When we think of Valentine’s Day, B2B is not exactly what we think of when we picture candlelit dinners, bouquets of roses, chocolates, gifts of jewelry, and stuffed animals and cards festooned with red and pink hearts. However, if you think out of the heart-shaped box, you can begin to understand that there are quite a number of parallels.
First of all there is the recognition of important relationships. Sure Valentine’s Day is associated with romantic ones specifically, though data tells us that for many people it’s also a day to celebrate their love for parents, children, friends, coworkers, classmates, teachers, and even pets. According to the latest survey from the National Retail Foundation people will be spending more this year than last, but a significant chunk will not be reserved for significant others but be distributed to all those other types of relationships in their lives.
This doesn’t mean that you should be shoehorning your own B2B messaging into a heart shape when it doesn’t fit. Instead think about how you can advance that relationship in authentic ways that relate to your client’s concerns. That means you demonstrate your commitment to meeting their expectations for your products and services.
It’s the thought that counts for a gift, right? So is it enough to show you realize you are expected to buy something by picking up a gift conveniently set out on display at the drugstore on your way home? No, the thought that counts is the one that shows you know what the person is about and what they’d like to get. The question is: what expectations are in place and are they met?
One interesting revelation from the NRF survey is that 40 percent said they would love to receive a gift of experience. Yet only 25 percent indicated they planned to give such a gift. Perhaps the other 15 percent will be stuck with the no-brainer selection of flowers and candy when they really wanted to experience the thrill of skydiving or parasailing. The mismatch indicates that there is a disconnect there between what people want and what they’re likely to get, which means they are bound to be disappointed.
To apply this to a B2B context, you don’t want to disappoint your customers by failing to meet their expectations. So the first, step, obviously, is getting to know them well enough to be able to grasp what they need, what their business goals and pain points are so that you can anticipate them in delivering the solutions. In other words, if you want to show you really care, you have to do better than just the token nod of a one-size-fits-all bouquet of red roses.
What does it take to deliver on your B2B customer expectations? You have to listen to what they’re saying about their current needs and wants. That’s not limited to what they tell you directly if you ask them for information in surveys; a lot of it is already out there. It’s possible to tap into the wealth of data, including the record of their purchases, how they place those purchases, what promotions they respond to, where their businesses are and where they wish to get to.
All those data points feed into a complete view of the business that allows you to show you understand them. On that basis, you can build customized communication that is delivered the way they prefer it, whether that is via text, email, snail mail, a video chat, or an in-person visit. While one client may love the in-person attention, another may consider it a drain on precious time at the office, and that could be as much of a disaster as buying an expensive bottle of fragrance for your Valentine who has allergic reactions to scent.
The takeaway from Valentine’s Day for building up a happily ever after relationship in B2B is the following:
1. Avoid the one-size-fits-all messages that will disappoint a large number of clients.
2. Put in the effort to get to know what they really want from you.
3. Deliver on those expectations and plan for how to anticipate their future needs and wants.
4. Repeat as necessary.
Ariella Brown is a Zylotech contributing writer.
If you liked this post, check out our recent blog post: The evolution of relationship-centric marketing.