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[Part 4] 5 Ways B2B Companies Can Accelerate Growth
The More You Talk, The Less You Listen
Welcome to the fourth installment of our 5-part series about accelerating growth in B2B companies. The first post focused on developing a deeper footprint in accounts and methods that can be used to engage ‘Champions’ in that effort, while the second article evangelized ‘owning’ a metric and driving a ‘business results’ orientation with customers. The third installment in the series focused on strategically managing word-of-mouth (the way your prospects come knocking at your door). I discussed how to manage your advocates and promoters but also how to identify and ‘neutralize’ detractors. In this blog I’ll be discussing how to get a faster adoption of new capabilities, targeting the customers who will be most likely to adopt them and allow you to expand and catch new opportunities faster than casting a wider net.
We all know the adage that it’s easier to keep existing customers than bring in new ones. With the proper B2B “land-and-expand” approach we must also be ensuring our customer is successful in order to be growing the amount of “spend” that the customer makes with us. The type of expansion I’m discussing in this blog is in the form of complementary products and services into which the customer can grow. A customer that isn’t happy may just continue to “renew” and continue to buy the same products and services, but they’re unlikely to buy new items if they’re not seeing results for their investment in time and money. Happy, successful, customers will not only be more interested in buying more from you, but they’ll also bring you into the path of others who may wish to avail of your capabilities.
Why seek faster adoption of new products and services?
Beyond the obvious need to drive a new source of revenue, new products and modules need to build momentum to be successful. Whether sold direct or through channel partners, new products need wins to stay top-of-mind for your sales teams. The initial launch will bring some excitement and buzz, but without a steady stream of exciting news the enthusiasm will wane and sales people will fall back into ‘tried and true’ methods and solutions. By showing your sales force how new offerings have contributed to the success of the top sales performers and their customers you’ll be more likely to hold their attention (the What’s-In-It-For-Me, or WIIFM, effect).
So how to do it?
2 Steps to Speed up adoption of new capabilities
The first thing to do is to take a refined, customer-centric view for your up-sell.
It can be tempting to reach out to all your accounts to build this growing relationship, after all if you ask everyone surely your uptake will be higher, right? Wrong.
In an ideal world where all of your accounts are delighted with everything you do then a blanket contact approach could very well yield you a higher uptake. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic, and taking this approach could very well be damaging to your business.
It can feel easier to select ‘send all’ and blanket send your “new product announcement” message to all of your accounts and contacts. But sometimes we have to show restraint because there are hidden costs to marketing this way: If you’re going to treat all of your customers like promoters, can you imagine what will happen when those up-sell messages are read by unhappy customers?
The worst-case scenario is that these folks will unsubscribe from your communications. They aren’t happy, and yet you keep asking them to buy more… An irrelevant message deserves to be ignored, and you need to wonder for how long they’ll put up with you cluttering up their inbox. Only now you’ve lost the means of communicating with them, which generally means you’ve made repairing the relationship far more difficult.
The best case scenario is that your email is met with a mild eye roll and ignored by these unhappy folks. But even with that best case scenario, if you’re a marketer and you want to promote your high click-through rates (CTR) you’d be doing yourself a serious disservice. Including unhappy people in your campaign – those who have no interest in hearing about the new product – dilutes your denominator. What could have been very strong messaging has now been whittled down to very unimpressive metrics. A targeted messaging approach would allow you to see better CTR and subsequently more uptake and growth.
Customers should hear from you when it is in their best interests. For happy customer accounts this means targeted offers and opportunities to aid their growth. The same is true for unhappy detractors: by sending them up-sell or cross-sell messages for which they won’t be interested you have ignored an opportunity to start repairing issues that have caused their negative position. You’ve also inadvertently fanned the flames:
“I only hear from you when you have something to sell me.” If only I had a nickel for every survey response like this one that I’ve read over the years…
Whether those customers are new or have been with you for a long time, they aren’t going to buy anything new if they aren’t seeing value from their current investment. In fact, messaging those who haven’t seen value yet may do nothing but remind them that you’ve not brought them the success you promised, which opens another can of worms.
So how do you deal with detractors?
Firstly, don’t ignore them. Don’t ignore detractors. Accounts who aren’t feeling happy about your company are quietly churning in the background should be provided with information tailored to their needs. Send them resources which will help them, rather than hinder their already busy office time with inappropriate requests to buy more from you. Perhaps there’s a new webinar you’re hosting with practice tips and tricks, or a whitepaper that shows how other customers have realized success with your products/services. Resources you can provide for free to a customer unsure of your value will have more traction than a sales pitch. [For an example, see how Humanity engaged detractors with free training offers –ed]
The initial act of ‘landing’ an account gives you the opportunities for expansion in various directions from cross-sells, up-sells and Word-Of-Mouth potential. What’s important for both you and your customer is that you know the health of the account you’re targeting and that you know the products they’re already utilizing from you. As we discussed above, there’s no point in selling someone not seeing your value another product.
Understanding your clients and putting effort into tending to their growth as well as your own will make you an indispensable part of their plan for the foreseeable, successful, future.
How it works
We’ve spoken about the pitfalls and positives but now we need to look at how to properly action your ‘land and expand’ plan.
First, you need a path to ensure you truly know who your happy customers are. This isn’t about the end “consumers” or users of your products and services. Rather you must target the buying committee within the accounts, i.e. the budget holders and key influencers. If you don’t know who they are then you had best find out. Then send your request for feedback (it’s not a survey!) – we’ve discussed that here.
Now you’re ready and armed with solid data about who’s with you and who isn’t. You have all the information you need to take the right targeted actions. Compose messages which can be tailored for your clients inviting them to get information that will truly help meet their needs. Then you can send it with the knowledge that since you’ve done the correct groundwork, those who receive your message are more likely to be engaged.