Let me share a story about a B2B company that failed to think like a B2C.
Years ago when I started my first managerial position as a marketer at a bootstrapped startup, I was seeking a promo company that could produce all the swag, clothes, and random goodies we’d need to promote our product. I needed a company that was flexible with small orders and tight budgets because I knew that my needs would grow over time.
I found and fell in love with a promo company, and the credit goes to their salesmen. It was irrelevant that they were slightly more costly than the competitors, or that they took longer to ship because they were speedy communicators with a commitment to quality. And the reps I had were creative with swag ideas, really making me feel cared about as a customer and company.
Then one day, everything changed.
For the last five years, I had worked exclusively with this promo company, no matter where I was working. It was a smooth and mutually beneficial relationship until one day, I got a new sales rep, and the quality of service made a drastic 180°. Gone was the punctual communication and creative suggestions; gone was the rep who helped me carry 20 boxes of swag to my 3rd-floor apartment when I sprained my ankle.
I reached out to the VP of Sales and asked for another rep, explaining the situation; I was told there was no one else to take me on. When I explained that this would likely affect my loyalty to their company, he shrugged and never reached out again.
I’m sure at that point in history, this seemed like a minor loss of business to them; at this time in my career, I was immersed in small startups as a Marketing Advisor and was placing small orders; at present my business was a minor loss to their bottom line. But coincidentally, I had just taken on a role in a larger company, and my small consultancy blossomed into Danger Co with new, larger accounts. Suddenly, my swag and promo budgets totaled about 1500% more than the year before. We’re talking about the combined budgets growing from ‘2010 used Buick’ to ‘New Porsche 911’.
Of course, I didn’t return to using my original promo company; I had found a new shop that offered me the white-glove service I needed, and we had a blast with that ‘Porsche 911 budget’.
Even in B2B, your customer is a human—not a business.
I was reflecting on this story yesterday after another great meeting with the owner of my new promo company. When we work in B2B, we think of business relationships being forged between two businesses, but in reality, you are always in the B2C game: the business is not a living entity, so it doesn’t care who I order keychains from. On the other hand, as the head of marketing, I sure as hell care, and I am fiercely loyal to companies who show they understand my needs.
Studies everywhere prove that people change careers every few years now, so it’s crucial to focus on building a consistent client relationship with the people you interact with. The pain points you solve are experienced by the human, not the business. As their careers grow, a happy customer will take you with them to each new posting. It’s a long-term investment strategy, and it requires that all customers get treated with the same care—even the very modest ones.
If you’re in B2B and you haven’t started working from a B2C mindset with your clients, it’s time to start.
Jordan Danger Stalker is owner of Danger Co, a marketing company that provides pop-up team and growth strategy for SME’s. For the last 10 years, Jordan has worked as a marketing expert with well over 100 companies, ranging from apps, B2C, and trades, to professional firms. It is for Danger Co’s work that Jordan received a Forty Under 40 award. You can learn more about Jordan at her website dangerco.com