Tell us, are you doing right by your customers? Most organizations would say, “Yes, of course, we do right by our customers”. No SaaS company would deliver a poor user experience intentionally. But when you spend your day managing different elements of your business — or are laser-focused on one particular area, if you’re in a larger organization — it’s hard to see the big picture and to truly understand your end customer.
Gartner’s research finds that when buyers are in the consideration stage of the customer journey, they only spend about 17 per cent of that time meeting with sellers. And even when they are meeting with sellers, they’re splitting that time among multiple potential vendors. They may spend as little as five per cent of that valuable time with one vendor. So, the question becomes: How do you cut through the noise to make that time with customers valuable and infused with trust so they can feel confident with their purchasing decision?
We’ll show you how to get full visibility over your customer journey, building trust into the relationship at every step during an ecosystems buying cycle.
Increasing interest: Understanding funnel conversion
Much of the content marketing that B2B tech companies produce is created for the purpose of generating interest and awareness — and ultimately, moving a buyer through a conversion funnel.
At the interest or prospecting stage, your customer feels a desire to learn more after consuming top funnel stories you’re producing. They might want to learn more about the problem they’re facing or about the solutions on the market — this curiosity moves the buyer deeper to the middle of the funnel. At this stage, the goal is to keep your potential customers engaged.
Make customers and ecosystem partners love learning about your product
It’s important to make your solution compelling, interesting and relevant. The smartest ways companies do this is by focusing on what their tech does for the customer, not what the customer should or should not be doing. Remember: You’re not there to police them — you’re there to provide solutions.
For instance, brands often like to spend time talking about their features and technical elements. The interest stage is way too early for this. As this Medium article discusses, people buy on emotion and justify with logic and flooding potential customers with too much information can result in analysis paralysis.
The B2B buying cycle may be longer than a B2C purchase journey — and contain from six to ten times more decision makers, according to Gartner — but the same idea applies. At this stage, you want buyers to feel good about choosing your product and you want those good feelings to compel them to stick around to hear about the technical details.
“As partners are creating awareness about a specific tool, that will naturally filter into interest," explains Zhitkevich. “This will then allow that partner, if they’re well equipped to talk about that solution or that problem, to work with that vendor to that customer into the consideration or buying stage. That customer will have a trusted third-party — that they know — that has made them aware of that specific solution, they can go to, chat about that solution to, and register that they’re interested in learning more about it.”
If the awareness stage is about getting attention, the interest stage is about keeping that attention and engaging. Your potential customer will want to keep returning to their research in order to get reassurance that this is a problem worth solving. It’s up to you to make them keep returning to your website for information. They are going to be pulled in by one company or another, so the goal is to make it your business that arms them with educational and informative content.
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Reaping in revenue
Treating people well is good business, but just in case you needed the numbers to tell you that, increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase your profits by up to 95%.
Today’s tech revenue models are predominantly revenue based. In the past, dollars came in based on the number of seats or licenses that a company purchased. Today, it comes in based on how much of a tool a customer uses.
This is why it’s more important than ever for customers to get value out of your product. If they believe your tool adds value to their lives, they’re more likely to work with you when there’s an issue, rather than think about a way to get out of their contract. They’re also more likely to purchase upsells and cross-sells, increasing lifetime revenue.
Recurring business through retention
“Retention has never been more important, especially in this market and economy,” continues Zhitkevich. “Every single deal is being scrutinized across the board and CEOs are sitting down with their executives, with a spreadsheet, and saying, ‘Here are the vendors we use today. What do we not need?’ There’s an opportunity for customer success teams to go to market with their partners in the ecosystem across the board to really tell that story and that narrative.”
Partners also offer an “in” for B2B tech companies to find out more about other issues end customers face. As Zhitkevich explains: “What’s really powerful for individual customer success teams is that usually the partners that they work with and the partners that work with these vendors don’t just work on one solution to solve one problem. There’s an opportunity for customer success teams to leverage a lot of this third-party trust to speak to the executives at the top – the CFOs, the CEOs – and say, ‘Hey, this is why our tooling is important and this is the ROI it’s driving.’”
You can strengthen this stage of the customer journey by developing materials that help your customers get the most value out of your products. This could come in the form of:
Video tutorials: Demonstrate how to use different features of your product.
A self-serve documentation portal: This allows your customers to do things themselves without having to contact a member of your team each time.
Email campaigns: Put a spotlight on some of the most useful articles, videos, and other self-service documentation.
Scoring referral business through advocacy
Over half of marketers say they enjoy a lower cost-per-lead using referral programs than any other channel.
Your goal is to do more than just make your customers come back for more — although that’s very important, too! You want to make your customers so happy that they can’t stop talking about you to their network of friends and acquaintances. And those are likely to be people in their ecosystem who have similar problems to solve. Repeat business is great. Repeat business plus referral business is even better.
“Advocacy is the end goal. You ultimately want customers to get on to your tool. You want them to be so happy with the function of what you’re doing as a vendor for them that they tell their friends,” says Zhitkevich.
That customer satisfaction leads to so much potential for future leads, shares Zhitkevich. “They come into deal cycles. They do case studies for you. But I think the most powerful thing about advocacy, specifically, is that it’s something you can’t necessarily measure. It’s the conversations that people have off hand with their friends that are in the same space and saying, ‘Hey, I used this tool and it’s phenomenal, and it’s helped me do three times my business and it saved my job.’ That’s the kind of advocacy that you just can’t buy. Either people feel that way, or they don’t.”
Creating a B2B customer advocacy program can feel challenging. In the B2C space, this is pretty straightforward. You offer points and discounts for referrals or create a loyalty program that earn you points every time you make a purchase.
But while it’s less clear cut, there are ways to support a successful B2B customer advocacy program and strengthen this phase of your customer journey:
Reviews: Encourage your customers to leave reviews on B2B tech review sites such as Capterra, G2, and Gartner Peer Insights.
Staying connected: Develop closer relationships with your existing customers by reaching out to them, creating events and programs specifically for them or creating email campaigns targeting them.
Rewards: Start the conversation with existing clients about supporting future deals and thinking about ways to make this attractive to them.
Feedback: Create a customer advisory board, so you can get guidance and potential advocacy from trusted clients.
Strengthen every customer touchpoint in your ecosystem
The customer journey is important and just because you operate within an ecosystem environment doesn’t mean it has to be complicated to manage.
The key is to understand your customers’ needs at each stage of the journey and ensure that they have what they need to make the best decision possible. It’s also important to recognize the unique opportunities and challenges present when you’re operating within an ecosystem. Infuse trust and consideration into your customer journey, and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts.