3 Keys to Retaining and Growing B2B Revenue

In the B2B World, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. The reality is that losing just 5% of those customers could potentially sink your organization. So in this age of big data and rapidly evolving technology, what are the best ways to retain and ultimately grow those customers?

B2B companies must meaningfully engage with their customers to evolve loyalty into advocacy, and engagement begins with a relationship.  Through our work with over 50 leading B2B companies, we have found time again the following three key relationship building practices lay the foundation for account retention and growth:

1.    Educate, Don't Sell.  B2B relationships start with education, not a sales pitch. Educate yourself on your customer's industry, market, challenges, and opportunities, and then demonstrate how you can show them a path forward.  Providing relevant content through discussions and forums, blog posts and articles, and research is an excellent way to establish your credibility and begin the customer loyalty to advocacy journey.

2.    Customer Advisory Boards create a platform where you can leverage happy customers and drive innovation through customer co-design and collaboration. The end result is overall market alignment in offerings, communications, and strategy.

3.    Executive Summits bring key decision-makers together to preview a strategy, product, or market innovation. Through these focused exchanges, customers become first-to-know, first-to-buy, and first to advocate your solution in the marketplace.

Structured, proven, and dynamic educational forums, customer advisory boards, and executive summits help organizations develop a deep understanding of market conditions while building the rapport with key executives. This powerful formula turns customers into true advocates and is the best recipe for retaining and growing your top customers.

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Top 3 B2B Marketing Challenges from 2012

The end of the year always sparks a time of reflection, while the beginning of the year represents a new journey. The three articles below are my top picks for Marketing's biggest challenges faced in 2012 and a playbook that contains the best strategy to face these issues while providing the biggest opportunities for all B2B CMO's in 2013. 

Marketing’s Broken Foundation Measurement

Data is the foundation for analytics. Analytics is the foundation for marketing driven by data and insights.

Think Like a CFO to Gain C-Suite Credibility

Information technology is about driving business results through revenue growth, leveraging economies of scale, and optimizing business decisions through analytics.

Have we Lost the C Suite by Measuring the Wrong Things?

If the latest surveys are to be believed, B2B marketing is on the verge of a “crisis of confidence” within the C suite.

The B2B Executive Playbook

The B2B Executive Playbook describes four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and, most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership.  When implemented properly, it will also add sustainability and predictability to a B2B company’s top and bottom lines. 

 

 

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How a Customer Advisory Board Can Help You Prepare for 2013

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a high-return, high-profile event that can heavily influence your company's competitive standing. A successful CAB provides a powerful format that turns customers into true advocates and provides executives with the information needed to align customer programs with company strategy. A formal Customer Advisory Board should be in your marketing and strategic arsenal for 2013.

A well structured Customer Advisory Board is a proven and dynamic program that helps executives and decision makers develop a deep understanding of market conditions while simultaneously building relationships with key customers. A CAB is the perfect avenue for B2B Companies that have more than 60% of their sales with their top customers to receive relevant feedback that can be used in strategic business planning. A Customer Advisory Board not only helps your organization retain your most profitable customers, a CAB will help increase revenue opportunities within your customer base.

A Customer Advisory Board creates a platform where you can leverage happy customers and drive innovation through customer co-design and collaboration. The end result is an overall market alignment in offerings, communications and strategy that will prepare your organization for profitability in 2013 and beyond.

 

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3 Tips for an Impactful Customer Advisory Board

I recently attended a breakfast briefing, Street Smart Secrets for Change Management, where Jeff Cole, co-author of Driving Operational Excellence, shared nine tips for changing behavior throughout an organization. I found it intriguing. In less than 90-minutes, Jeff managed to get me thinking differently about how customer advisory boards impact an organization.

