Focus on the Relationship, Not Just the Transaction
I had the opportunity to visit a midsized B-to-B cataloger last week. As usual, the management gave me the tour with great pride and conviction that its solution and service were the best. After I left the business, however, I realized all of the conversation had been about “getting the order,” and very little on “earning the customer.”
Questions I asked about recency/frequency/monetary (RFM), best-performing customer segments, variations in customer needs and wants, among other things, were answered superficially. It reminded me that in B-to-B, our focus has to be on earning the customer, not just getting the next order. It came as no surprise then that this particular business was struggling with a low median order value (evidence of being cherry-picked) and high customer attrition.
So, how about your business? Are you focused on establishing and maintaining long and profitable customer relationships? Do you know which customers you need to cultivate? Here are some tips to help you establish profitable, long-term customer relationships.
* Do the basic analysis correctly: RFMP&C (recency, frequency, monetary, product & channel); site penetration vs. site potential; lost customer analysis; and so on. Then act on what the analysis tells you.
* Make sure you’re doing consultative selling and relationship building both on the phone and online. Emphasize helping your customers buy and use your products and services to accomplish their objectives, not just to take an order.
* Sell your intelligence. Oftentimes in B-to-B, the cost of your product is secondary to the cost of not having it or the value of having the intelligence (installation, application, repair, warranty, etc.) that goes with what you’re selling.
* Understand what your various customer segments are buying and what they’re doing with what they buy. If you understand your customers’ end goals, you can better present yourself as their partner in reaching those goals. Know that their goal is not just to buy your product.
* Develop supportive relationships with all levels within your customer’s organization — purchasing, engineering, operations, management, etc. There are likely multiple influencers with different needs in your clients’ organizations, and you must please them all.
* If you lose a customer, know why and fix it.
* If you gain a customer, know why and exploit it.
* Know that all customer relationships are personal relationships, and treat them that way. Never having met the customer is no excuse for not making the relationship personal.
* Your customer relationships should be personalized and tailored; true one-to-one communication and interaction. With today’s available technology, there’s no excuse for “mass communication.”
Building relationships with your customers translates into growing and prosperous B-to-B operations, and loyalty that can’t be penetrated by the “offer of the day.”
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Terence Jukes is president of Ability Commerce, a 140-person firm that designs, builds and runs e-commerce and related marketing programs for catalog companies. He can be reached at TerryJ@AbilityCommerce.com.