No matter what industry your business-to-business (B2B) company is targeting, a single customer conversion is likely to have relatively little impact on your trajectory. When you’re dealing directly with other companies, the ability to retain them as customers for the long-term tends to have a direct impact not just on your bottom line but also on your growth. It minimizes the outlay for converting consumers for the first time over and over and it’s also a more convenient experience for the consumer.
As lucrative as retention can be, it is also rather elusive. Businesses spend a significant amount of their capital trying, failing, and occasionally succeeding in unlocking repeat customers. There’s no guaranteed route to success, but there are some actions that can help your salesforce to nudge your B2B demographic to keep returning to your enterprise.
We’re going to dive a little further into a handful of these.
Understand Your Consumers
A problem many businesses run into when trying to unlock repeat purchases is they just assume what it is about their company bringing consumers back. While it might seem logical for certain elements to be attractive to other businesses, it’s important to remember these consumers can be quite picky. Not to mention each business has its unique perspectives, challenges, and priorities that will inform what they need from your company. As such, your first step is to learn more about your consumers.
An important point of data to collect is their pain points. These are the various areas of challenge consumers are seeking to address with your product. It can also refer to the hurdles with the sales experience that can push consumers away from your site, like support and process pain points. This isn’t generally information you can gain from quantitative market research, as these types of challenges and preferences can be too nuanced to be captured reliably through surveys. As such, your best approach is to seek qualitative feedback.
Direct contact with your consumers is often the best way to obtain this information. Ask them open-ended questions about their challenges and give them space to both discuss these further and also enlighten you about pain points you may not have previously considered. It’s important to talk to your sales staff about this, too. They spend every day interacting with your consumers and there’s a good chance they’ll have insights into specific needs and issues that you can help address to keep customers coming back to your business.
One thing that is likely to be true about all your B2B customers is they are extremely busy. They have a business of their own to run and are juggling their various priorities. A company whose processes add additional complications to their activities is unlikely to see their repeat patronage. You should therefore consider carefully how you can prioritize convenience for your consumers.
An approach that is seeing greater popularity in this regard is the subscription business model. If you’re offering perishable goods to businesses, this can take the form of an automated replenishment system that predicts their usage and provides shipments without them having to come back to make orders. If you offer a service — software development, for instance — you can take the approach of offering a subscription over outright ownership. While there can be valuable assets gained from an ownership model, this only tends to result in a single purchase for your company and limited value for the consumer. When your customers become subscribers, on the other hand, they have the convenience of not just receiving a product but continued support and access to any updates. Your business also gets regular repeat income with minimal additional sales outlay.
Make It Personal
Just because you operate in a B2B environment that doesn’t mean to say your approach needs to be cold. While the final decisions to keep purchasing from your company may be made by a committee, your interactions will usually be with a human representative. Like most shoppers, they don’t want to be treated like just another company name on your client list. You can gain repeat business by offering a certain amount of personalization.
This begins with keeping a meaningful dialogue with your consumers. Don’t just send them form emails with the name changed. A recent study found 65% of B2B customers surveyed stated they’d switch brands if a company didn’t make an effort to personalize communications. As such, you should set up protocols for an individual approach — write about the positive points of their business in your emails, invite them to engage in a one-to-one phone or video chat conversation occasionally. If you’re marketing to them with offers, focus on how you can make these not just relevant to the products they’re interested in but to the challenges of their business.
Build a Great UX
User experience (UX) has been getting a great deal of attention as of late. This is because it reflects the demand from consumers for companies to provide more than just products, they want their end-to-end journey to be positive. Unlocking repeat purchases can therefore rely on your ability to develop your UX.
Something to consider here is, unlike dealing with the general public, B2B consumers don’t always want their hands held throughout the process. As such, part of your UX should be about empowering your customers. A self-service sales portal can be an effective tool in this regard, as it gives your customers a certain amount of free reign. They’ll have personal access to inventory availability, and be able to manage sales or returns themselves. This has the potential to lead to repeat sales as it makes the process simple for B2B consumers. They don’t have to go through any intermediaries or deal with any sales talk. When done well, a sales portal makes interactions simple and guided by clarity. While this provides autonomy, maintaining great UX also means there should still be clear signposts to get immediate support should they need it.
You should also bear in mind that trust and credibility factor into the B2B decision-making process. Your UX should feature frequent and clear trust signals. At no point throughout their journey and even after it should your consumers have any reason to doubt your bona fides. Provide examples of transparent operations in your marketing materials. Display social proof in the form of recommendations and testimonials. Reach out post-sales to invite not just praise but criticism. By taking time to emphasize trust in your UX, you can build strong long-term customer relationships.
A single conversion is nice, but if you can keep your consumers coming back you have the makings of a strong enterprise. Unlocking repeat custom requires you to put effort into first gaining a deeper understanding of your consumers. You can then meaningfully set about prioritizing convenience, personalization, and the UX that are key to retention. There’s no magic spell to create repeat purchases; you have to make consistent and genuine attempts to give your customers the service they value.