Customer centricity is the key to retention.
A recent Gallup report begins with a startling statistic: “Only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged—that is, emotionally and psychologically attached to the companies they do business with.” The other
71% of customers are ready and willing to take their business elsewhere.
This should give pause to the many B2SMB companies that continue to focus their marketing and sales activities almost exclusively on new business—constantly chasing more leads. Meanwhile, marketers at these companies often tell me they feel like, instead of a funnel, there is a strainer. Leads come in the top, but customers fall out the bottom.
Gallup argues that it’s essential for companies to adopt a customer-centric approach to their businesses. This is “about more than focusing on the customer or having a defined customer experience; it is about putting the customer at the core of everything. The goal of this model is to make the customer organization more successful [emphasis added].”
As someone who built and ran a media company for 12 years, I never thought there was a way to do business other than putting the customer at the center of everything. That said, while I had goals and investors, it wasn’t a public company. I didn’t have the pressures that come along with that. Nonetheless, the idea that companies must focus first on helping their SMB customers better run their businesses is something we stress time and again.
Today, brands must have a culture, strategy, and tactics around helping their customers be more successful. This applies after the sale as well as before it. This is what makes a brand truly sticky. Many companies, especially in the software industry, now have customer success teams and programs. However, Gallup found that the need for greater customer centricity, and issues associated with not being customer centric, applied across all sectors they studied.
Many ways of demonstrating an organization-wide commitment to the customer (e.g. more efficient operations, better customer service, delivering on brand promise) are beyond the scope of this post. However, one important way is with content—content that puts the customer first by helping them with challenges and opportunities they face. Content that’s of real value to SMBs can position your company as a resource they will be reluctant to abandon. It can also help your sales teams by providing a reason to engage with customers about cross-sell and upsell opportunities that’s more than just a product pitch.
Opportunities after the sale
We often say that “SMBs don’t know what they don’t know.” This applies after the sale as well. Many features of complex product or service offerings go unused. This is often because customers either don’t know they exist or how to apply them. This is either a problem or an opportunity for B2SMB brands. Content that goes beyond “how do I use this” to include best practices, often sourced from other SMBs who are successfully using a product or service, can go a long way toward helping customers be more successful and enjoy a positive experience with your product.
When customers get communications from you that consistently provide good ideas and tell them things they don’t already know, it builds trust. They feel like you’ve got their back, like you can be counted on to be there for them. This helps create lasting relationships that can lead to new opportunities, increased lifetime customer value, and, ideally, to customers becoming enthusiastic advocates for your brand.
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