The B2B Buyer’s Journey: Pt. 4 – B2B Customer Retention
If you’ve been following along in this blog series, you’ve probably read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, where we talked about the old B2B Buyer’s Journey, the new B2B Buyer’s Journey and why – and how – to align your sales and marketing teams.
In the world of Services, or for companies who provide service long after the sale, the Buyer’s Journey is never done. Keeping a lifelong client requires multiple layers of marketing and relationship nurturing to extend the sales process. In Part 4, we’ll cover B2B customer retention and how you can close the buying loop and keep your customers forever.
Let’s say you’ve successfully joined your sales and marketing teams and are ushering in new customers. Great! But now you want to know how to keep these new clients you’ve worked so hard to convert. You’re not alone in pursuing this goal. In a recent survey of B2B CMOs, 87% of them said that customer retention was their #1 strategic focus for 2017 – beating out revenue growth.
But why is retention so important? Couldn’t you just deploy your sales team to go out and find new buyers? Well, you could. But we’re all about working smarter, not harder. In the long run, client retention ends up being a cost-efficient way to grow your business. According to Hubspot results, it costs about 5 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate new business from an existing customer. And a customer loyalty survey from Loyalty360, showed that three-quarters of respondents reported that 20% of their new sales come from current customers.
To help you strengthen your customer retention, we’ve pulled together some best practices.
The best time to build customer loyalty is at the beginning of your engagement when the customer is excited about your offering and the solution for their pain you’ve promised to provide. If they’ve just signed a contract for your services or subscribed to your software, don’t leave them hanging and assume they’ll figure it all out. Now is the time to bring them closer to you.
Demonstrate your value after the sale with consistent and meaningful communication. Send them welcome emails with info on the next steps in the process. Call them to answer questions and check in with their level of satisfaction. Send helpful documents or share how-to video links. It’s during this “honeymoon” phase that you can make the biggest impact on the relationship that follows. Your marketing team should have content ready to support these “touches”, and your sales team should be ready to guide the client through the initial phases of the engagement.
2. Educate with content
Instead of overwhelming your customer with educational material at the beginning, break it up into chunks and deliver it on a semi-regular frequency that coincides with where the customer should be in their experience of your service. Create content that showcases the newest features of your software. Host a webinar to provide more insight into your industry. Publish use-cases showing how your professional service has helped other similar clients. By sharing content that helps them maximize their investment, you’ll prove that you’re a company focused on their success.
Consistent communication is one of the most important aspects of customer retention, but can also be tricky to implement. In a B2B transaction you’re not communicating with a single-buyer, but a whole group of people with different needs and questions. So, remember to stay in touch with stakeholders, leaders, and other employees who will have sway over a future decision to renew a contract.
A good way to keep the communication flowing is to provide multiple channels for discussion and feedback. Include a phone number in your email signature and then be responsive when they call. Send a weekly update/check-in email to report on project progress or answer questions. Create customer satisfaction surveys to gather thoughts and complaints. Maintain social media accounts and quickly respond to any interactions.
4. Listen and act
There’s a popular stat that says, “for every complaint you receive, there are 26 other customers who had the same experience, but just didn’t say anything.” Don’t let this happen to you. Be proactive in asking customers about their experience. Listen to their responses and then take action to ensure future customers don’t have a similar experience.
If you’re an engineer offering consulting services and frequently receive phone calls from clients who are frustrated by a lack of progress reports, do something about it! Listen to their complaints to discover what it is they want to know from the reports and why. Maybe they don’t want to know all of the technical project details but instead merely want someone to keep them abreast of any developments or roadblocks. They just want to feel involved in the process.
5. Grow Respectfully
Repeat customers should be your biggest advocates. They provide the bulk of your testimonials and references, which are critical for service-minded companies. Yet, growing these clients can be a tricky road to walk. In some cases, these clients benefit from legacy pricing or outdated services offerings that are no longer manageable or profitable for your company.
Approach pricing conversations with transparent and appreciative tones. These are your best clients, so highlight that you’re grateful for their business. While speaking of the high points of your relationship you must also explain how the pricing or services they received before are no longer applicable given today’s business environment. Offer to ease them into a new agreement that still offers them favorable pricing but also brings them in line with your new business model. Ordinarily, your clients will understand the value you bring to them and the importance of staying in business. They’re business people, too.
In those cases when you do lose a client, don’t fret. You’ve still got a hand in the game. According to the book Customer Winback: How to Recapture Lost Customers – And Keep Them Loyal, you have a 20-40% chance of winning back a former customer just by trying. Your odds are better at rekindling a relationship than at selling to a new customer, where you’ve only got a 5-20% chance.
At the end of the day, however, your pipeline should be full of new customers to replace those that leave. If your brand is sound and your marketing is in place, you will establish new relationships that evolve into strong repeat clients.
Use your time and money smartly. Instead of reinventing the sales wheel, keep it rolling with smart customer retention. After closing a deal, stay invested in the relationship and start building customer loyalty through onboarding, educational content, communication, responsiveness, and incentives.
This last step in the B2B Buyer’s Journey is critical. To keep the sales cycle running like a well-oiled machine, continuously review all aspects of your company. Refine and improve your intangible offering. Hire helpful and smart front-line team members. Engage and support buyers through the whole journey. This holistic approach to the B2B Buyer’s Journey will ensure that customers come back, again and again.