19 May 2014
A B2B sales cycle is a marathon, not a sprint. And it can be an exhausting one. The content marketing, the lead generation, the lead nurturing, and the number of people involved in the sale. So once you’ve spent days, weeks, months, maybe even a year and you finally get that sale, you’re done, right? Don’t put on your pajamas and fuzzy bunny slippers just yet because B2B customer retention is just as important as getting that sale in the first place.
B2B companies, particularly manufacturers, deal with niche markets. The number of customers is limited, and the sales are often in the high dollar amounts. Retaining these customers is important. Each account means more to the bottom line because the pool of customers is smaller and the value of each account is higher.
Because the process of actually obtaining the customer is so long, there’s no reason to throw away all that effort. B2B customer retention is about continuing the customer relationship and the positive vibes they get from your company. Even though you’re selling to a business, the people behind the screen don’t want to feel discarded after a sale. They want to know that customer service addressing their needs is still available.
In a Thomas Industrial Network study, 55% of industrial marketers listed customer retention in their top five advertising goals for this past year. To further emphasize the importance of B2B customer retention, the ThomasNet Industrial Purchasing Barometer also shows that 73% of engineers researched only three to five suppliers on average before a sale. So what does that mean? It means that engineers, often the first people to look at a manufacturer when deciding whom to buy from, only select from a few companies. And if you’re at the top of their list because of a past positive experience, then you’re a step ahead of your competitors.
According a report by SumAll, 25% to 40% of the total revenues of the businesses studied came from returning customers. Customers who buy once have a 27% chance of returning. For a customer who bought from a company the fourth time, the possibility of return had tripled! B2B customer retention has tangible value to a company, and the SumAll report recommends spending 25% of your marketing on returning customers.
There are several ways to invest in B2B customer retention. Email is a great first start. Aside from all the pertinent information, such as receipts, shipping notices, etc., customers also appreciate messages about relevant items, sales, or other special offers. Customizing these emails to relate them to past purchases and order history further personalizes the experience.
Forrester, in a list of customer service trends for 2013, saw a 12% increase in web self-service use, 24% in chat use, and 25% in community use. All of these options provide support for your customers after the fact, whether they need instruction, troubleshooting, or workarounds. The research is clear: customers want a way to ask questions and contact a company after purchase. If you leave them high and dry, then your competitor is likely to swoop in and get their next sale.
As a strategy for B2B customer retention, content management is just as important as it is in lead generation and lead nurturing. Creating and curating interesting content such as blogs, webinars, and video content serves several purposes to getting repeat customers.
First, content marketing establishes your company as a thought leader in your particular market. This expertise reinforces the trust that a customer has for you, trust you earned when first making the sale. And second, content marketing helps build a community around your company and your brand. Active participants not only buy (and re-buy) from you, but some also become evangelists for the product in addition to helping other members of your community.
When thinking about B2B customer retention, remember how long it took you to get that sale in the first place. And have empathy for the customer as well. Think about the time they took to research, compare you with competitors, check reviews, all before ultimately deciding to go with your company. Both of you deserve a long and fruitful relationship. For their state of mind and your bottom line.