Customer Loyalty and Retention: What Are You Doing?

As manufacturers, we have to serve two masters, the distribution network we sell through and the ultimate end-user. Sometimes we can take these relationships for granted. Remember, they have other options. Here are a few thoughts on how to nurture the relationships:


  • Distributors do have a choice in what they carry. Chances are they have your product as well as several competitors on their shelves. So let’s assume for the sake of this exercise that product performance is comparable.
  • What makes their counter guys and sales force sell more of one brand over the other? Yes, you can offer SPIFs, but that at best is a short-term solution to increase sales.
  • I’d say things like ease of ordering and timely delivery might be helpful.
  • What about knowledgeable factory people available for product training and troubleshooting?
  • How about making end-user calls with their sales force?

Here’s a unique thought – thank them for their business instead of hammering them to help you make your numbers this month.

Most distributor/manufacturer relationships have a long history. Don’t take them for granted. Sales will come, but distributors are looking for more than a quality product at a competitive price.

My grandmother used to tell me you’d catch more bees with honey than vinegar.


Many of the same tactics work at the contractor level. But here’s a place where you can make a brand difference:

  • If you have their back and they know they can count on you for product/technical support, you’ll make a friend for life.
  • Contractors-like elephants-have long memories, and if you drop the ball too many times, they will find alternative products. Trust me, I’ve seen it.
  • Contractors want to be recognized for the trade professionals they are. Something as simple as sending them an email for example, on National Plumber’s Day, recognizing how hard they work. Wouldn’t you think that would have a positive brand experience?

You know, this stuff isn’t rocket science, it’s more common sense. And it doesn’t have to cost more money, just use good business practices.

My golden rule is to treat people the way you expect to be treated. It works and it makes life a whole lot simpler.

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Can Twitter Followers Be Better Than Facebook Fans?

Some people still don’t see the advantage of Twitter as a B-to-B tool. According to ExactTarget’s “Subscribers, Fans and Followers” report, it concludes there is influence on customer loyalty between e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

  • Daily Twitter users who follow a brand were twice as likely as daily Facebook users who “likes” a product to purchase it.
  • A third of Twitter followers said they were more apt to recommend a brand that they follow.

US Internet Users Who Are More Likely to Purchase from a Brand After Becoming a Subscriber, Fan or Follower, April 2010 (% of respondents)

This would make Twitter followers more attractive to marketers. That’s the good news. The better news is that these Twitter followers currently represent a small base (3% in the US),  so as they grow, so do your opportunities.

Are you using Twitter, and are you finding success with it?

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B-to-B Marketers: Need to Embrace Engagement Marketing

Brands are no longer defined by marketers, but by the very people we hope to influence – our customers and potential customers.

B-to-B marketers have to embrace the new engagement marketing (social media) as a viable way to target and talk to both customers as well as prospects. This is about developing a two-way conversation between you and your prospect.

Think about it – it’s like dating. If on your first date all you do is talk about yourself and don’t let your date get a word in edgewise, where do you think this relationship is going?

Instead, if you talk less and ask questions about her and her interests, you’ll engage her in a conversation which might lead to other things based on what is learned by both sides.

Engagement marketing works the same way. You need to ask questions, listen and respond. Customers know they have choices and want to be treated as partners, not prospects.

As a B-to-B marketer, it is increasingly important to establish customer loyalty because without it, it becomes an issue all about price and that’s a road no one likes to go down.

Engagement marketing is about a process that invites, engages, nurtures and then consummates into a sale. Once you do get the sale, you must continue the dialog and turn that customer into an advocate.


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Companies That Want to Reach the Professional Tradesmen Need Twitter

42-18391690Twitter isn’t just for the 20-somethings to follow or be followed. It’s fast becoming a business tool and B-to-B companies need to understand its benefits and start using it.

A friend of mine reminded me that contractors of all kinds have been using the pre-cursor of Twitter for many years – It’s called Nextel, their way of instantly staying connected. Professional tradesmen have had the need to stay connected for years and Twitter is just one more way they can accomplish that.

Here are some highlights of 5 that would have direct applications to manufacturers who want to reach the professional tradesmen:

  1. Foster customer loyalty. Companies can search tweets from their customers to see what questions or critiques they may have.
  2. Launch viral marketing campaigns. Encourage users to join you on Twitter in order to receive exclusive updates and new product news first.
  3. Enhance impact at trade shows. Offer exclusive content and insights from the trade show floor.
  4. Network with customers. Companies that tweet on a consistent basis tend to generate a larger audience on Twitter.
  5. Promote product and services. By simply writing a short message, they get the point across.


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