In the old days, it was focus groups, market research and of course watching sales, the ultimate sign whether customers like your brand. However, with the digital age well upon us we all know the significance of social media, review sites and cookies to gauge what customers like, don’t like, what turns them on and what stops them from buying.
Yet in the B2B world, when the stakes might be higher and more expensive, it can be harder to engage with your customers and definitely harder to influence a change in their perception of your brand.
Stakeholder engagement has always played a key role in the world of B2B – whether it is via client liaison officers, relationship managers or sales teams. There is no doubt corporate hospitality would never have grown to a £1.2bn business in the UK alone without the acknowledgement that the Client is King. However gone from just plain courting customers, the future for B2B brands is not just engagement, but collaboration.
Co-creating and collaborating with your customers helps you understand your customer better and it allows them to shape your brand into the service or product that they want.
Take HCL, an Indian technology and IT company. Previously known for price and value, it has worked hard with its customers to build a reputation for quality, innovation and ideas. Part of this process was building a Customer Experience Centre, a living embodiment of their brand, values and history, where they could take clients to court them, but also dig into what their propositions means to their customers and help build the value propositions with their client’s feedback. How genius is this? Buy in from co-creation.
However what many people forget is that stakeholders can stretch further than those that pay the bills. Those who are building your service and product need to be part of this process too.
Creating pride with employees, arming them with the knowledge and the passion can be key in selling your brand. Just look at Apple and Hollister. This means keeping the organisational health of your business tip top and making sure that you are investing in them, every step of the way. That means it’s not just the reception that needs to look amazing, but also the staff toilets and working areas. That means it’s not just the client terms that need to be great, but also the employee benefits that need to be unbeatable. Engaging internal and external stakeholders is the only way that those competing in the B2B market can really change the way people think about their brand and change naysayers into customers.