After cleaning out my purse I had a bemused thought -- how do men hold all of their loyalty cards? Curious, I asked a few male friends what they carry around. They actually laughed at me. Apparently my male friends don't carry loyalty cards unless it is for a hotel chain they visit for business regularly. Admittedly, my male sampling was very small, but it got me thinking. How does a marketer create customer loyalty in a diverse B2B customer base where loyalty isn't carried around in their wallet like a credit card? In this article we'll explore five secrets that make customer loyalty sticky and are surprisingly cost effective to implement.
Spend less -- build loyalty for less than $1,000
No, I'm not missing any zeros. You can build incredible brand loyalty with little more than existing resources and a commitment to carving out quality time. Axceler is a leading provider of SharePoint administration and governance tools. They sell to IT professionals in organizations of all sizes. They are growing rapidly but face fierce competion. Like most emerging technology leaders their success is dependant on building a generation of raving fans -- but they had one particular challenge. Their clients fell in love with a single product feature that drove purchase, but they rarely explored the full capabilites of the product. Enter the Axceler Academy program.
"SharePoint has a strong community and we wanted to tap into that by driving value for our clients that would increase loyalty to the Axceler brand," notes Meggie Rohan, global customer success manager at Axceler.
Axceler Academy had three primary goals:
- Encourage customers to use more of Axceler's flagship's product features
- Provide an incentive for IT professionals who often move from one company to another to bring Axceler along with them
- Decrease time to value of Axceler solutions by showcasing how their purchase could positively impact SharePoint adoption
The program consists of four on-line training sessions -- complete with an open question and answer forum -- along with a graduation certificate and 20 percent on any future purchases discount that transfers with the certified professional if they move on to another company. The program is free to all Axceler clients.
The bottom line has been incredible. With the program running for only two months client renewal rates are up 4 percent year over year, and Axceler has seen a 46 percent increase in customers who said they will be referencable. Axceler even found sixteen new upsell opportunities from the first session's evaluation survey.
"We're extremely enouraged by the results of our first session. Our academy evaluation feedback has been extremely positive and is helping us shape future programs. It's clear that loyalty in our client base is improving because we are focused on client satisfaction and success." Meggie continues "And best of all, we did all of this for just a few hundred dollars and using existing resources."
(What little money was spent was for designing and printing academy certificates for graduates. The educational materials and event hosting infrastructure capitalized on existing support and pre-sales engineering resources.)
Pull out the sofa
If you have ever participated in a counselling session you probably noted that the proveribal "sofa" is real. Counsellors have comfortable seating and spend most of their time listening. They ask great questions and although the clock is ticking, good councellors make sure you feel all of their attention is on you. These same principals apply to our clients. We want to tell them all about our newest widget, but they want us to understand how what they purchased makes them feel. Good listening can be time consuming so how do you listen well without blowing your entire schedule?. After all, you have a business to run and new customers to engage.
Take a queue from consellors. Create environments that are comfortable and safe to be open. But do so in a programmatic environment where you control the schedule. Talk less, and listen more -- people are loyal to those they feel connected with them on a personal level. Here are some easy ways to really listen without throwing your schedule out the window.
- Randomly interview existing clients and don't forget to ask "what didn't I ask that you'd like me to know?"
- Send out regular surveys and share back how their feedback changed something
- Create forums by which they can participate -- at events you are already attending