love meThe other day, someone asked the question, “How do you keep long term relationships with your customers?”  I responded by saying that I once heard a joke where after 50 years of marriage, a wife said to her husband, “We’ve been married 50 years, and I can’t remember the last time you told me you love me”. The husband replied, “I told you ‘I love you’ the day we got married. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

Unfortunately, that’s how many B2B companies deal with their customers: “Thanks for buying, see you later”. The key to customer retention is communication. To communicate effectively, companies should develop a strategy. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this concept eludes sales people, marketing people and business owners.

So, what does this strategy entail?  First, decide the customers with whom you want to develop relationships (let’s face it, not all customers are worth keeping). Then, segment the customer list. For example, “Top” customers, “Good” Customers, and “Other” customers. From there, develop your communications schedule for each segment.  The “Top” segment should receive more personalized, high touch communications based on detailed insights gleaned from the data you have on them. The lower levels can receive more “general” communication (but make sure these communications still correspond to their persona, and their buying stage). Vary communications messages. Balance “sales” messages with useful, relevant content. Also, integrate multiple methodologies: email, phone, sales calls, etc. Finally, once the plan is developed, determine which resources (marketing automation, technology, call centers, etc.) will help to enhance the process. Implementing this strategy effectively will allow you to develop those long term relationships, and keep your company “top-of-mind” with your customer.