Worth a read

Customer loyalty without the loyalty card

In the world of B2B Marketing there is more and more we can borrow from our friends in the consumer camp. Advertising, Social Media, Customer Insight and Brand Power are just a few of the terms that started life firmly embedded in the B2C Marketing Plan. As the world of B2B Marketing becomes ever more sophisticated, the boundaries between B2B and B2C marketing strategies blur into a shade of grey.

As the grey area spreads is there really any definition left when it comes to targeting these two groups of customers? How about when it comes to keeping track of these customers, or in other words CRM? If we look to the consumer sector we see an abundance of case studies about effective and clever targeting, driven from a meticulous recording of customer insight. Think Boots, or Tesco or more accurately think Advantage Card and Clubcard. Loyalty schemes in particular have accelerated the consumer brand’s ability to segment and target customers on a mass scale.

This is where the B2B marketer needs to think a little differently. Needs, preferences, spending patterns and buyer behaviour are just as important, but capturing and recording this information is not so simple. Consider that a B2B customer may actually be made up of a number of contact points – the Office Manager, the Marketing Assistant, the Procurement Officer, the Accountant, the list is endless… The behaviour exhibited by these contacts will vary and will be shaped in some way by the organisational constraints of their specific role.

Now consider the organisational differences and varied complexities between these customer businesses. When it comes to managing a business relationship it’s about getting under the skin of the entire organisation. To break into management speak for a minute, and borrow a versatile framework from McKinsey, this means understanding the shared values, systems, structure, staff, skills, strategy and style of every single business you deal with. You can’t do this with a loyalty card.

A CRM system is an essential tool for any organisation but such an investment must be suitably fit for purpose to be effective. There are too many tales of CRM systems bought in hype, now gathering dust on the metaphorical shelf. Unlike consumer systems the B2B CRM system is about more than data mining it’s about developing a deep understanding of organisational as well as individual behaviour. An organisation doesn’t slot into demographic groups and is made up of a multitude of different personalities.

Here are some top tips for getting a B2B CRM system right first time:

MAKE IT RELEVANT – try to find a system that is    industry specific, this will go some way to incorporate common processes.

OWN IT – make sure the system you choose provides the flexibility to customise functionality around the specific requirements of your business.

USE IT – ensuring good use of the system is essentially a change management issue. Invest in training and internal communications from day one to ensure good buy in.

KEEP IT CLEAN – organisations and the contacts within them are changing constantly. To keep on top of these changes a dedicated resource for data cleaning is strongly advised.

REVIEW IT – as your business grows and changes so too will the requirements of your system. Make sure these developments are reflected in your CRM system.

If you get it right, your B2B CRM system will become your version of the Tesco Clubcard. All interactions with a customer can be tracked, interests and characteristics of contacts can be recorded, sales patterns can be analysed and business development can thrive. And if you get it really right, you can go beyond customer loyalty and develop business partnerships – music to the ears of any marketer.

Nikki Annison
Marketing Manager
Union Square Software