Customer Engagement isn’t just for B2C and B2B companies need to consider methods of customer retention and engagement. Find out more about customer engagement strategies.
In the B2C arena customer engagement is an increasingly important concept, but how important is it for B2B companies? It’s true that engagement strategies are more strongly associated with B2C marketing, but in fact, B2B can benefit just as much from using these strategies to boost brand loyalty and build the kinds of long-term relationships that result in repeat purchases.
Engaged Customers are Beneficial for all Businesses
Customer engagement strategies work because they engage emotions to build brand loyalty. Engaged customers are loyal customers who come back time and time again to make repeat purchases. In B2B the principles are much the same. It may seem as though B2B sales isn’t reliant on emotional engagement, but the truth is, emotion is relevant in B2B as well. It’s just that the emotions are different. For B2B customers it’s less about personal emotions and more about job satisfaction, pride, confidence, and integrity, all relating to doing their job and doing it well. If people feel those things when they interact with your company, turning leads into customers—and then into repeat customers—is a much easier job.
The Difference between B2B and B2C Engagement Strategies
Customer engagement means nearly the same thing across the board, but the types of engagement strategies that work best are not. One reason for this is that B2B companies tend to have better natural customer retention rates. B2B customers tend not to make impulse buys, and on this side of things, a sale is already about building good long-term relationships. In addition, the B2B buying cycle is much longer, and it’s less likely that one person is solely responsible for making purchasing decisions. All of these differences mean that the kinds of engagement strategies that work best in the B2B arena won’t necessarily be effective for B2B companies.
Build a brand persona
In B2C marketing, building a brand persona is an effective strategy for putting a human face on your brand and helping customers relate to your company. Brand personas have historically been considered less important in B2B strategies—partly because when clients are already interacting directly with your sales team, there’s already a human face on your brand. But now, it’s increasingly apparent that a brand persona can be a highly effective part of B2B marketing strategies. However, it’s more effective to approach it in a different way, in comparison to B2C-oriented efforts.
In the B2B world, customers make purchasing decisions for different reasons than do B2C customers. When people buy from retailers their purchasing decisions are often impulse buys based on emotion more than they are on need. For B2B customers, purchasing decisions are more likely to be rational, considered decisions that are made to meet specific company needs. A good brand persona should be developed to match, so a B2B persona is generally more thoughtful and studied than the typical B2C persona.
Sometimes, of course, it works equally well to inject some fun into a B2B brand persona. Whatever the brand persona a company chooses, the most important criteria for success are that it mesh with the company’s goals and that it reflects the way the company wants to be seen.
One of the most surprisingly effective brand personas is that created by US-based multinational conglomerate General Electric, a multi-billion-dollar giant that operates in a wide range of B2B sectors, including aviation, healthcare, energy, manufacturing, venture capital, transportation, and lighting. But somehow, the company has managed to develop a genuinely interesting persona by using social media to engage both its B2B and B2C audiences.
Share knowledge to drive engagement
An effective strategy for developing a B2B persona is to create one from within the company, by choosing one or more employees to give the company a voice. This is more than just a way to build a brand persona, as this kind of strategy achieves other goals too. In B2B marketing there’s a big focus on building awareness and educating customers and potential customers. Creating and publishing content achieves both objectives.
One way to do this is to find people who are passionate about your company, who are great at communicating, and who are interested in developing their own skills—then give them opportunities to display their talents in ways that engage your audience. For instance, they can write blogs on the company website, create video content, present webinars and take speaking opportunities, and publish content such as white papers or ebooks that are valuable to your audience. All of these types of activities can help establish your brand as a thought leader in the industry, and help create a brand persona at the same time.
Investment banking and financial services company Goldman Sachs was founded in the mid-nineteenth century, and as such has been around long enough to have developed a strong reputation. But like any good brand, Goldman Sachs understands that longevity is not enough to ensure continued success. In order to stay at the forefront of the financial industry, the company built its own in-house content management team, which covers all manner of financial and technical trends and issues. With a number of different areas of focus and a wide range of content—including written content, video, and podcasts—Goldman Sachs continues to secure its reputation as an industry leader, and keeps its customers highly engaged.
Tell your brand’s story
Brand storytelling is another effective strategy in B2C marketing that’s starting to make a splash in B2B marketing too. Good B2C storytelling does more than humanise a brand, it helps customers imagine how a brand’s products or services could improve their life. This can be equally effective in B2B marketing, but here, of course, it’s all about helping customers imagine improvements to their work day, and to their company’s bottom line.
The highly popular and fast-growing CRM company Salesforce is an example of a company that does this exceptionally well. For many companies, adopting new business practices can be intimidating, especially if it means switching to a new software platform, or adopting altogether new practices. Salesforce makes it easy for people to imagine how their work day could be improved by explicitly showing them, with an extensive portion of its website devoted to telling the stories of its own customers. With full case studies and video clips for each client, they let their customers do the talking, and it’s an extremely effective strategy.