The Challenge: In a study by the Business Marketing Association, most BtoB marketers say customer engagement is a high priority within their marketing organization (72 percent), but 43 percent grade their company's level of customer engagement, a C, with even more giving their companies a D or an F.
The opportunity for BtoB marketers: successfully engage their customers by establishing new avenues of relevant communication.
Despite such poor self-ratings, 72 percent of surveyed BtoB marketers cite customer retention and loyalty as their primary reasons for establishing customer engagement efforts. Other motivating factors are recommendations for products and services that match customer needs (54%) and a more compelling customer experience (41 percent).
A company that has set the standard for BtoB customer engagement is American Express. Not only has AmEx developed events and contests to drive engagement but it has also made itself an invaluable resource to its merchant customers with two information-packed websites.
1. Events: In 2010 Small Business Saturday was conceived and promoted by American Express. The goal: drive small business holiday shopping. It is now a year round BtoB commitment. It has set new revenue records each year since its launch, and surpassed all expectations with $5.5 billion in spending in 2012.
2. Contests: "Big Break for Small Business" was designed to transform the way small businesses connect and engage with customers online. It not only rewards 5 winners with an in-person consultation with AmEx and a $25,000 free Facebook ad campaign but it incentivizes engagement by giving all entrants with a $50 Facebook ad credit.
3. Websites: AmEx has established two information packed websites: American Express Small Business which offers tools and advice and Open Forum a place for businesses to share and access the latest business and marketing news.
On its Open website, AmEx states that it "supports business owners with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses" But perhaps the most important thing that AmEx can teach BtoB marketers is to build engagement strategies based on increasing your overall value to your customers.
3 Takeaways to increase BtoB customer engagement:
- Dramatically change your approach from transactional to consultative, by understanding your customer's requirements and creating solutions that will provide true value.
- Create ongoing interactions and conversations by providing insightful and relevant reports, newsletters, blogs, websites, and research, that transforms you from just another vendor to a trusted resource for both products and information.
- Create opportunities for engagement such as webinars, contests, events, chats, and virtual seminars that put your business in the spotlight as an expert.
Ernan Roman is recognized as a Customer Experience innovator and was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame for creating three transformational methodologies: Voice of Customer Relationship Research, Integrated Direct Marketing, and Opt-in Marketing.
He was also named by Crain's B to B Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in Business Marketing".
His latest book on marketing best practices is titled, : Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.
Ernan is also the author of the widely read blog, "Ernan's Insights on Marketing Best Practices", (www.erdm.com), and author of "Opt-in Marketing" and "Integrated Direct Marketing".
ERDM's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, NBC Universal, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec.
As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based strategies, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with customers and prospects of these clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high value customer relationships.