Honeywell, like many other companies, recognizes that brand differentiation and increased market share require more than just offering “best-in-class” products or services. It also means creating exceptional customer experiences, which can go a long way toward defining or reinforcing a competitive edge.
The question is, what are you doing to create exceptional experiences for your best customers? You may not have Honeywell’s resources at your disposal, but you can be a heavy hitter when it comes to customer retention.
You see it all the time: Companies lure new customers through special incentives, while virtually ignoring their long-time customers. Although certainly concerned about new customer acquisition, the medical device company in our case example also takes very good care of its loyal customers, offering volume-based discounts and other perks, such as free shipping, extended warranties, no-charge accessories and business development fund accruals.
Enrich their minds, pamper their egos.
Help your customers stay current with evolving best practices in their industries. For instance, bring in subject matter experts for “by invitation only” free live seminars or webinars — which may also enable customers to earn continuing education units or certifications. Treat top customers to an all-expenses-paid trip to your corporate offices for special annual events where they can connect personally with key staff and hear from industry gurus.
Support customer marketing initiatives.
You can be a hero to smaller customers who lack the resources to hire a marketing staff or ad agency. Solution: Give them access to an assortment of B2B marketing materials via an online “local marketing toolbox,” and encourage participation in turnkey ad campaigns free of charge or at substantially reduced rates.
Help them fill other expertise voids.
Smaller companies may lack internal expertise in various disciplines, such as website development, social media content and benefits administration. Identify the voids and then link customers with the appropriate service provider partners. Offset the costs to your customers by negotiating special rates with your partners or by allowing customers to apply business development fund accruals toward these services.
Give customers a voice.
Form an advisory board consisting of a dozen or so of your top customers, and meet with them once or twice a year to share product/service roadmaps and to solicit opinions on planned new initiatives. Besides garnering a wealth of frontline intelligence, you’ll convey this unmistakable message to your top customers: “We keep you and your needs at the forefront of our strategic decision making.” Survey customers periodically, querying them about a broad range of topics, such as how they’d like to receive communications or which product features they’d like to see.
Resist the temptation to pinch pennies.
It may be difficult to justify certain perks from an immediate return-on-investment perspective. However, your best customers may continue to do business with you, in part, because of these perks. If you’re not sure, ask them. Listen, learn and apply their feedback.
Growing your customer base is a commendable goal. Just be sure to devote adequate time and resources to strengthening relationships with your best customers. The payoff can be substantial. Our case example medical device company is not only holding onto its best customers, but has documented significant revenue growth from sales to its existing customer base.
Lastly, your marketing team needs to be involved with your company’s “best customer” initiatives, even if they don’t fall under the marketing umbrella. Regardless of who owns the project, you should, at minimum, make certain messaging stays “on brand” and customer communications are consistent with corporate standards.
Bill Johnson is president and chief copywriter at WordWizards, Inc. He specializes
in B2B marketing communications, including case studies, for companies in the healthcare sector. You may reach him at 651-351-9385 or Bill.Johnson@word-wizards.com.