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Lead Your Team Strategy

Customer Engagement is Key to B2B Success

If your company is not engaged with its customers as well as its employees, you may be leaving money on the table. . / Credit: Customer engagement image via Shutterstock

It’s a reality in business today that engaged employees help increase a company’s bottom line. But if your company is not engaged with its customers as well as its employees, you may be leaving money on the table and putting your sustainability and growth in jeopardy, new research shows. This is especially true for business-to-business (B2B) companies.

Providing quality service and products at a reasonable price is a basic component of operating a B2B company, according to analysts at Gallup, a research organization. But B2B organizations that see this as their only job are risking irrelevancy and potentially setting themselves for replacement.

Being successful takes more than delivering a product or service, Gallup says. It requires helping customers succeed by improving their performance.

[Engaged Employees Help Increase Bottom Line]

"The more your company can help your customers thrive, the stronger your partnership becomes," said Ed O'Boyle, Gallup's marketplace practice leader.

Customer engagement is characterized by an emotional connection based on confidence, integrity, pride and passion, Gallup says. Customer engagement is fundamental to customer impact.

Fully engaged customers deliver a 23 percent premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth, Gallup research shows. But only 13 percent of B2B customers are fully engaged.

Gallup says fully engaged custoomers are strongly emotionally attached and attitudinally loyal. They'll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won't accept substitutes.

This is the magic quadrant that every B2B company should shoot for, according to Gallup. It's where value addition trumps price wars and the relationship deepens.

"Sometimes it moves you up the value chain, but in all cases it moves you deeper," O'Boyle told BusinessNewsDaily. "And sometimes it moves you wider."

To make sure that your company is as engaged with its customers as it is with its employees, you need to create an internal culture of engagement that doesn't view employee engagement and customer engagement as separate activities, he said.

"Don't separate the efforts," O'Boyle said.

Creating a successful customer engagement strategy entails knowing the customer's business, bringing the customer new ideas and making them work for the customer by tailoring them to their marketplace and workplace.

You need to create a customer feedback loop that provides a 360-degree view of the entire relationship. And that involves expanding the metrics you use to gauge the relationship and inaugurating a two-way dialogue with your customer at all the relationship touch points.

"You want to move from a feature/price delivery conversation to an advisory delivery conversation," O'Boyle said.

Developing and implementing a customer impact strategy takes real effort, he said.

"It requires a new way of thinking and working, and it starts with a substantial investment in discussion and research internally and with key customers," O'Boyle wrote in the Gallup Management Journal. "It also requires your organization to revise its accountability plans, its performance metrics and its own idea of success. Ultimately, success will come from recognizing the true business of a B2B company: It's more than selling a product — it's creating an impact."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.