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What B2B Organizations Can Learn From Good Marriages

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Every once in a while we hear about the “love at first sight” love story.  You know, the guy and gal who caught each other’s eye, instantly fell in love, had a storybook romance, and were married just a few short weeks after that first chance encounter.  These hopelessly romantic stories are what make Hollywood’s heart beat. However, for most of us, it takes a lot more to fall in love ... and stay in love.

Most of the love stories with which I’m familiar start with the meeting of two people, followed by a significant amount of time working on building a relationship. The progression may have started with simply getting a phone number. This leads to a few phone calls or texts, and eventually the all-important first date. Then, the second date.  Over time, more dates, which morph into just plain ol' spending time together.  Eventually, the relationship became full-blown love, followed by a period of engagement and then marriage. All through this time, the couple is communicating, getting to know each other, working toward building a deeper, more solid relationship.

In the B2B marketing world, there is much to learn from these healthy marriage stories.  In many B2B vendor/buyer relationships, the communication that occurs during the “dating” phase (via lead nurturing) is pretty impressive.  Through the use of technology, we now have the ability to deliver dynamic content, enabling one-on-one buyer engagement. Companies are becoming more adept at building relationships with their prospects and gaining buying commitments.  Unfortunately, many companies bring the process of engagement to an abrupt halt once the prospect becomes a customer.  Just like in a marriage, this can have disastrous effects. To keep the relationship healthy, it’s imperative that companies have a process in place for nurturing their customers so they can continue to develop that relationship.

Two Kinds of Customer Nurturing

When looking to nurture customers there are two key nurture approaches that should be taken:



  1. Helping the customer deal with the buyer’s remorse phenomenon (a.k.a. “after the honeymoon”)


  2. Ongoing customer loyalty and relationship building (a.k.a. “anniversaries”)





After the Honeymoon


Most of us have experienced some kind of buyer’s remorse, whether personally or in the business world.  No matter how much we justify the expense or rationalize the purchase, we worry, hoping that the solution or service fulfills the promises and expectations we bought into.  During this post-purchase phase, your customer needs to hear from you more than at any other time. They need to be reassured that they’ve made the right decision, that you really do “love them,” that they will receive the best level of service and that they will receive value on their investment.  Your communication to them is more than just sending an email with links directing them to where they can find “support” on your website.  Instead, you should implement an integrated, multichannel communications campaign that includes email and human interaction.  Your goal is to assure your customer that they made the right decision.

Anniversaries


The second approach to customer nurturing is more long term.  There is no better sales person for your company than a satisfied customer, so driving customer loyalty should be part of the mix.

At the 2010 SiriusDecisions Conference, in the results of its B2B Buyers Survey, the research indicated that 29% of those surveyed listed peers as the most trusted source in their buying decisions.  As a matter of fact the research showed that peers are influential in all stages (early, middle and late) of the buying process.  With the understanding that your prospects are looking to their peers (i.e. your customers) to help make future buying decisions, doesn’t it make sense to  nurture and build relationships with your customers to keep them loyal?

Building relationships with your customers also provides opportunities to create more revenue for your organization.  As you continue to develop a relationship with your customers, you will discover opportunities to cross sell and up-sell additional services and solutions to them.  Who easier to sell to than a loyal, satisfied customer, right?

Earlier in my career, I was with a global software company. We took a customer nurture approach by segmenting our customer database by various demographic identifiers, and then developing content specific to those segments. We also changed the job description of our inside sales team. They became “customer representatives.”  In just one year, we saw the following results:


  • $11M in additional revenue generated from our customer base (this did not include renewals)


  • a 10% increase in retention rates


  • a  double-digit increase in customer support satisfaction


Though you may be using nurturing as a way to date your potential buyers, make sure you continue to build the relationship beyond “I do.”


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Carlos Hidalgo is CEO of The Annuitas Group the leader in the development of marketing & sales lead management processes. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of lead management process, demand generation and marketing automation and is passionate about helping their clients improve the return on their marketing and sales investments.

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Comments

  • by Jeff Ogden Wed Sep 15, 2010 via blog

    Very apt analogy, Carlos. I describe the role of marketers is "earning the trust of strangers." That's a lot like dating. But as you point out, the lucky vendor gets to get married to a customer. As we know in our own marriages, the work does not stop then. One must keep working on that relationship.

    We're a very young company, but our clients are very, very happy.

    I also understand that you, David Raab and I will be working together on a project for Focus.com. I look forward to working with you, Carlos.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers
    http://www.findnewcsutomers.com

  • by Ann Handley Fri Sep 17, 2010 via blog

    Great analogy, Carlos.

    One more point: Relationships that are properly "fed" also are stronger, which means that you usually are afforded some forgiveness and understanding when something goes unexpectedly wrong or someone ends up disappointed. It's all about the strength of the foundation, right?

    Nice piece. Thank you.

  • by Jackie Fri Sep 17, 2010 via blog

    great analogy I can relate to. Like marriage, good business relationships come down to trust and communication. Also, a nice unexpected treat everyone once in a while goes a long way.

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