Yesterday, Seth Godin wrote a nice post on “loyalty.” He describes it accurately as the “good feeling some people get when they’re being loyal.”
Doug Hanna of The Social Customer talks about customer loyalty and how it ties into a company being “presented as trustworthy, competent, efficient, and intelligent.”
They are both true. But customer loyalty to a coffee brand like Starbucks® and loyalty to a piece of enterprise-wide management software are about as similar as the coffee bean is to the server.
Loyalty to a product that a company has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire and months to implement is often based on fear of the cost and time involved in moving to another solution. That’s not loyalty.
True loyalty in the B2B world is all about relationships and is often based on attitudes and practices like these from the solution vendor:
- Regularly speaks to its customers about the customer’s current operational struggles and challenges.
- Is a pro-active partner who initiates efforts to help customers improve its business operation via feature enhancements.
- Helps customers stay educated on advancements, trends and how to get the most from their current product.
- Provides willing and attentive support when customers have a problem.
- Provides regular opportunities for customers to enhance their capabilities via cross-sell opportunities with incentives.
- Maintains a visible attitude of putting customers first.
Some of these relationship practices are the job of operational and support departments. But marketing can play a big role in achieving “relationship” loyalty over “fear-of-leaving” loyalty.
Just as B2B marketing best practices today advocate nurturing leads with a scheduled program of contacts and educational content offers, customer loyalty can be enhanced through a planned program of customer contacts via emails, social media contacts, letters and phone calls.
High-end B2B product providers may think their customers are locked in forever and can be ignored. Without a solid relationship, though, buyers can always be wooed away by newer, better, more affordable solutions.