*BEST PRACTICE: Customer *loyalty
_The limited number of business contacts, the difficulty of recruiting new business customers and the cost of some business products or services all mean that maintaining customer loyalty is key to B2B marketing success. Sara Goodwins looks at some popular approaches to this problem_ Is it easier and less expensive to sell to existing customers than to find new ones? Of course it is. In the B2B arena, however, sales cycles are longer. If customers are not to be tempted away by competitors, marketing needs to encourage them to develop a relationship with the brand. Anthony Green, sales & marketing director of Concep, comments: “If businesses keep in touch, customers become familiar with products and services on offer and the company will be taken into consideration when a purchase is made.” When keeping in touch with customers, communication should achieve a number of objectives. Firstly, it should reassure the customer that they made a good choice of partner/supplier. It should also add value to the relationship, above what has been contracted, seek additional opportunities for further business, and inform business and client about new developments. Existing customers, lapsed customers and prospects should be approached differently. Marketers can assume that customers are familiar with the business and currently prefer your products/services or have done so in the recent past. Ideally no customer should ever go elsewhere, but there will be events such as changes in personnel, expiry of contracts, upheavals in the market, that change the relationship. Julie Cooper, co-director of events management company Fab, points out, “If a key contact within the client company is replaced, you have to establish confidence and trust with a new person – and the new contact may well bring with them pre-existing relationships with competing suppliers.” Keep in touch
Lapsed customers, because of the past business relationship, should not be contacted in the same way as prospects. Alan Curnow, communications manager of Grass Roots, explains: “The distinction between clients and prospects is (more one of) tone than substance; we may need to refresh prospects' memories of who we are, whereas clients – even if they haven't bought from us for some time – know us.” Jan-Pieter Lips, head of business-to-business at Loyalty Management UK, which operates Nectar for Business, adds: “Experience shows that there is a direct correlation between winning back a lapsed customer and the time that has passed since the last transaction.” Simon Ward, director of rewards scheme Seed, considers that the frequency of customer orders is like a pulse. “Businesses should monitor customertransactions and identify when they change. They can then contact thecustomer and find out why.” David Lebond, executive director of P&MM, agrees: “Doing something wrong is the best opportunity for getting a customer for life; if you handle a complaint well, put things right and demonstrate that you have the customers' interests at heart then not only will customers be retained, they'll also talk about you in glowing terms.” Newsletters
Newsletters and customers magazines are one of the most obvious communications methods, which can be used to maintain customerrelationships and loyalty. Richard Bush, managing director of Base One, says, “The trend for customermagazines – which we saw in the mid 90s – has diminished as many businesses found they were expensive and their success difficult to measure, although the need for what they provided still remains.” Electronic newsletters have taken over as less expensive, more measurable and interactive replacements. To include relevant material, you need to consider things like: life cycle of products/services and how they relate to customers and information held about customers which helps target mailings. Allow readers to choose – for example: offer the flexibility to pick...
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