More than half of B2B marketing budgets are devoted to building and maintaining relationships with new customers, but only a quarter of B2B marketers say their relationships are akin to a happy marriage.
That’s according to new research from Skout carried out by Sapio Research, which reveals that of the 200 sales and marketing pros interviewed, 8% reckoned they were going through a bitter divorce or separation; 7% were on the rocks; 8% were having ‘difficulties’ with their customer relationships. This is a surprise considering nearly all marketers are heavily invested in building and creating relationships at key stages of the customer lifecycle. 14% added that they were casually dating or still at the first date stage of the relationship, whilst 14% said would ‘swipe right’ if using a dating app.
The impact of a relationship that’s on the rocks is clear. 41% felt the biggest risk was dissatisfied customers, a third said it resulted in poor prospect to customer conversion, another third stated it was likely to result in falling profitability and missing revenue targets. Despite these impacts, 97% of marketers agreed that good business relationships are crucial in B2B marketing.
The early stages of the customer journey prove critical when allocating budgets. 94% of respondents say that their business is effective at forging and nurturing relationships during the ‘interaction’ and the ‘awareness’ stage. But effectiveness drops as the customer journey matures – 77% effective at the ‘advocacy’ stage – indicating that it’s harder to keep customers on side the longer they’re with you.
As part of the research, Skout identified the risks to customer relationships at each stage of journey, with the results clearly showing where B2B marketers are falling short.
When it comes to retention, marketers do not appear to understand the value of building advocate programmes. Despite a lower cost of sale and the strength of case studies in convincing new customers to buy, 33% of companies have no dedicated customer loyalty or advocate programme in place. And 28% fail to monitor engagement or feedback to spot potential advocates.
Rob Skinner, MD of Skout, says “B2B relationship marketing is making a comeback. Potentially part of a backlash against too much automation, buyers are looking for that human touch and connection. And while not every customer might be worth a fling, marketers need to profile their audiences carefully to ensure that they’re investing in long term, exclusive, mutually beneficial marriages of convenience and are not two timed.”
Budget constraints are blamed for getting in the way forging stronger relationships with customers according to half of respondents, but a further 38% blame lack of data/insights, people resource (37%) and lack of a clear strategy (37%).
So where are marketers focusing those limited budgets? In the past year, over half have used customer surveys, 39% identified where their customers are on the journey, 36% put budget to audience research and 27% into persona and audience mapping.