I’ve seen first-hand how customer advisory boards provide strategic insight, focus marketing direction, and promote leadership team alignment.  My clients have leveraged their customer advisory boards to acclerate sales, improve customer retention, and advance product innovation. Customer Advisory Boards are proven to drive sustainable, predictable and profitable growth (SPPG), as outlined in Sean Geehan’s book, The B2B Executive Playbook. So I know how customer advisory boards can truly impact an organization. I did not consciously realize, however, that an organization’s inherent resistance to change can make transformational impact extremely difficult, or kill it altogether.Resistance

Launching a Customer Advisory Board often implies that change needs to happen in your organization.  After all, that’s why you are investing in it!  Savvy leaders see the need for change (a new direction, increased sales, improved relationships, etc.) and realize customers can provide the guidance to make it happen.  In fact, organizations that utilize advisory boards to their fullest potential have made them synonymous with continuous improvement and drivers of transformation.  But, you have got to get everyone on the same page.

To achieve truly impactful results, consider the following when developing your customer advisory board.

  • Stakeholders inherently resist change, so communicate progress, both big and small, early and often.
  • Culture impacts an organization’s ability to change, so build a tolerance for ongoing change into your corporate strategy. 
  • Change doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes time and requires a certain set of skills, so designate a change agent/architect to manage the process.    

As you can see, I had a few “Aha” moments during Jeff’s presentation. So much so, in fact, that I immediately ran out and bought his book.  I recommend it to all who aspire to be the agent of change and transformation in their organization.

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Customer Loyalty Programs for B2B

What is customer Loyalty?

The phrase ‘customer loyalty’ is strictly a marketing term that defines the inclination of a customer to choose a particular business, product or service over other available options. Brand loyalty starts when choices are made by customers and action is taken.

What is a Customer Loyalty Program?

Customer Loyalty Programs are specially structured marketing strategies focused primarily on directing consumer behavior in a target market. The program itself focuses on rewarding and encouraging loyalty among long-standing and relatively new customers of the business.

What are Benefits of Customer Loyalty Programs?

Customer Loyalty Programs are essentially the key to an organization’s long-term success. It benefits the business by aiding it to excel in the following dimensions:

  • Innovation in design of products including service products
  • Operational and executive excellence
  • Conformance to changing market trends
  • Adaptability to evolving consumer behavior

What are B2B Customer Loyalty Programs?

Many businesses devise reward programs that are aimed at encouraging customer loyalty. The major challenge that businesses face when devising an effective customer loyalty program is that of researching the key elements that drive customer loyalty. In the B2B World examples of Loyalty programs are Customer Advisory Councils or Boards (CAC) and Executive Sponsor Programs.

 

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Planning Ahead and Being Prepared for Growth in 2012 - Starts Here!

Back in September, Gartner came out with their rather controversial CIO Advisory:  Four Recession and Growth Strategies That Make Sense for 2012.  Though forecasts for growth in 2012 are modest, Gartner recommended that clients plan ahead and “avoid consuming time preparing for growth should growth opportunities suddenly arise” and that “however long a distressed economic climate may last, growth will remain a top priority of CEOs and boards of directors.”

Many organizations may prefer to wait and see what the economy does, but that would be a big mistake. I agree with Gartner that organizations must be prepared to take action when the opportunity arises.

Plan ahead. Get started by attending Geehan Group’s upcoming B2B Executive Summit:Summit logo Navigating Growth & Transformation. Designed exclusively for VP & higher executives, the B2B Summit provides an intimate setting (attendance is limited to 50 attendees) for learning from a prestigious roster of speakers, including Paul Gottsegen, CMO at Infosys, Joe Austin, SVP Customer Experience at Juniper, and Brent Ahrens, General Partner at Canaan, as well as author Jim Hauden.

  • Learn how Bill Fathers, President of Savvis, helped shape the company’s international presence, increased its market share, and developed leading-edge products for the financial services, media and telecom industries.
  • Discover how John Schwarz, former CEO at Business Objects, doubled the company’s revenue to more than $1.5 billion, improved profitability, and oversaw seven strategic acquisitions.
  • Hear how Joe Morgan, CEO at Standard Register, is transforming his organization from a document printing company into a provider of communications technology.
So get started. Plan ahead by attending Geehan Group’s B2B Executive Summit and begin preparing for growth in 2012. You’ll be glad you did!  

Click here to learn more and to receive your personal invitation.


