B2B Relationship Management: 6 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Commodity Supplier

by: Nichole Gunn July 26, 2019

B2B relationship management can be challenging. There’s a misconception that customers in industrial sectors only care about cost and logistics. Of course, price and convenience are important, and industrial manufacturers and distributors should optimize both. But do you know what a focus on cost and convenience makes you? A commodity. There will always be cheaper options. There will always be competitors who have more money to pour into their e-commerce platforms and their delivery speed.

If you conduct yourself like a commodity, then don’t be surprised when your customers treat you like one. Before you join the race to the bottom, ask yourself: What are my B2B buyers really looking for? Being able to answer that question is the first step in implementing a successful B2B relationship management strategy.

According to The Harvard Business Review, subjective values are equally (and often more) important to B2B customers than cost or convenience. This is especially true for the millennial generation, who are becoming more and more important to B2B product research and purchasing decisions.

What Do B2B Buyers Want?

  1. Personalized Value – B2B buyers are interested in what you can do for them, specifically, to add value to their business and make their lives easier.
  2. Expertise & Service – Even in 2019, e-commerce makes up a small fraction of B2B sales. Given the choice, most B2B buyers would rather work with manufacturers and distributors who can provide them with hands-on advice and support.
  3. Trust – Will your customers be able to count on you? Will working with you assure their brand reputation?
  4. Connectivity & Availability – B2B customers are looking for a working partnership with suppliers that understand their world and are responsive to their needs.
  5. Authenticity – Increasingly, customers are less responsive to marketing gimmicks and skewed information. They want the facts and full transparency so that they know they’re making informed decisions.
  6. Engagement – What does it feel like engaging with your brand? Is there anything fun or interesting your customers get from working with you?
  7. Shared Core Values – Businesses that are passionate about their core values (and the most successful ones are) would rather work with partners who share those values.

Notice how these qualities are very different from what you would look for in a commodity supplier. B2B sales are generally longer-term than B2C. B2B customers are usually counting on the products they purchase from manufacturers and distributors to be long-term solutions that may require a greater degree of scalability and support. There is greater cost and greater risk. The stakes are higher.

B2B relationship management depends on the personalized value you provide to your customers and making brand interactions feel human and trustworthy.

B2B Relationship Management: What You Should Focus on Offering Your Customers

  1. Personalized Value Adds – Before they will be willing to increase their investment in your brand, your customers have to feel confident that you are willing to invest in them.
  2. Omni-channel Communication – In order for customers to feel connected, it’s important to engage them where they are, with a mix of SMS, push notifications, email, interactive portals, and mobile-ready platforms.
  3. Interactive Brand Education – Trust, engagement, and other subjective values can be difficult to communicate. Providing interactive quizzes creates engagement, while you educate your customers on what differentiates your brand.
  4. Recognition – Your customers add value to your brand – your company couldn’t exist without them. Showing them that you appreciate their business can go a long way to building their loyalty.
  5. A Little Bit of Fun – B2B buyers are still human, and their experiences have been shaped by their B2C experiences. Mixing in a little bit of fun will differentiate your brand from other companies that only focus on logistics, features, deliverables, and supply.
  6. Two-Way Feedback – While actively educating customers about your brand and your product offering will improve B2B relationship management, it's equally important to make sure they feel like their voice is heard. Providing them an online digital hub where they can interact with your brand and inviting them to participate in surveys will allow you to gain insight, provide better service, and nurture relationships with your customers.

Learn More About B2B Relationship Management?

If you’re interested in improving your B2B relationships, we encourage you to contact us, so that we can explore your situation and explore ways that we can help you connect with your customer base. A B2B customer loyalty program, together with the right platforms and analytics, can be designed to shape the outcomes – for you and your B2B customers.

 

Til next time,

Nichole Gunn

VP of Marketing & Creative Services
Incentive Solutions

About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.