B-to-B: Customer Onboarding
You never know where you'll meet your next customer. You could be on a plane, in line for coffee or leaving a meeting with another prospect. It starts with a simple conversation. How you choose to begin the relationship with new contacts, and what you learn about them, will have a direct impact on how well you stay connected with them and, ultimately, whether or not you bring them onboard as customers.
The beauty of today's B-to-B marketing world is that the flight or coffee shop could just as easily be Twitter, Facebook or some other marketing channel. However, the problem is it's difficult to keep the conversation going. When and how should you reach out to new contacts, ask the next question, engage with their businesses or invite them to learn more about yours? Having complete and current contact and behavioral data streamlines the process of acquiring new customers.
Follow these steps to get that information, nurture those relationships and find customer onboarding success.
1. Take It Slow
If we have learned anything during the down economy, it's that it's a buyers' market.
Whether you sell cars or CRM systems, buyers are in control. The old method of pushing until they say yes is no longer effective—and for that matter, probably never was. To establish long-term customer relationships, you have to take things one step at a time.
For example, if you exchange business cards, swap emails or connect with someone on LinkedIn, the first thing you should do is add that contact information to your marketing database. Note where and how you met the person, and any other details about your conversation. At each future point of contact, you can learn a bit more about the company and the individual.
The next stage in your engagement process could be to invite those contacts to subscribe to your newsletter or blog. When they respond, it's a good time to ask for another nugget or two of information that helps you understand their needs and role within the organization. It's important to remember that if your sales cycle is typically 18 months, it's unrealistic to expect new online followers will buy in 60 days. It all depends on where they are in the buying cycle and the level of need they have that you can address. Successful relationships take time to build knowledge and trust, and customer relationships are no different.
2. Use Data Wisely
According to research firm SiriusDecisions, companies could realize nearly 70 percent more revenue by simply having better data.
Where to start? Evaluate what you already know and remove the dead weight. This may seem a neverending task to truly maintain a current and accurate marketing database, but consider the example in the chart below.
If the first record represents the data that was already in your database, you probably sent every corporate offer to John, just like everybody else on the list. This becomes incredibly wasteful when you think about how many of your other entries share the same empty status. Once you partner with a data vendor that provides a current phone number, find out the additional cost to acquire information, such as areas of the business each record is responsible for—or better yet, the things they have authority to purchase—and fill in the blanks.
This information can help you not only send more targeted communications, but also find a number of contacts who have similar profiles to the contacts who have already converted. Now your database becomes a prospect pool of valuable contacts with a much higher probability of buying your products.
Given that the average person changes jobs every three years, it is absolutely critical that you have a reliable and fresh source to update this data.
3. Contact Them on Their Terms
People tend to prefer different types of information and methods of communication, depending on where they are in the buying cycle for your product or service. Learning those preferences early can make a big difference in influencing their decision to continue the conversation with you. The key value your contacts receive for sharing this information is that they'll get whatever they need—information, support, etc.—when they need it to support purchase decisions. The value for your business is that you learn a little more about them at each point of contact.
For example, when new prospects respond to your communications, they are most likely serious about buying the product—but whether they buy from you depends on how you treat them. At each interaction, prospects are willing to provide another piece of information—i.e., budget range, decision timeline, etc.—in exchange for seeing how your product can solve their business problems. At that time, ask for their preferred method of contact, and respect that request as you continue the conversation.
4. Know When to
Close the Deal
Because there are so many ways prospects can find information about your company and products without speaking to you, it's important that each digital interaction provides value for your business and for the prospect.
Don't be fooled and think it's a done deal because a prospect is engaged with your brand online. Remember, that prospect could have had similar experiences with your competitors and only now be ready to evaluate options and make a purchase decision. By the time you have filled in the most important blanks in your records, and conducted a valuable dialogue, you should know whether contacts are ready to take your call when you contact them directly. Use the data you collected during your conversation, online and off, to know when to ask for the order.
Invite Them Along
Bringing new customers onboard seems like a complex process, with so many technologies and media formats available. However, success comes with using the most relevant channels and frequency to reach the prospects in your target market. That starts with a data-driven profile that is enhanced with insight and behavior throughout your conversation. Consider the value of 100 new prospects with complete contact information, online behavior and communication preference data to support your sales calls. Compare that to 500 new names in your database that lack those marketing insights. The value spectrum seems obvious.