Technology is commoditizing the world of business. Buyers are increasingly in control as information to guide purchase decisions is just a click away. The playing field has been leveled and low price is the main driver on how the world buys – right?
Savvy buyers are willing to pay more to get more. They understand that long-term value is still an important equation in making a purchasing decision. But first, you must help them understand and experience the value you offer. Beyond established loyalty, customers must feel an emotional connection (heart and mind) for them to decide to pay a premium price.
To succeed in business today, brands must exceed customer expectations. As a baseline, customers must feel that you understand them, you’re investing in a relationship, you are anticipating their future needs and you can deliver upon it better than anyone else.
4 Steps to Build Customer Trust and Loyalty
1. Commit to becoming a specialist
Consider this thought: If you were faced with a life-threatening illness, would you trust a general practitioner or seek out a specialist?
A specialist has the experience and knowledge to understand, anticipate and solve their customer’s needs. A generalist tries to please everyone. The old adage, “our sales team never met a sale they didn’t like” represents a short-term win and achieves a long-term loss. Rather, it is far better to commit to becoming a specialist and be incredibly selective with who you do business with. Once you make that commitment, you can focus your resources on knowing every important aspect of your target customer.
Ongoing voice of customer research plays a vital role in this quest. Consider a blend of first-hand qualitative and broader quantitative input to get to the core needs of your audience.
As a starting point, find every opportunity to have one-on-one, ongoing conversations with leaders in your target audience industry. By providing them valuable information and insight, they will typically in turn “invite you in” and share insights on their current and future needs. Expect just a few informative nuggets at first. Remain diligent, ask tough questions, and continue to deepen the relationship. Eventually, you will uncover what really matters to this person.
A word of advice: Rarely will you get breakthrough insights, as people are often too close to the situation, or maybe they don’t know what they need. Henry Ford famously said, “If I asked the customer what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” The value in these conversations is understanding the challenges your prospect is facing as they perceive them. It’s up to you to deliver a solution that fits that need from there.
When considering broader, quantitative research, you can leverage the power of technology to reach a much larger audience – with the ability to segment audiences to further understand unique needs. There are a number of new, innovative methods. Online surveys can now combine machine learning and crowd intelligence. The result is often transformative insights based upon the respondents own natural language, not brand or marketing speak. When a statistically valid number of respondents agree that this language is important, you can be assured it will resonate. The resulting benefit is that communications can be developed knowing that the respondent will feel that the messaging speaks to them in an authentic and genuine manner.
In both forms of research, it is critically important to understand the data will not stand on its own – it’s how you interpret the data. We like to say it is a balance of science and art – applying true discovery is the ability to see what everyone sees, but think what no one has thought.
2. Narrow the focus of your messaging. It makes your brand stronger.
At its core, brand strategy is the art of sacrifice. Successful brands stand for something unique – a clear promise of distinction that is very relevant to your target audience’s needs. Avoid the temptation of trying to appeal to everyone or you will run the risk of appealing to no one. Once you define your focus, become relentless in communicating it over and over. Consistency will lead to clarity.
3. Embrace your passion. When you love what you do – it shows.
If you truly believe that your work has purpose, you will never “work” again a day in your life. And if you surround yourself with a team who has the same belief, the sky is the limit. There is great power in a team that is aligned, inspired and empowered to achieve greatness.
People do business with people, not faceless corporations. And people are typically drawn toward people with passion. If your passion is complementary with your target customer’s interests, a relationship can quickly blossom. Use the insights gained in the above first step to position your brand as a champion of your customer’s needs by demonstrating that your brand is emotionally connected to a bigger idea and not just a short-term transaction. Even if your offering is sold using a technology interface, take every opportunity to communicate your empathy, passion and emotional understanding of your customer’s needs. Don’t just rely on email. Find opportunities for personal interaction, and share your point of view with thought provoking content that caters to your customer’s unique needs.
4. Connect, don’t sell.
Especially in the world of B2B, where the financial stakes are high and jobs or careers could be on the line, people tend to think that buying decisions are made purely on rational information. The reality is quite the opposite. Final decisions are made emotionally but not haphazardly. Sales cycles can last years and multiple executives must weigh in on the final decision. With so much at stake, decisions are made with the final question in mind – do I trust this person/company/brand to meet my needs better than anyone else and can they deliver upon their promises.
The key to shaping a prospect’s gut level buying decision goes well beyond simple relationship building. It begins by demonstrating a deep understanding of your customer’s business and industry. Take the time to learn what they should be thinking about and bring forth a customized solution to address your customer’s unique situation.
Customers in the B2B space have moved beyond the commoditized offerings that technology has enabled. Buyers are willing to invest in a partner rather than just a vendor. But only if you are able to demonstrate valuable expertise and deliver a relevant and differentiated solution. By following these four steps, you will build trust and create loyal customers, while doing something you truly love.