Customer Loyalty is a key priority for most b2b companies in 2011, simply because most sales are generated with existing customers. Also, keeping and nurturing a customer is more profitable than winning a new customer. In the past few years I have noticed b2b companies are lagging behind b2c companies when it comes to maintaining a solid customer loyalty program. The majority are planning to install a customer loyalty program but still don’t really have a customer loyalty strategy.
So how do you make people loyal to your product, your brand, your company? Only focusing on a loyalty program and not having a real loyalty strategy can lead to missed opportunities. Traditional loyalty programs may work in b2c where short term incentives and rewards can influence buying decisions, increase re-purchase and enhance loyalty. That is not the case in the b2b world. Loyalty cannot be achieved with a program or a marketing campaign. It is a strategic business goal that requires a long term strategy.
So why is customer loyalty a priority now? Because it is evident that also in b2b it is all about building relationships with people, fostering and nurturing them so that their satisfaction and loyalty increases. In fact, the term b2b really makes no sense anymore. It should be b2p: Business to People.
Customers are people. Companies are made up of people. It is all about people and building relationships with them, no matter the business you are in.
So what is the right strategy to drive loyalty in business to people? Simple. Make sure that people have a great and consistent experience across all touch points through which they interact with you or hear about you. From sales, marketing, product, service and support, online to your partner ecosystem, social media, customer references and the many other touch points your company has.
This is no simple task. You will discover once you list all your touch points and rate the current experience you provide. Experiences with any company and brand will have a range from good to bad, maybe terrible in some cases and very likely it is inconsistent. If that is your case too forget about a loyalty program, go and fix the experience you provide at every touch point!
One last thought about people; they really fall into two groups: your people, meaning your employees and everyone else, meaning your customers, prospects and all others. The principle that great and consistent experiences across all touch points drives loyalty applies to both groups. The difference is that if your own people are loyal they act as a force multiplier and will make every effort to enhance the experience of other people across all touch points they are responsible for.
Bottom line: great and consistent experiences across all touch points are the best loyalty program. Start with your own employees and they will make every effort to turn every customer into a happy and loyal one.