Many SMB owners operating in B2B markets have the aspiration to acquire large corporate clients. Getting a large “big brand” customer can provide an SMB with numerous benefits including:
- Larger revenues
- Long term contracts
- Enhanced industry reputation
The key to successfully acquiring such clients or customers is to provide an excellent customer experience.
What Is Customer Experience?
Customer experience, commonly referred to as CX, is the product of the interaction between an organization and the customer over the life of the relationship.
A great CX means that a customer’s experience during all interactions (i.e. before, during and after purchase) are at least meeting, if not, exceeding customers’ expectations.
The Role of Customer Experience in B2B
Most of the focus on customer experience has typically been in a business-to-consumer (B2C) context. However, over the past few years, there has been increased focus on CX in the B2B domain as it is now being recognized as a key competitive differentiator.
According to research conducted by the Walker Group, by 2020, customer experience will out do both price and product quality as a key driver in the B2B domain. (Source: Customers 2020 by the Walker Group, 2017).
Therefore, for SMBs pursuing (or considering) to pursue business customers, it is essential that customer experience be given a high priority and focus in their organisations.
What Does Customer Experience Include?
When examining the customer experience your SMB provides to your clients or customers, be sure to consider the following:
1. The B2B Customer Journey
How business customers move from awareness to purchase to post purchase service and support
2. “Product” Experience
The experience the business customer has when using your company’s product and/or services
The experience the business customer has when they are:
- Receiving assistance to resolving issues
- Making use of additional services your company may provide such as training or consulting
The sum total of the customer’s beliefs and expectations of the supplier and how that organisation positions itself
5. Customer Feedback
Efforts to obtain customer impact on the product and service quality received
(Source: CXcellence: How to achieve CX success in B2B, B2B Marketing 2017)
The One Principle Never to Forget About B2B!
When operating in a B2B context, you must ALWAYS be aware of one key characteristic especially when dealing with larger organisations and that is:
BUYERS and USERS are often NOT the Same!
In other words, those that make the decision (and there could be multiple people involved) to buy may not be the ones who will actually use your product or service.
So, what does that mean when operating in B2B?
The “Secret Sauce” to Winning in B2B
The key to acquiring and retaining business customers is that you must deliver a “DUAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.”
This means that you must meet the needs of both Buyers and Users. These needs are often distinct.
Value Drivers of Buyers and Users
What They Seek
|Buyers||Information/advice to help them achieve strategic business objectives e.g. Cost minimization, gain market share, drive innovation|
|Users||Specific functionalities, capabilities and/or expertise
Service level assurances or guarantees
TAKE ACTION: What Must SMBs Do to Succeed in B2B
There are three steps that your company should take in order to deliver the DUAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE that is needed to acquire, retain and grow business customers.
1. Identify and understand the participants in the buying process
Remember that in larger organizations there are often multiple stakeholders involved so you will need to gain an understanding of each of their priorities, drivers and motivations.
2. Gather and respond to customer feedback to improve products and services
Be sure to obtain feedback from both buyers and users.
Tip: To gain a deep understanding of business customer needs use qualitative B2B “listening” techniques such as depth interviews, customer visits/workshop so that you can fully understand the “hows” and “whys” of sought after product and service enhancements.
3. Be proactive to address customer issues before they impact business performance
Aim High! Focus on delivering a dual B2B customer experience and your SMB will be well positioned to attain the growth and business customers you seek.