I read a stat the other day that said 65% of B2B customers are actively disengaged from the companies they buy from. I’m not 100% sure what this means but I like to interpret it to mean that a large percentage of your clients are likely to jump ship when the next shiny new offering comes along – in some cases without being aware that they were buying from you in the first place! It’s cheaper and easier to retain customers than find new ones, so there is a real need to find ways to get our customers more engaged.

In the B2C world there are a plethora of gimmicks that companies use to take advantage of this fact – why wouldn’t you change electricity supplier if it’s painless and you get that a fluffy meercat toy your child has seen on all the advert? Cheap cinema tickets in exchange for a different company taking your direct debit each month? In B2B terms, sending a cuddly toy to the chief exec of your top client might not go down that well, so what can you do to make sure your customers don’t jump ship?

Delight – I think the key to customer retention in B2B is delight, getting a customer to the point where they want to interact with you, tell others about what you do and buy more next time.  A delighted customer is incredibly valuable to you, below are my thoughts on some of the things we should all be doing with every customer. Get in touch if you have some other ideas we could all try?

Set expectations – Hands up if setting expectations is part of your sales process (incidentally this can be a great way to seal the deal!). From the point where your prospect first starts interacting with your sales team,  you should be starting to set expectations: what happens next? What will happen if they need help? how does the roll out process work? Setting these expectations from the start helps the customer to know exactly what to expect and helps you to ensure they get exactly what you promised. The old adage “Under promise and over deliver” rings true here. If you can set a very reasonable  standard of expectation and constantly over deliver, your customer will love you for it.

Innovate & Evolve – Hopefully you are doing this anyway! With so many new companies, products and services coming into a crowded market, there is always going to be something shiny and new to woo your customer away. If you can innovate and evolve what you are doing and (possibly more importantly) make sure your customers are constantly aware of what you are doing – you can be the shiny new toy in the toy box when renewal time comes along.  

Talk to them (and act on what they say) – In B2B we are lucky to have a lot more interaction with our customers than in B2C. This means we can (if we want to) ask them what they think and how they feel about what we do on a regular basis. We can take this a level higher and act on what they and take it even higher by letting them know that we have acted on what they have requested. There is a degree of managing expectation here, if something they suggest is unrealistic and never going to happen – tell them!

Educate & engage – Keep actively demonstrating expertise and add value at every opportunity - this is where your content comes in. Most of us are creating regular content that helps us to attract new prospects to our website and social streams. Far fewer of us create the sort of content that keeps our customers interested once they sign the cheque. If it’s cheaper to keep a customer than find a new one then this is a no-brainer. Keep in touch with them, keep producing content that helps them with the challenges they face. Try email newsletter or a gated client area of your site, guides to advanced use of your product or anything else that helps your customers to keep on learning from you.

Build a tribe – This is where your social media comes in, build a tribe of actively engaged customers via your social channels. To be successful you are going to need to know where your customers are and how they like to interact with you. Depending on your demographic this could be anything from an active and exclusive LinkedIn or Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram or anything else. The key is that to make it active you will have to be involved and actively drive discussion – a tribe needs a leader and falls apart without one.  

Create advocates – The absolute pinnacle of customer retention is to create a customer that is so engaged that they become an advocate for you. This can be a result of any of the above tactics but once you have that advocate, you need to ensure you are actively communicating with them on a regular basis. A call to one of your advocates can give amazing insight into perception of your product from the customer side. You need to delight these people on a regular basis, find ways to interact with them and never ever do anything to endanger the relationship. Neglect and unhappiness can turn an advocate into an active detractor and no-one wants that!

A word on promoters -  a promoter is someone who, despite that fact that they do not and may never have used your product, will shout about how good you are at every opportunity. These people are like gold dust and it’s important to identify them and know who they are. Be aware that they may never buy from you so you can take the sales pressure off. Talk to them and see how you can help them to continue doing what they are doing, look after them and nurture them as if they were your most engaged customer.