Loyalty programmes are prevalent in the B2C world, but businesses that sell to businesses face unique challenges that – on the face of it – make loyalty programmes a headache that they don’t want to have.
Other businesses choose to focus on acquiring new clients, which often results in a kind of apathy about their existing clients. They overlook the benefits that loyal and engaged clients bring – such as the increased chance of up-selling and cross-selling products and services – and they do this because B2B loyalty is confusing and much harder than focusing on acquisition.
What challenges do businesses face when they think of creating a loyalty programme?
Challenge 1: Businesses have a complex relationship with suppliers
Bain’s B2B Elements of Value Pyramid shows 40 different ways that businesses provide value to their clients. It’s safe to say that the vendor/supplier-business relationship isn’t straightforward. Yes, they may provide functional software (for example) but does using it save time and money? Does it reduce employee effort or have less impact on effort than a similar product?
There’s also the issue of who benefits from any loyalty programme. Most consumer loyalty programmes target the individual, and it’s relatively easy to personalise the scheme to that person’s tastes. This personalisation is often bolstered by our reluctance to switch to a competitor brand. B2B loyalty is much more complicated.
The person acting as the point-of-contact may not be the right one to target the loyalty programme too, yet they are often the one who the account manager has a relationship with. How does the loyalty programme benefit the decision-maker? How does it help the client’s business?
External factors also complicate decision-making. An executive board, investors, even friends and family may have significant influence over the choice the “decision-maker” makes. The state of the business also plays a role, the loyalty perks may be brilliant but if the company needs to cut costs and another supplier is offering a cheaper deal… how significant are those loyalty benefits?
Challenge 2: Lack of feedback leads to poor understanding of customer experience
One of the biggest challenges suppliers face is in getting client feedback. Often, the point of contact the supplier has will be too busy to answer questions or complete satisfaction surveys. As a result, some vendors and suppliers take the view that if they’re saying nothing, they must be satisfied with the service. But, without the data, there’s no way to know this.
Challenge 3: Suppliers may fail to implement an omnichannel strategy
Vendors and suppliers that lack integrated systems can’t capture feedback from across their business. A client may be happy with the product, but unhappy with the service they receive when they have a problem. It’s difficult for suppliers to measure and improve interactions if there’s no way to share, collate, analyse and apply the customer insights that they do receive. There’s no way to feed it back into the loyalty programme.
Challenge 4: Marketing and incentives are directed at new business, rather than client investment
While it’s essential to increase the client base and sell more products and services, there’s a risk that businesses are ignoring retention in favour of acquisition - this leads to a boost in short-term sales, but clients will leave as soon as the business stops the introductory offer, or they realise that their needs aren’t being catered for.
At the same time, B2B marketers say that their campaigns are more likely to be focused on the brand’s story, rather than their client’s.
Loyalty isn’t just about creating a programme as a reward and expecting clients to find it compelling. It’s about how the entire business operates. What is its ethos? Are clients the focus of everything the business does?
A loyalty programme won’t be successful unless the rest of the business supports its goals.
To find out more about this topic, read our brand new white paper ‘B2B Loyalty & Engagement Programmes – Do they really work?’
UK Marketing Manager