about your product or company and then address them in a blog or a webinar (if product related). As mentioned, customers especially love to hear from the product team about their vision for the product and roadmap.
  3. Offer customers a sneak peak of future releases of a SaaS product, and solicit their feedback.

Customer engagement is a difficult concept for B2B businesses, especially since it can take a long time to establish. While it does require extra effort, it can positively impact your bottom line. Not only will engaged customers buy more, they can also become vocal advocates for your brand.

Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.