Although the deals tend to be bigger, in scope and revenue, and because of it, B2B sales tend to have a longer cycle. More decision makers are involved on the side of the prospective customer organization, while subject matter experts tend to get involved on the selling side.
More people on both sides of the agreement include legal counsel for contract reviews, and teams who will be responsible for the implementation of said purchase. At least one hopes they will be in the loop as execution is where a company realizes its return on investment (ROI).
A lot of effort and funds are expended to acquire these customers -- lead generation campaigns (email, telemarketing, landing pages, banner ads), print ads, public relations, analyst relations, Web site optimization activities (SEO/SEM), database maintenance, brochures and collateral, video demos, Webinars, live events. This is just on the marketing side.
How about sales expenses, operational costs, etc? You get the idea.
On a good day, the marketing activities are all integrated. The cost definitely add up -- and should all be included in the calculation of cost per lead with copywriters, and agencies designing landing pages to boot.Got customers?
A lot of courting is expended because, as I said above, the sale requires many people to come to a meeting of the minds and while many have the power to say no, in organizations few have the power to say yes alone.
Go through the inventory of activities you work on for the pre-purchase phase of the buying cycle, including RFPs (if you work with the Government, you do those frequently), and you will probably notice that your organization is heavily weighed to creating content assets for this phase.
What happens after a customer signs on the dotted line is typically an operational on-boarding, depending on the type of business, maybe a customer portal for service updates and day to day maintenance, customer service or support for oops moments, and if you're lucky a useful customer newsletter.
Smart companies also have user group meetings. Smarter companies have customer advisory boards to tap into that product/service experience on an ongoing basis. What if you extended all that great content and those activities to map to the needs of customers after the sale is made?Tapping into the power of community
We talked about the case for customer communities. You know the reasons why building a customer community is a good idea. Yet, because they're putting a lot of effort into up front customer acquisition, many companies find they're strapped for resources when it comes to customer retention activities -- and content.
I see the social dynamics at play with communities -- sharing knowledge, providing a forum for discussion, continuous learning, etc. -- as a winning proposition in the retention department. Mind you, community building and moderation is a serious endeavor, not a savings program for your marketing dollars.
If you participate in social networks, you will know that you get results in the places where you put the most effort.Flip the funnel
With a customer community, you get to flip the funnel on customer acquisition. And you get much more. Here are a few ideas:
- customers get exclusive benefits
- access to knowledge and new product enhancements before anyone else
- support on issues that will make them smarter with their own customers
- customers can continue the conversation from live events
- they can stay in touch with each other through accessing the content you offer as incentive
- a customer portal becomes a place filled with opportunities to connect and network
- you get to pre-test service ideas or take them for a spin
- multiple touch points in constant contact type of concept
- a really good way to entice prospective customers to sign up with you
Working directly with customers and helping them gain insights for their own businesses is one of the most rewarding parts of marketing and communications -- and operations, and product development, and potentially more. You don't have to have a perfect software package to build community, although that helps.
You do need to have a desire to shift some of your thinking from lead generation to community building. Maybe you don't need to do that today. Let the numbers tell you when... in many organization that time is now.
I bet you I'm not the only one to find that video funny in an endearing kind of way. Customers come in all kinds of backgrounds and passions. Are you connecting with them on their terms?
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.