Ah yes, anyone suffering from a chocolate hangover? Or an excess of corny romanticism? Let’s face it, we all love “love” — but with Valentine’s Day a week behind us, the last thing you probably want right now is more advice on relationships.
Before you toss aside some of that abundant advice about personal relationships, consider how you might apply it to another set of relationships — those with your customers. For example, a few lessons from The New York Times’ column “Modern Love” caught my attention.
This article stresses the importance of communicating relationship goals and the importance of empathy in building lasting relationships. You should think about applying these lessons in business, because experiences and emotions matter more to B2B buyers who are now bringing their expectations from consumer purchasing and their personal lives into the work world. Personal relationship advice extends to customer relationships when you:
- Focus on developing a long-term relationship, not just winning a deal. No relationship lasts long if either party stops putting in effort once they “seal the deal.” B2B marketers risk hurting or losing customers if they only care about attracting and acquiring them. Customer-obsessed marketers build relationships through post-sale marketing and by creating engaging experiences that turn loyal customers into advocates.[i]
- Show some genuine empathy. Relationship advice columns often emphasize the importance of empathy for building and maintaining a healthy, lasting relationship. An empathetic mindset is the hallmark of a customer-obsessed marketing team, as well.[ii] B2B marketers develop empathy by understanding customers and by using post-sale engagement to coach them toward a successful deployment and to build best practices that deliver measurable value.
- Make passionate customers your most reliable advocates. A significant relationship should be with a No. 1 fan: someone interested in your success and willing to advocate on your behalf. Turning customers into advocates should be every B2B marketer’s goal. When business buyers distrust branded content and prospects want to hear from peers, customer advocates can become your most important marketing tool.[iii]
Customer Engagement Marketing (CEM): The Key To Develop Lasting Customer Relationships
If building stronger customer relationships matters to you, you may be wondering how to do it better. In our recent research into how customers create a strategic and holistic customer advocacy program, we found that the most successful programs convert relationship goodwill into business value. We call the process of creating advocates “customer engagement marketing,” which we describe as:
The use of B2B marketing strategy, budget, and resources to encourage existing customers to advocate, publish content, activate media, or influence buyers on behalf of your company in exchange for value.
With the publication of our “Now Tech: B2B Customer Engagement Marketing, Q1 2019” report, we have a full set of research that can help you plan, implement, upgrade, or optimize your post-sale marketing programs with a focus on increasing engagement and turning loyal customers into advocates. Here’s the quick overview:
- “Help Happy Customers Share Their Delight By Prioritizing Post-Sale Marketing.” This report explores why B2B marketers should create a CEM program to boost their brand’s influence and increase customer success. We found that CEM programs pay off when marketing creates post-sale experiences that: 1) tap into customers’ natural tendencies to advocate; 2) invest in marketing programs that start the day customers sign the contract; and 3) ensure programs deliver measurable results to the business.
- “Turn B2B Customer Goodwill Into Gold.” CEM programs fizzle when B2B marketers execute a bunch of ad hoc programs, fail to align business needs to what customers are willing to do, and — most importantly! — fail to provide value to customers. This report shows that individuals tend to exhibit one of four advocate personality types — based on their preferences and willingness to share their knowledge, experience, and advice. B2B marketers should use these personality models to align advocate preferences and skills to the business outcomes that you want your customers to help you achieve.
- “Convert B2B Customer Passion Into Value Through Advocacy.” This report explores how top marketers develop programs that turn post-sale customer experiences and success into value for your business. Based on studies and interviews with CEM providers and practitioners, it shows how the most successful CEM programs start by answering “What’s in it for advocates, how will they benefit, and what value will they enjoy?” instead of prioritizing “What can they do for us?” The report also covers how to scale a CEM program and keep advocates engaged.
- “Now Tech: B2B Customer Engagement Marketing, Q1 2019.” Technology and vendor selection should be the last step in developing a CEM program. After establishing a strategic CEM program, then it’s time to diagnose existing infrastructure and processes to scale success to the next level. Today, technology solutions in this market are diverse, and no one platform stands out. We found that two options matter based on strategy: If you don’t have a steady stream of advocates, select a vendor that can improve onboarding and customer success. Those with advanced post-sale marketing programs focused on onboarding and best-practices sharing will next need to focus on scaling and automating advocate activities.
- “Not Yet The New Normal: ABM Must Evolve Into Account-Based Engagement.” This report delves into how CEM and ABM (account-based marketing) are a perfect romance between these customer-centric marketing approaches. Pairing ABM and CEM strategies is a practical way to increase your customer obsession maturity, particularly when applied to post-sale customer experiences.[iv] Check out this report to learn about four practices that help B2B marketers leverage ABM tactics for lifetime customer engagement.
Want more? Join us on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST for the Forrester webinar: Customer Engagement Marketing: How To Turn Loyal Customers Into Advocates. During this hour, we will dive deeper into the ways to design a successful CEM program and the technologies and vendors that can support your customer advocacy efforts.