The following blog post appears in the October issue of the ITSMA Marketing Strategist.
It’s a truism in B2B companies that a handful of customers generate the bulk of the revenue, and that keeping and growing a loyal client is far less expensive than finding net new clients. That’s why B2B marketers must develop strategies that help them listen to and engage customers actively in their marketing programs. As you listen, you will find that your customers are as vested in your company’s success as you are in theirs. That common interest is a basis for what we call reciprocal value: the powerful exchange that occurs when both parties get sufficient value out of a program for it to become self-sustaining.
In the course of recent work with a client on their customer experience work, we heard another framework for considering this. “Be central, be selfless,” was the advice of one client to a vendor when discussing how to build an effective client experience for C-level executives. The four words—be central, be selfless—are powerful when considered together. At the core, they mandate a completely different model and approach to building a client experience.
First, put your clients at the center. The point is that if your company is going to be central to your client’s needs, then they have to be central to yours. That’s tough for any organization to operationalize. It requires companies to completely reorganize their structures, values, and incentives to reward something beyond product sales or silo-based goals.
Second, be selfless. Selflessness and selling rarely coexist. At the end of the day, all companies exist on the back of sales revenue. And if you are a publicly traded company, your selflessness doesn’t have a lot of room as you march to the 90-day quarterly cycle. When we tested with the client how selflessness and selling could coexist, he explained his belief that the mindset of selflessness would bring his company closer to enabling a client-centric culture. Pure selflessness may never exist. But adopting the mindset can still lead to a great client experience.
Consider the following three steps as you take on the goal of achieving a better experience for your clients:
- Start at the top. Changing how your organization thinks about clients and client experience requires CEO buy in. We’ve tried it with other levels of the company and it will eventually fail. This must be a commitment from the top, because putting the client at the center will impact your organizational structure, incentive structures, and even product and solution packaging. Success will be limited if the CEO is not only bought in, but championing this effort.
- Listen to and share stories. A lot of businesses that put their clients at the center have developed a culture that rewards listening to and retelling client stories. Over time, these businesses become a part of the shared value in their clients’ stories.
- Incent for client success. Incentives that encourage sales to operate in a silo discourage client-centric behavior. Shift the incentives to reward placing the client at the center and creating success for that client.
Services marketers are critical to creating ideal client experiences. Through your Account Based Marketing programs, connected content strategies, and qualitative approaches, you can create the authentic relationships that underlie success.
On November 5, Jane Hiscock, President of the Farland Group, will facilitate the Marketing Leaders Panel on Digital Engagement and the Evolving Role of Marketing at ITSMA’s 20th Annual Marketing Conference: The New Face of Marketing.