Is It Back to the Future for B2B Marketing? (Finally!)

10864007 - future concept, future word on puzzle piece with back lightHave you noticed how disjointed some B2B marketing is? Over the last ten, and especially five, years this seemed to be a growing trend. Article after article talked about and many B2B marketers implemented digital marketing, social media marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, etc. as though each can stand alone. And sadly, in many cases, each has stood alone with little thought given to an overall strategy and, unfortunately, delivered less than stellar results. But last week I attended a conference that gives me hope we may finally be seeing a return to strategic integrated marketing. Read on to learn more about this and other takeaways from the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit (MAM Summit). Continue reading

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Customer Retention: From Sticky Relationships to LTV

Customer Retention

Retention marketing focuses on strategies and programs designed to retain your existing customers and optimize lifetime customer value. In my previous post, B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do, I discussed why retention marketing is worth doing and where to begin. Now let’s talk about some strategies B2B marketers can use to keep their existing customers and gain additional revenues throughout the relationship.

Strategies for retaining customers

At a fundamental level retaining your customers boils down to keeping them happy enough to continue doing business with you. Many customers, though of course it varies by industry and product/service, will maintain the status quo because change involves perceived risk of an unknown provider. Changing providers also involves switching costs.  Switching costs are actual costs the customer incurs (financial fees for early termination) or personal costs (career risks, time required to research providers and negotiate an agreement) to stop buying your product or service and begin with a new provider.

Create “sticky” customer relationships

rubber adhesiveTo prevent your customers from defecting to competitors who will eventually upset the Continue reading

B2B Retention Marketing: The First Thing You Must Do

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Stock: 123RF Copyright : Illia Uriadnikov Image ID : 47795804

Have you ever found yourself writing copy for your B2B marketing efforts with fingers crossed, hoping your company could actually deliver? You know the copy I’m talking about where you describe how great your product and the customer experience is – our product has the “lowest total cost of ownership”, we deliver “premium customer support”, “easy payments with detailed monthly reporting”, “quick spare parts delivery and expert troubleshooting”, “product/service reviews to ensure you get the most value”, etc.

As a marketer you should be confident making promises like these to prospective customers. After all, the messages marketing and sales communicate to the customer during the sales cycle sets customer expectations. However, if expectations don’t match reality, then you’ve likely got low customer retention rates. And what marketer wants to work hard acquiring new leads and working with sales to close the deal, only to learn your customers defect to the competition after a short time.

Retention data

Losing customers isn’t only frustrating for marketers, it’s really bad for sustaining business growth. Consider the following data:

  • From Bain & Company:
    • Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits 25 – 95%
    • The likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, versus 5 – 20% to a new lead
  • It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one according to Lee Resource Inc., though I’ve seen numbers as high as 10 times depending on your product/service and industry.

Check out this infographic Customer Acquisition Vs.Retention Costs Statistics and Trends for even more data.

The point is, if your customer retention is low, don’t just assume that a retention marketing program will improve your numbers. Before you start a retention marketing program, Continue reading

Competitive Intelligence: 8 Ways B2B Marketers Should Use

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Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there’s not much discussion about competitive intelligence in B2B marketing circles lately. However, competitive intelligence should be an ongoing effort, not a one-time snapshot, within B2B marketing, even in small and medium sized companies. According to the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), competitive intelligence is the legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors.

A 2014 study by Global Intelligence Alliance (now M-Brain), Market Intelligence Trends 2020, reported that 42% of respondents said competitors will be the most important area of focus for market intelligence with regards to the business environment in 2020.

Here are 8 ways B2B marketers should be using competitive intelligence:

Continue reading

A Marketing Lesson from the Tower of Pisa

A modern marketer visits this centuries old tower

pisatowerandcathedralI recently returned from a trip to Italy (I highly recommend visiting Tuscany if you haven’t already!) that included the “required” visit to the Tower of Pisa. We were flying out from Pisa so it made sense to visit the tower, though to be honest, I wasn’t very excited about it since I prefer seeing and experiencing less touristy and off-the-beaten-path places when I vacation. In spite of my lackluster expectations, I came away a fan of Pisa and its leaning tower. As I analyzed why this was it struck me that this centuries old tower illustrates an important lesson for the modern marketer.

Differentiate your product or service

Every marketing student will recall one of Michael Porter’s generic strategies is a differentiation strategy in which a firm seeks competitive advantage by offering something unique that customers value and see as different from or better than the competition. Using this strategy a firm can command higher prices that drive revenue growth and profits.

OK, so you may be thinking the Tower of Pisa is unique because it leans, that’s why they call it the Leaning Tower of Pisa after all. But it’s not the only tower that leans. In fact, when I search for “leaning tower”, Google returns 2,680,000 results! And they aren’t all for Pisa’s leaning tower. According to Wikipedia several towers lean even more than Pisa’s. One 15th century tower in Germany leans due to a similarly bad foundation and two towers were designed on purpose to lean in Abu Dhabi and New Zealand.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa differentiates itself via its stunning beauty, engaging history, and perception as a tourist icon.

The tower is part of a beautiful white marble cathedral complex called the Field of Miracles
that includes an impressive cathedral, baptistery, pisatowerand cemetery. The leaning tower was built as the campanile, or bell tower, for the cathedral with intricate carvings in the white marble that gleams in the sun. Even though the tower was being used by the Germans as an observation post during World War II, it was saved from destruction by the Allies because the U.S. soldier sent to confirm the Germans presence was so impressed with the beauty of the cathedral and its bell tower.

An engaging history

The history of the tower is especially engaging because it began leaning almost immediately and several attempts were made to correct the lean during further construction and in more recent times. During construction of the second floor in 1178 there was a noticeable tilt, so word of its leaning stance certainly spread from the outset. Then it sat for a hundred years before a few more floors were added with extra height on one side to try to compensate for the lean. The top floor and bell-chamber were finally added in the mid 1300’s, again at slight angles to counter the lean. Today if you succeeded in straightening the base of the tower, it would still lean!

A tourist icon

While several attempts have been made to reduce the lean or keep it from falling over, the Italian government realized that some lean needed to be retained because of the tower’s vital role in Pisa’s tourist industry. The tower is listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, putting it in a very exclusive class. And in 1987 the entire Field of Miracles was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site further solidifying the tower’s cultural and physical significance to tourists worldwide. Even though I’d seen a million pictures, seeing it firsthand made me realize how unique and special it really is – and how much it leans. Over two days I walked past it many times and each time I was amazed it hadn’t fallen over yet!

Learn more about Porter’s generic strategy concept for competitive advantage.  Is your company using a differentiated strategy for competitive advantage? Do you think this concept is still valid given today’s pace of change?