“Rarely do you find an approachable business environment that invigorates your social senses with intriguing conversations, collaborative exchange of inventive ideas, fascinating speakers with applicable war stories, and the urge to network well beyond the two days that the Geehan Group brought us all together. What I gained out of this B2B gathering of like minds expanded my strategic thinking, opened new opportunities about how marketing can make an impact, plus enlightened me on similar management challenges with realistic solutions and results.”

Greg Jorgenson, SVP Marketing, VeriSign



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2012 Planning - A Golden Opportunity

Have you ever experienced a “moment of fame” when everything you need for your business to succeed comes together perfectly?   It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s “golden!” 
What if you were able to take those “moments of fame” and make them a consistent practice within your organization?  Customer Engagement Programs provide the opportunity to do just that.

Recently, my client experienced one of those moments.  After conducting an Advisory Council meeting with the decision makers of his most strategic customers, he gained invaluable insight into the market, learning what his customers need, and what they are looking for from his organization.

As a member of the executive team, he walked into a strategic planning meeting with the CEO and his peers, armed with information no one else had—even better, it was validated by his most strategic customers:

  • Sunset a core product in mid-term development – a savings of $8 dollars in future development, marketing, sales, and service, not to mention resources that can be devoted to high impact products.
  • Eliminate a new solution from the product roadmap – a total savings of $3 dollars, six months in development and valuable resources.
  • Get positioned to make an acquisition – of an innovative services company.

Gaining insight from your top customers provides a tremendous amount of confidence to participate in your organization’s planning process.  Sharing this information among the leadership team was a “moment of fame” for my client.  His CEO responded, “I’m so impressed by your knowledge this early in our planning process.  You are months ahead of your peers.”

When it comes to internal planning make no mistake—you are competing with your peers for resources and dollars to make the best decisions for the organization.  As you prepare for 2012, part of your plan should include gaining market insight at a decision maker level with your most strategic customers. 

In Sean Geehan’s book, The B2B Executive Playbook, he explains in detail how the market can provide insight, and help validate the following four areas (see diagram below):

  • vennYour “Exploit Solutions” – those areas that align to your business model and for which you have a core competency – in other words, what you do well.
  • Where you should “Evolve” – the market is telling you they want something that is in your core competency, but it is not part of your business model today. 
  • What you should “Acquire” – the market is telling you they want something that would fit into your business model, but you don’t have a core competency for it.  This is an opportunity to gain additional insight for potential companies to acquire.
  • Areas to “Evaluate” – this is something that is part of your business model and it is a core competency, but the market is not willing or interested in buying it.  This is an area you should look to eliminate or sunset the solution or product.

Validate Your Plan with Your Most Important Customers

My client learned that the best way to capture the areas outlined above was through his Advisory Council.  The value of a well-managed Advisory Council is that they can help you capture strategy, marketing, sales, service, product, and merger/acquisition information all at the same time.   

At their inaugural Council meeting, members were presented three specific initiatives for feedback.  The first was a legacy product they had for years—a “me too” in the market. The second was a new product they were getting pressure from sales to develop.  And finally, the third was to look at potential acquisition targets that would fit their business model, but for which they did not currently have a core competency.

The result of the feedback is what my client shared with his leadership team outlined in the beginning of this article.  And it saved his company over $10 million … all from listening to his customers.

Make 2012 a great year by seizing your Golden Opportunity.  Engage the decision makers of your most strategic customers to gain valuable market insight to help drive your strategic planning.

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HCL's Formula for Success

In October of this year the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) held their 18th Annual Marketing Conference and Marketing Excellence Awards Ceremony. Our CEO, Sean Geehan, spoke at that conference on "How Winning B2B Companies Achieve Profitable Growth."  It was exciting to be part of that conference for two reasons:
  1. The opportunity for Sean to present the principles of his new book, The B2B Executive Playbook
  2. The chance to witness one of our customers receive the ITSMA Diamond Award for Marketing Excellence in the category of Building Client Loyalty and Trust.
That customer is HCL Technologies. Evaluated by a panel of renowned industryGowri Shankar Vembu, Head of Global CACs @ HCL, receiving the ITSMA Diamond Award for Building Client Loyalty & Trust experts, organizations were judged upon innovation, execution, and business results - three critical aspects to marketing success.

