The future of superior customer experience is moving to a data-driven, predictive system to elevate performance. Companies that can better understand what their customers want, and need are likely to be more successful. That is why those with an eye toward the future are boosting their data and analytics capabilities and harnessing predictive insights to connect more closely with their customers, anticipate their behaviors, and identify CX issues. Why? To understand opportunities in real-time and be able to adequately respond with value to the challenges customers are dealing with.
But, growth doesn’t always mean new. I keep on noticing a persistent topic: should we grow through existing or new customers? Well, not much has changed in that regard in the last year. B2B marketing is increasingly focused on growing existing accounts by convincing customers to upgrade to new technology, purchase additional products and services, or expand product usage to new business units or geographies. With new, you need to ask yourself what is the cost ratio between new acquisition and retention, and when can we expect the ROI out of it?
Let’s be frank we need to balance out both, but I simply can't avoid seeing how some companies undervalue the value of existing customers. How can we increase the value to those that have been with us for a long time, that are loyal? Customer experience and satisfaction play a major role – but is that enough?
According to Gartner, customer satisfaction doubles the likelihood of repurchase but it does not affect account growth. So, we need to differentiate between repurchase vs. growing from the customer’s evolution. A repurchase is a continuation of past decisions and essentially a choice for the status quo. On the other hand, 70% of customers have mentioned in the same survey that a growth decision represents organizational change – which often means new capabilities, different processes, a new set of stakeholders, and new complexity. That is why customers require more than satisfaction to move forward.
As buying behavior increasingly shifts toward digital channels, so does the importance of marketing in driving account growth. Commercial leaders are thus seeking marketing help to grow underpenetrated accounts to hit revenue growth targets in a more cost-efficient way. But how can marketing protect the existing customer base and grow from there? Companies are just slowly realizing that it is not about what we are trying to sell but how we are helping customers buy. Yet, this new insight supports a fully different narrative that made me think – is now marketing supposed to encourage our customers to grow their business by motivating them to change? Maybe.
Motivation to action
Most companies avoid change because it is hard, unknown, risky, and disruptive. This choice doesn’t depend on their supplier, but it has everything to do with how the customer perceives their own company’s needs and readiness for a different approach.
It was measured that decision confidence increases the purchase options by 2.6 times, so we need to get customers to the point where they feel willing to change. Though more often than not we hear customers feel overloaded with organizational complexity, facing roadblocks like unclear decision making and conflicting priorities. Individually they can be convinced but may give up once they consider the difficulty of aligning diverse stakeholders and perspectives in their team.
So, instead of making customers happy with the experience, marketing can boost customers’ willingness and confidence through a variety of channels using content and tools to help drive the customer’s organizational change. To educate them and help them get the answers and information they need and can use to convince their peers as well. So, they can realize the full potential from their purchases. Influencing customers’ decision confidence this way means we are building a bridge from the status quo to change, helping customers feel empowered to overcome challenges, reinforcing their belief, their logic, their process, and their decision. Customers assign a huge value to feel more confident and they repay confidence with incremental business.
Don’t get swept up when doing something new
Customers who are willing to change, are also often open to switching suppliers. Gartner reports a 78% likelihood of that happening with new business need. When customers go on a journey of change, from planning to making the purchases to institutionalizing it into how they work - they need to be reassured they are making the right decision, at every step of their journey.
Marketing can and must coordinate the efforts and expectations across the commercial organization to identify gaps, changing needs, and efficiently capture those growth opportunities, so customers feel inspired and supported, feeling capable of driving change. This way they will not be only willing, but they will be able to change and stay with their existing supplier.
After-sales marketing opportunities follow two different paths - repurchasing and account growth. Each with its risks and decision process. Repurchasing is closer linked to customer satisfaction and comfort with the status quo. On the other hand, decision confidence makes customers feel capable of executing the change, motivating and enabling them to go beyond familiarity. Marketing can influence customers’ decision and their confidence by providing iterative, ongoing inspiration through content and tools, messaging, and sales support that helps customers prepare for and drive organizational change.