By Robb Lippitt, CEO of Revolution Dancewear
Success in a business-to-business environment, where products and services are provided to other businesses, is not merely achieved by offering superior products and reasonable price points. It’s about enabling your customers to improve their performance.
In my years as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that there are 4 strategies crucial to growing a B2B business.
1. Know Your Customers Better than They Know Themselves – Your product and service innovation is dependent on anticipating your customers’ needs, so understanding their bottom lines will effectively result in a better service-product. A business-to-business company flourishes when it solves its customers’ concerns ahead of time by either increasing the end-user satisfaction, or by streamlining its customers’ business practices. The more your customer feels you know their needs and will effectively care for them, the greater the increase in loyalty, which results in the ultimate goal: true, long-term relationships.
2. It’s About Customer Service –According to a recent poll by Gallup, fully engaged customers deliver a 23 percent premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.1 Every customer wants to feel like they are your only customer, so it’s up to you to engage them in a meaningful way. View every customer interaction as an opportunity to build and strengthen your relationship with them. Listen to them. Do things in a timely manner. Deliver more than they expect. Follow through on your word. It will dramatically impact their experience with you, and differentiate you from the competition.
Remember that in a B2B, your customers have their own customers, so ultimately your mistakes may affect those customers as well. In that case, take ownership of the problem—respond quickly and make it right. Interestingly, customer service research indicates that customers who have a problem that you can resolve quickly and effectively end up being more loyal than those who never had a problem to begin with.
Also remember that true engagement happens when the entire organization—from accounting to HR to the front line—understands that the customer comes first. Help each employee see that they are invested in the health and long-term growth of the company. Give them incentives to increase customer satisfaction and retention. At Revolution Dancewear, we have customers who have been with us since the beginning, 17 years ago.
3. Find And Fix the Weak Spots – Small problems can become big problems. Big problems cost big money. Instead, be proactive. Building a business that is more than just sustainable includes identifying areas in the organization that could be working more efficiently. This includes company-wide participation in bringing potential issues to the table before they become detrimental to other areas of the business as well. Incentivize employees to identify and correct issues which are impeding efficiency and productivity.
Focus on inventory management. To effectively predict demand and growth, first understand your business at the operations level. Monitor customer and industry trends closely. Be vigilant in ensuring that inventory doesn’t become a weak spot for your business. At Revolution Dancewear, we reward our senior leaders for effective inventory management because it is so critical to our company’s foundation.
4. Be Passionate about Your People – A study by the University of Warwick showed that happy workers were 12 percent more productive. But, what makes employees happy? Employees thrive when they are valued—create an inquisitive, healthy environment, where they feel like their concerns are heard and their feedback is valued by senior management. Studies also show that employees are motivated by opportunities to use their skills. Trust your employees. By giving them responsibility and accountability, your employees will nearly always rise to the challenge, taking the business to that next level.
Next, recognize them for strong job performance in a timely, meaningful way. Whether it’s a lunch, a note, a gift card, or a complete employee recognition program, incentives and rewards can go a long way in developing a culture of recognition, contributing to the goal of long-term, organizational success.
One study by the Harvard Business Review showed that the top factor that kept employees happy and engaged was “making progress.”2 When companies give employees meaningful work and the tools to succeed, they are more fulfilled. Providing opportunities for career development, advancement and growth also increases employee satisfaction and impacts retention. Together, these investments give your business a well-equipped workforce who is better prepared for the future of your company.
1 Gallup Business Journal – Creating Impact in B2B Relationships
2 Blogging for Jobs – Employee Satisfaction: When Pizza Isn’t Enough
Robb Lippitt is the Chief Executive Officer at Revolution Dancewear, a leading provider of beautifully-crafted, affordable dance apparel that is sold and distributed to dance studios throughout the U.S., Canada, and in select European markets. From 2001 to 2007, Robb served as the Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of ePrize, a leading global interactive promotions company. He oversaw the growth of ePrize from 17 to 325 employees and the opening of new offices in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. Robb founded and oversaw the growth of ePrize’s European subsidiary, ePrize Europe, Ltd., including the opening of a London office. Prior to joining ePrize, Robb practiced law for eight years, including work in the areas of complex business litigation, venture capital and corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and general corporate representation.