It’s important for customers to feel wanted. This creates loyalty with a brand. In the Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) markets there is certainly a drive by large brands to create this loyalty.
Consumer brands connect with consumers through cause marketing activations supporting non-profits, by providing education and tools that help consumers with their diet, money management, child safety, etc., and even by connecting them with other like-minded individuals while satisfying their competitive edge Examples of these would be BMW’s support for women’s breast cancer, Proctor & Gamble’s Mom’s Club and MapMyRun.
Due to the activities of these brands, the consumers become engaged and connected. It’s no small feat to create this brand loyalty, but it is possible when the brand exhibits the same core principles and beliefs as the consumer.
The Business to Business (B2B) market is equally able to utilize this approach, but there is generally one significant difference. In the B2B space, it is oftentimes individuals buying from sales people, not buying from a faceless brand. This represents a challenge for companies. A B2B enterprise typically relies heavily on the sales channel to engage their client and develop the relationship. In B2B marketing, there has been a strong move toward automated marketing platforms.
These platforms act as relationship nannies. While they do, to an extent, watch over the activity of a sales channel partner, sales team or even individual sales person, they are generally structured to supplement their activities. Contact with clients is influenced by many factors:
- Size or value of account / relationship
- Frequency of purchase
- Length of sales cycle
- Potential for account growth
Unfortunately, the influence is typically greater from the individual responsible for that relationship, and not strictly the factors above. Many sales individuals know what they should do, but that doesn’t mean they do it. An automated marketing platform helps sustain the relationship in the absence of personal activity. The key to a successful platform is the ability to create authentic touch points, be consistent, and ensure you support the individual relationship as much as the corporate presence.
The B2B market recognizes that individuals are typically loyal to other individuals. If a commercial lends leaves bank ‘A’ the customer will most likely follow that individual to bank ‘B’. If that is the case, why would a company even consider fostering a stronger relationship between the sales person and the customer? Simple – everyone wins.
If the client is enjoying a great relationship with their sales person, and also partly realizes the company is causing “some” of that activity, they are still extremely happy and engaged. This will create more sales. If the relationship generates more sales, the sales person is happy. They are compensated on performance and thus happy with the increased revenue. Of course, they also recognize the company’s valuable input in the relationship making them more loyal. And last, the company is happy because they’ve maintained a customer and increased sales, their salesperson has more time to concentrate on new business development, and their salesperson is well compensated, thus loyal in their employ.
Automated campaigns are extremely simple to structure especially with a bit of creativity. Here are a few examples that can be easily implemented:
- A thank you email auto-generated to a customer after an order. This email should have a specific trigger point – length of time since last order, size of order, etc. The content should appear personalized – from their sales rep, identifying the specific order, including a thank you. Success will be in the details – Do you have the client’s name or nickname correct? Does the email appear authentic because they don’t get too many?
- The New Year letter – this can be a review of the client’s account from the previous year sharing some successes that the salesperson individually reached as a result of the client’s commitment. (i.e. I was recognized as favorite salesperson for ABC Company because of your growth and input.) New Year’s letters that are printed and delivered in a first class envelope, and personally signed, can be very effective for an overall relationship.
- Birthday cards – yes, the under executed, but still widely known to be effective, birthday card. Data mining for client birthdays is very easy these days. They can be captured as a security question for web site account access, they can be data mined from free, public, online sources. Printing a personalized card that embeds the individual into the brand or company visually can be a very strong and fun message showing dedication.
- Smaller businesses may tweet or Facebook post recognition of a client on an automated basis.
- We Miss You – emails are generated to clients who are outside of their typical ordering cycle.
- Pre-vacation emails are sent from the salesperson personally to share alternative contact information and personal assurance of the company’s commitment is included.
There is also an opportunity to semi-automate marketing processes that drive even greater loyalty. Imagine a few of the
- A system automatically sources x clients each week and provides links to their LinkedIn profiles for their salesperson to the ‘endorse’ or ‘recommend’ on the network.
- Integration with Salesforce.com or other CRM system prepares an email message to all clients of a salesperson based on recurring contact requirements set by the company. Messages are canned, but provide the opportunity for a custom message to be inserted by the salesperson.
- Related product emails are generated to promote a product the client has not purchased prior, but aligns with other services or products they have purchased. These must be held for the salesperson to review ensuring the information is appropriate.
- Care packages – these are not done often enough by salespersons. Is your company structured to expedite a care package for a client’s new baby, marriage, or business achievement? Create a system that let’s your salespersons easily execute these needs.
- The corporate anniversary card – wouldn’t it be nice to receive a note card in the mail, personally signed by the salesperson saying thank you for the anniversary of your very first order on xx date? Utilizing information that is readily available makes communications personal and appreciated. Including a ‘thank you’ in the form of a gift card or coffee card can go a long way.
These automated marketing systems are NOT expensive to implement, and the return is exceptionally high. Your company should determine the appropriate number of client contacts per year, and the recorded contacts in you CRM system. The average differential is what you should automate. For example, if the company feels a client needs to be touched every 2 months (6x/year) based on the type of product or service, consumption, competition, etc., but the average CRM report shows less than 4 contacts per year, then automate 2-3 communications.
The fully automated systems are obviously easy to execute. We oftentimes hear that companies can’t rely on their data in the CRM from the sales team or the sales team won’t sign birthday cards and get them in the mail. Guess what, your right. Today you may not be able to, but tomorrow you will.
The automated systems are effective tools and your top performers will recognize this. They will utilize the system to the maximum extent possible. When a pile of birthday cards lands on their desk, they will not only sign them, but insert personal notes and comments of their own. Your ‘B’ team will start to see their success. If the automated system uses incorrect information; such as a nickname, it will only take a few client comments before the salesperson is attentive to the CRM system content. Your ‘C’ team will be more easily identified so you can, well, fire them.
We would all like to think we have an “All Star” sales team. The reality is that we have few rock stars and some groupies. Help make your groupies look and even act like stars.