28 May 2014
B2B customers are people too. And like retail customers, they make purchases based on emotion and intuition. B2B customers like to know there’s more than a faceless website in front of them, just like B2C shoppers. So if you want to make the B2B sale, customer engagement, person to person, is critical.
Gallup performed a study to test the effects of engaging with customers in a variety of B2B settings.
The resulting data proves the importance of customer engagement. In one example, a manufacturing company, fully engaged customers made up 37% more of the share of business than disengaged groups.
If you want to reap the benefits of fully engaged customers, start by telling them a compelling story. From cavemen gathering around a fire to a customer entering their local shop, human beings appreciate a good narrative. And telling a compelling story on the web isn’t that different. People are still people. Customers respond to well-crafted messages with active language that are relevant to their interests.
The quality of your content determines customer engagement. If a crucial part of your company’s story is your brand new manufacturing facility, why not provide a video tour around the location and post that on your website? Client success stories also work on both an emotional and empirical level to prove the value of your offerings. Relevance is key. Relevant to your customers’ interests and relevant to your products.
Conversations are as important as sales pitches. Once you’ve received permission from your webshop visitors to email them, via an opt-in newsletter or a lead form, maintain the conversation. B2B sales often have long sales cycles, so continued customer engagement makes your company memorable while your customers forget about the competition.
Blogs and product reviews are excellent sources of conversation. For blogs, this comes in the form of a comments section. If you want to build a healthy community around your blog, begin by writing posts that share information, help solve problems, and subtly convey the benefits of your products. Then try moving on to actively solicit questions about your offerings and spur even more conversation by addressing concerns directly.
Product reviews offer an opportunity for your site to feature user-generated content. This type of content benefits SEO and continues the dialogue you have with your customers. Your webshop visitors are more likely to trust your products and site when they read positive reviews from other shoppers like them. This type of customer engagement and trust building is worth the risk of a stray negative review. A pitch puts the customer on the defensive, but a conversation about the pros and cons of a product engages them and shows your company to be honest.
An online recommendation engine also gives that local store feeling. As in our earlier example, people receiving company narratives is commonly accepted. Customers in brick-and-mortar shops get recommendations all the time. By tailoring your recommendations or customer-specific prices and discounts (even easier if they have an account and prior purchase history), you further promote customer engagement.
By keeping customers engaged with relevant content, you convey the value of your products and the integrity of your company. Start by conversing, not pitching, and your website will feel more welcoming and inviting to your prospective customers. As proven with the Gallup study, customer engagement has real value and gives real results.