The Cost of Customer Loyalty: Retention Strategies for the B2B Customer Experience

B2B companies handle larger accounts than their B2C counterparts, and this can mean the difference between long-term success and immediate failure. If a B2C customer churns, in most cases you're short a fraction of your overall sales. But if you lose a large B2B client, your entire business may be at risk.

B2B companies can fall into the complacency trap due to long sales cycles, and thereby fail to create true happiness and loyalty in their customers. B2B International found 40 to 50 percent of companies have not added new suppliers in the past five years, and these customers are not necessarily loyal to your company. Top-performing B2B companies get 50 percent of their revenue from existing customers, instead of new customer acquisition, according to Act-On. Making use of retention strategies will build your B2B customer loyalty, but you need to balance the costs with the benefits.

Educational content helps your customers understand how to effectively use your product, builds your authority and provides continued training opportunities. The Content Marketing Institute found 28 percent of B2B marketing budgets are spent on content marketing efforts, including educational content. This content can be added into existing content creation projects, making this one of the cheapest cost retention tactics.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is considered the highest retention digital marketing strategy according to eMarketer. You use email for lead nurturing strategies, and this channel remains useful after you convert your customers. With email, you can keep customers up to date on your products and services, send out surveys, check-in with them to see if they're satisfied with your products and send useful content to their inbox. Up to 70 percent of your email list opens their mail on smartphones, according to email Monday, so this strategy expands your mobile reach as well. The cost of email marketing depends on the scale, but you can add customer engagement emails into the mix.

Thorough Onboarding

Once customers make a purchase, many companies consider their jobs done. However, at this point the customer is left without any guidance on the best ways to use the product, which can lead to a poor customer experience. Thorough onboarding through a guided software tour, training courses or in-person training sets your customers up for success and reduces frustration levels. After such treatment, your customer feels valued, rather than abandoned, in the post-sales period. However, creating onboarding materials and providing training can be costly compared to email or content creation.

Customer Success Staff

Some B2B companies, such as Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, use customer success staff or departments to improve retention. SaaS companies operate on subscription-based models, so reducing churn is one of their most important priorities. As such, Sixteen Ventures reports most SaaS companies have a churn rate under 10 percent. Their customer success teams help customers with onboarding, but also perform a vital function after the customer goes through training - they proactively monitor customer activity and behavior to identify potential problems or concerns.

Customer success teams aren't just for SaaS companies, however. Instead of relying on marketing, sales or customer support to add to their duties, you can use customer success staff to focus entirely on customer loyalty, happiness and retention. This option is one of the most costly strategies, as you need to procure the right analytics tools, hire and train new staff or find a service specializing in customer success.

Customer retention can mean the difference between a high-performing company and one that's scrambling from customer to customer. Customer loyalty is critically important for B2B companies, as one lost account could deprive you of a significant revenue stream. With these strategies, you can improve retention, customer happiness and loyalty and set your business on the path to long-term success.

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April 05, 2016