HCL won the award based on its Customer Advisory Council (CAC) programs. HCL's global, collaborative initiatives involve over 80 of its Fortune 500 C-level customers and thought leaders who convene on a regular basis to advise HCL on industry trends, changing business priorities, and HCL's strategic direction. HCL applies the advice received from Council members into actionable plans that transform business and technology needs, creating more value for their customers. With their customers' help, HCL has achieved 25% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the last five years, going from revenues of $1.4B to $3.5B. The CAC also serves as an exceptional platform for HCL's customers and their industry peers to exchange ideas and best practices, and to network.

Awards such as this exemplify the value of spending time with your customers to build solid relationships, gaining a better understanding of their business, and becoming a trusted advisor over time. Customer engagement programs like HCL's Advisory Councils are key drivers for account retention, customer loyalty and revenue growth.

A fundamental reason for the success of HCL's Council program is the internal team leading the initiatives. Executive Sponsor Shami Khorana, President, HCL America, leads the team, stays closely involved, communicates to members, and attends all CAC meetings. Samir Bagga, VP and Head of Marketing, and Gowri Shankar Vembu, Associate General Manager and Head of Global CACs, are equally committed to keeping the Councils at a high-quality and strategic level. They work hard to ensure meeting agendas are robust with relevant, engaging topics, while at the same time giving members the opportunity to serve as "advisors" to HCL.

We at Geehan Group are honored to work with a company the caliber of HCL, and look forward to our continued partnership to help them run world-class customer engagement programs and continue to lead their industry with a market driven strategy, bringing company-wide internal team alignment. Congratulations to Shami, Samir, Gowri and all of the HCL team on this much-deserved award!
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B2B Client Programs that Drive Sustainable and Profitable Growth

cfg logo
Rob Urbanowicz, Principal at Geehan Group wil be presenting at the CFG October Round Table in San Francisco October 11-13, 2011.

Session Outline:
The expanding role of the B2B chief marketer requires a rare skill and level of business savvy that is far beyond the messaging and creativity of a brand marketer in the B2C space.  Advancing the role of the B2B marketer to a strategist, innovation catalyst, growth generator, customer loyalty advocate and business partner is the new norm.

We will explore how B2B companies are rebalancing marketing budgets and focusing on the programs and relationships that propel organizations to develop executable growth strategies.  Participants will share perspectives regarding their challenges in executing customer engagement programs that drive strategic value.  Sharing real situations, Rob Urbanowicz will speak to the examples and approaches where “Top Customer” programs have advanced organizations to:
  • Engage your most valuable customers in highly relevant and meaningful ways to capture market insight, align your senior executives and deliver a market driven strategy
  • Differentiate you from other providers while systematically building deeper relationships and account penetration
For more information regarding this event please contact: meetings@cfgglobal.com
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8 Building Blocks of World Class Customer Advisory Boards

Many companies have tried to launch a successful Customer Advisory Board but have struggled to realize the potential and value of a World Class Advisory Board. Sean Geehan and his team at the Geehan Group have developed and perfected bullet proof methodologies to assist project managers execute World Class Advisory Board meetings across multiple industries. 

Sean will be presenting the 8 Building Blocks of World Class Advisory Boards followed by a round table discussion at the Customer Advisory Board.org conference May 3, 2011. This presentation is especially designed for program managers that currently own a Customer Advisory Board or a chartered with thseane responsible for coordinating a Customer Advisory Board for your Organization.

“We never could have imagined the results Geehan helped deliver from day one, which have exponentially increased since.”
Anubhuv Saxena, Global Head Marketing Strategy, HCL

Sean D. Geehan
Author, The B2B Executive Playbook

Sean Geehan is CEO and Founder of Geehan Group, the leader in guiding B2B executives to building sustainable, predictable, profitable growth.  His book, The B2B Executive Playbook, will be available Summer 2011.

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