COLLOQUY published a report earlier this year titled, “The Consumer Inside.” The report, made available on the American Marketing Association’s Web site, focuses on the importance of building brand loyalty among customers in the business-to-business market segment.
The author, Rick Ferguson, introduces the report by explaining the origins of the now infamous Rolodex. “This information allowed salespeople to fashion themselves as walking versions of the ultimate B2B value proposition: I both understand your critical business needs and know something about you as a person.”
He continues by declaring “it’s that latter part of the equation that’s still missing from most B2B marketing efforts. Particularly in the small-business market, loyalty-marketing efforts that focus solely on the hard-benefit side of the equation still predominate. What’s missing is the human element.”
So how do we as marketers develop CRM programs that focus on the latter? How do we help our customers prove that they know something about their customers?
Ferguson suggests that we start “by building a loyalty platform on a strong foundation of customer data—and leveraging that platform to identify, understand and influence the consumer behind the account number.”
Identify. Understand. Influence.
Ferguson brings up a point we commonly experience in client strategy meetings. The importance of identifying key decision-makers, and how there is not an approach that will work the same for every business-to-business customer we are attempting to contact.
Ferguson offers three different techniques for identifying these decision-makers:
1. Give them some face time.
2. Launch a B2B loyalty program.
3. Use Web 2.0
While it may seem commonsensical, business-to-business marketers must truly understand their audience before they can create messaging that appeals to their customer’s unmet desires in a vendor. According to Ferguson, “It’s the database, stupid.”
My enterprise software sales experience taught me to appreciate the value of customer information. And that value goes far beyond knowing their mailing address and job title!
But, how do we create a database that has the “right” information for a particular business-to-business segment?
Below are three keys to creating a quality database:
1. Treat you database as an asset.
2. Thou shalt not live on transactional data alone.
3. Become a data conduit.
Now that you have identified decision-makers and created/improved your customer database, it’s time to influence your audience. Ferguson suggests that “behavior change typically manifests itself in one of three ways: you encourage them to buy more often (frequency), buy more stuff (value) and stay longer (retention).
Ways to enhance your influence:
1. Implement the Gemini Effect.
2. Leverage the power of the network.
3. Seek strategically-aligned partners.
Ferguson and COLLOQUY put forth a tremendous effort creating this resource. It really rang true for me because we are constantly looking for ways to improve our clients’ relationships with their customers. My previous enterprise sales experience may have created a bias, but I believe most business-to-business companies will need to focus the majority of their efforts on identifying and understanding their audiences. Being influential in a prospect’s life should be a natural progression after a company masters the first two steps.
I highly recommend that you read the full version of the COLLOQUY report, and that you share this with your business-to-business colleagues.