Tips to Retain Your B-to-B Customers

Aug 11, 2008 8:54 AM  By

How are you going to keep your customers? If you market to consumers, you can incent them to stay with your retail store, catalog or online shopping site through discounts and rewards appropriate to their needs.

Many of those same rewards will work if you market to small businesses based in a home or small office. But if your customers are managers or employees of a larger business the consumer rewards are often inappropriate.

Just as your business-to-business merge/purge should be handled differently than your business-to-consumer merge purge, so should your retention program be different.

Offering me a coupon good for a free pizza might tip my decision to buy a new cordless phone for my home from your company. But if I work for a large company, that same coupon doesn’t have the same impact. Most companies require that employees share benefits from vendors with everyone in the firm. That turns into a very small slice.

When creating B-to-B reward programs, remember the basics: Give your customers good, consistent service and don’t make mistakes on their orders, shipments or billing. That will make your customers take notice.

Meaningful business rewards can include anything that lowers my costs, improves my profits or makes me more efficient. Offer me free shipping or access to a human instead of a voice operated response system. Tell me I’ll go to the head of the line when I need service or tech support. Finally, if you tell me that these benefits apply to anyone in my company that calls your company and you will have made me a very valuable offer. Send me food or appliances, I can’t use them.

Most U.S. businesses have less than 10 employees. In marketing to businesses of this size, consumer-type offers can work because sharing a pizza in a small office is easy.

But most business-to-business marketers are focused on larger companies, not just firms with 10 to 100, but firms of 1,000 or more employees. Other business people recognize that you cannot give away a lot of margin. The margins on computers and office appliances are often no more than 10%.

But soft benefits such as phone access or priority tech support can go a long way toward making you different from your competitors. If you want to reward me to make me loyal to your company, pay attention to me in the most meaningful fashion possible. Answer my calls, remember my order, pick the products correctly, ship them securely and quickly, and bill me on time. Then any rewards you give me beyond getting the basics right will show me that you recognize that I’m in business—just like you are.

Bill Singleton is a manager of analytics and consulting services at The Allant Group.