By Whitney Satin
When it comes to buzzword bingo about the issues B2B marketers care about most, “customer loyalty” makes a pretty strong showing. It’s no secret that—on average—cross-sales to existing customers are much more profitable than new business acquisitions. And even as we inch our way closer toward economic recovery, it’s heartening to know that current customers present the best opportunity for profitable growth in any economic environment.
MLC has spent a significant amount of time on the loyalty question, trying to understand what companies with high levels of customer loyalty do that’s so much better than the rest of the pack. We’ve surveyed marketers, we’ve surveyed sales reps and sales managers, and, perhaps most critically, we’ve surveyed B2B customers.
Interestingly, the data all points to one resounding conclusion:
Customer loyalty results from our ability to teach customers something new and unexpected about how to compete more effectively in their environment.
For the purposes of our surveys, we’ve found that customers exhibit high levels of loyalty when suppliers:
- Offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market
- Educate them on new issues and outcomes
- Provide ongoing education and consultation
The real opportunity for competitive differentiation doesn’t stem from products and services. It’s the insight a supplier delivers, the ability to reframe how customers think about their world, and then providing them with new ways to perform more effectively and compete more profitably.
But this insight-led approach doesn’t just mean churning out twice as many white papers and webinars. Suppliers need to hardwire some connection between their teaching efforts and commercial goals. Enter “commercial teaching,” or, reframing the way the customer assigns value to the areas where you outperform competitors.
Commercial teaching breaks down into four components:
- Lead to your unique benefits. Tying directly back to some capability where you outperform competitors puts you in a much better position when it comes to winning business. (Of course, this assumes that you know what your unique benefits are in the first place.)
- Challenge customer assumptions. Whatever you teach will be most impactful if you can reframe the customers’ understanding of their marketplace. It should speak directly to that customer’s world in a way they haven’t thought of before.
- Catalyze action. Any teaching should lay out very specific steps that either reduce customers’ costs or increase their revenue. It has to create urgency so that they’ll do something about it (ideally, by doing business with you).
- Scale across customers. Commercial teaching is an organizational capability, not an individual skill, and should be approached segment by segment rather than customer by customer.
Placing a premium on insight isn’t something new, but when it comes to meeting the four criteria of good commercial teaching, most organizations fall short.
MLC members: check out these examples of successful commercial teaching to see if your efforts meet the bar.