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7 Subtle Yet Powerful Ways to Build Stronger B2B Relationships

7 Subtle Yet Powerful Ways to Build Stronger B2B Relationships

When it comes to relationship building, the smallest gestures matter most. In this post, learn how to forge stronger bonds with customers and prevent churn.

The field of customer service is undergoing a big change. Once perceived as an organizational cost-sink, support teams are now key drivers for engagement and growth. Often dubbed happiness heroes and relationship managers, new roles help B2B companies forge stronger bonds with customers. The value that these teams add—in terms of facilitating customer engagement and preventing churn—is priceless.

The Value of Great Customer Support

  • A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company
  • 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again

There’s more to the customer success story than what’s happening on a company’s support lines. At the end of the day, your company needs to uphold the promises of your marketing team.

On an unspoken level, every team member is responsible for making and keeping customers happy—and the smallest decisions will often make the biggest impact. After all, customer service shouldn’t just be a department. It should be the entire company. Here are seven simple ideas to build stronger B2B relationships.

1. Give all departments the option to join (or shadow) your company’s support team.

Support teams are your company’s chief empathizers. By navigating a range of challenges, happiness heroes witness your customers’ worst frustrations and best moments, intelligence than can help guide the day-to-day decisions of product, marketing, and even IT.

Companies should consider sharing customer service duties. For starters, take turns answering questions on live chat. This practice gives team members an unobscured view into everyday customer pain points. Rather than separate customer support and the rest of your company’s operations, employees from different departments can investigate relevant customer concerns to better your products and services. And in providing direct support, every team member can become a customer empathizer too.

2. Prioritize value above price.

Focus on the ways other than price that your company adds value to your customers and solves their biggest pain points. For example, focus your marketing messaging on the benefits of your product or service rather than price. Instead of positioning your product as a bargain, place emphasis on the specific points of value that customers should expect to generate.

At the end of the day, your customers don’t care how much revenue you generate, what your shareholders expect, or what your sales quota may be. They’re looking for solutions to specific business challenges and ways to increase their own revenues.

Your product position and marketing messages should reflect how your customers think and feel. No conversation—and no customer touchpoint—should ever feel like a hard sell.

3. Create a customer advisory board.

Instead of keeping your customers at arm’s length, think of them as partners to your business. In fact, consider giving them a seat at the table by creating a customer advisory board.

This group should be small yet representative of your entire customer base. Balance new business partners in addition to customers who have been with your company since day one.

You may choose to host formal meetings or you may find it easier to connect with board members on an individual basis. Regardless of how you work with your board members, keep them very close to your product and marketing decisions. Ask their advice before launching anything, and position them as your most trusted confidants.

How to Build a Customer Advisory Board

  1. Determine the objective. Do you want a broad board or multiple boards targeted to specific markets?
  2. Select the right people. Seek diverse skills, expertise, and experience. A big name adviser can help build credibility, but remember to build a board of members willing to spend their precious time.
  3. Set expectations. Lay out ground rules and guidelines for responsibilities and time commitments.
  4. Keep communication open outside of meetings. Rounding up the board on a regular basis is tough. Set up in-person or virtual meetings with individual members as needed. Have an open line of email communication for feedback that may come up outside of a meeting.

4. Grow your most successful customer segments.

Aggressive growth numbers are every B2B company’s dream, but sometimes, it’s better to take things slowly.

It may be tempting to cast your net wide and acquire as many customers as possible. But with unfocused growth comes a high risk of churn. Even worse, these dissatisfied customers will perceive your marketing messages as empty promises and may create a negative shadow over your brand.

Narrow your focus and specialize. Hone in on the two or three customer segments you know best—the customers who will have the best potential for success with your product, service, or platform. You don’t need to grow your business slower.

Channel your energy toward the customers who are likely to be the strongest fits with your company, such as customers with the highest lifetime values (LTVs) and retention rates. Success will fuel more success to become your company’s growth engine.

5. Treat subscriptions like direct relationships.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a B2B model that has overturned traditional support models. Now more than ever before, customer success is driven by ongoing relationships.

Customer retention is just as important as acquisition. It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. In addition to getting users to sign up, you also have to give them incentives to stick around and continue to use your product. Even if you have millions of customers, take the time to engage with each one of them on an individual level. Targeted messages and check-ins can help.

Use your data to determine whether and when you should reach out to your customers. If you notice someone may be ready to churn, send a check-in email. Possible signs of churn include account changes, stagnant account activity, negative feedback, dropped sessions, and decreased usage rates.

If you don’t have one already, implement an onboarding process that encourages your customers to reach out for help when they need it. Make sure every single customer has the tools they need to succeed.

Warning Signs of Churn

  • Customer acquisition costs between 5 to 15 times more than customer retention
  • A low churn rate can double your company’s value over 5 years
  • Are your customers actually using your product?
    • Pay attention to:
      • How often customers log on
      • Which parts of the product they use the most
    • If people aren’t logging on or only engage with certain parts of your product, offer support and free educational material to help re-engage them
  • Is usage growing or decreasing on a per capita basis?
    • Pay attention to:
      • How many users are being added to or subtracted from a single company’s subscription
    • Check in with subscribers whose user base is decreasing. Find out why there’s a decrease (Are they using another service? Are they downsizing their company?)
  • Are customers paying bills on time?
    • Pay attention to:
      • Invoices for each customer
      • Any changes in their payment pattern
  • If a customer doesn’t pay their bills for a long period of time, they may be phasing out of your product. Reach out and ask why their payments are overdue. If they do not plan to renew, your customer service team should see if there’s anyway they can help.

6. Bring humanity to your marketing presence.

People like to do business with other people, not nameless, faceless companies.

Let the great personalities behind your brand shine. Encourage your customer-facing teams to take ownership over their communications and speak and write in a style that feels natural to them. Upload photos of team events and casual days at the office. Encourage employees to share content they find interesting on social media. To stick to your brand’s message, values, and voice, consider creating a social style guide to provide direction.

The more soul your company has, the more your customers will love doing business with you. After all, it’s easier to connect with fellow humans than landing pages.

7. Help your customers succeed on a personal level.

There’s a real human being on the other side of the phone line or computer screen. Like you, this person has high career ambitions and is looking for opportunities to grow.

Your B2B relationship is one of many bullet points on this person’s list of responsibilities. That one bullet point, however, is a powerful opportunity to help that person look great in his or her role.

The better your business relationship performs, the more empowered your customer will be in his or her own role. One way to distinguish your company as a vendor is to demonstrate that you’re invested in your customer’s success on a personal level. Prepare awesome supports, participate in team meetings, share extra data—do what it takes to be your client’s best vendor. You’ll be loved as a lifelong ally, partner, and friend.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to relationship building, it’s the smallest gestures that matter most. Demonstrating you’re a group of human beings that care matters more than your big branding budget. Be who you are and your customers will take notice. The secret for stronger customer relationships is no secret at all: It’s people.


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