Remembering the “Relationships” in B2B Marketing

How often do you remember to say “thank you” and “sorry” in business?

Over the weekend, my kids and I (ages 5 and 2) attended a wonderful family event.

The event featured an animated early childhood educator who shared stories about the importance of saying “thank you” and “sorry”.

My children (mostly the 5 year old), were so attentive to these lessons – and I couldn’t help but think that this could be a good reminder for all B2B marketers (self included!).

When was the last time you thanked a customer (socially, personally or as part of a large outbound communication)?

Have you ever admitted to a wrong-doing and apologized to a customer for a mistake (possibly related to delivery or support)?

Individuals and companies who understand and nurture strong relationships will succeed.

Gary Vaynerchuk does a wonderful job at diving deeper into this belief in his book The Thank You Economy. He applies a mantra of listening, engaging and taking care of all customers – and reminds us that social media is unlocking numerous opportunities for building deep relationships with customers at any time, in any place. In it, he shares:

“I believe that we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and that the world we live and work in now operates in a way that is surprisingly similar to one our great-grandparents knew. Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring and the power of word of mouth.”

We should all spend 10 minutes (or more)  – now – and jot down some ideas for thanking our customers. Here’s a few simple thoughts to get you started:
  • Employee Training. All customer-facing employees should understand and be given training around a customer-centric attitude. We have an opportunity to create a brand impression at every touch point and in every communication we put into market (or engage in face-to-face). Our attitude and the value we bring to each and every interaction will be the basis by which our organization is evaluated as a trusted partner by our customers.
  • Marketing Campaigns. There’s a multitude of value-add and fun you can have with marketing campaigns aimed at customer appreciation.
    • Welcome Campaign. The on boarding period is the perfect time to set the stage with a new customer and provide valuable tools to facilitate what you’ve been hired for – or their overall needs.
    • “Thank You” Campaign. For years, I’d look forward to December when Alaska Airlines would send me a simple box of short-bread cookies with a handwritten note. The cost was insignificant to them (in context to what I was spending), but the gesture was genuine and appreciated.
    • Thought Leadership Content Series. A thought leadership series (delivered via email, blog, customer community, webcast or physical format) can be the  #1 most valuable “gift” a customer receives. This content MUST be relevant, and must address key business pains/challenges faced by your audience. The source for this material can be an internal subject matter expert (as long as he/she has bandwidth and understands that this cannot be about the company’s products/solutions), analyst or publisher.
  • Customer Advisory Board. I’ve seen this work as a win-win for a number of organizations and can start with a small and informal program. Customers benefit in a number of capacities: their needs are captured (and ideally addressed) by the organization, they likely have access to early insights and solutions and are elevated amongst their peer set. The company benefits through important audience insights, buy-in and guidance.
The art of saying sorry is simple – if you make a mistake, own up to it! Your first instinct for resolution will be your most genuine.
Our customers are our #1 priority – not just because it makes smart financial sense (we all know the math here), but  companies that build genuine relationships with customers will succeed.
I’d love to hear your additional suggestions around customer appreciation. Or, if you have examples of organizations that have said “thank you” and/or “sorry” well – please share.

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