Strike Up B-to-B Activity in the Consumer World
Patient: Doctor, although I have a consumer catalog, I’ve found some business customers on my list. I’m unsure of whether or not to try to find more business customers. Is B-to-B a good growth tonic for me, or a snake-oil serum?
Catalog Doctor: B-to-B can be a good segment for some consumer catalogers to try to grow, especially if you sell business-appropriate gifts or productivity products. Plus, average order values can be double that of consumers, which can help cure slow growth and profitability. To grow that B-to-B segment, however, you need different treatments than you’re used to. Here’s a nine-step prescription.
1. Hang a welcome sign.
Set aside space in your catalog telling businesses that you’re open for business with them. Say you understand and can serve their needs, and explain why your products are right for their business.
2. Offer volume discounts.
A great advantage of B-to-B is business’s tendency to buy in quantity. To encourage quantity buying, follow these three steps:
* Develop a discount schedule;
* Analyze what your savings will be on large orders due to savings like lower per-order labor costs; and
* Pass a portion of that volume savings on to your customers as an incentive.
3. Offer credit terms, purchase orders.
Don’t force B-to-B customers to change their business practices to do business with you — adjust to them. Make sure your systems can accommodate billing terms and accept purchase orders, and that your accounting department can accommodate credit checking. Don’t try to make B-to-B customers all pay by credit card. You’ll vastly decrease your catalog’s B-to-B potential.
4. Have specially trained CSRs available.
You needn’t have a dedicated B-to-B customer service team at first. But do train a few of your top customer service staffers to take B-to-B calls and help walk business customers through questions, options and ordering.