Today’s guest post is by Karen Posey, Senior Consultant at the Geehan Group. Their work is all about how to engage key executives from your company to build relationships with key executives from your best and biggest customers. As a whale hunter, you are working with bigger companies than you used to. The bigger the customer, the more complex their organization. It’s easy for smaller companies to make major mistakes in serving those companies, or to fail to understand their preferences, or to not learn from them. Your customers’ satisfaction, relationships with you, loyalty to you, and long-term retention are intertwined with how closely you engage with them over time. Although Executive Sponsor Programs are more likely to happen in big companies, it’s a great strategy for smaller companies to understand and consider. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us, Karen!
If you are in the Business to Business (B2B) world chances are that close to 20% of your customers make up approximately 80% of your revenue. At the Geehan Group, we call this the B2B phenomenon. There is a distinct difference between what your top customers look like if you sell B2B vs. Business to Consumer (B2C). In the B2B world the focus is on the vital few; B2C you are marketing to the masses.
The B2B marketer needs to understand where they are focusing their precious resources and marketing dollars. In most B2B organizations there is a disproportionate amount of spending in the user and influencer level; very little at the decision maker level. In B2B organizations the decision maker level is where your greatest opportunity to make a significant impact on your organization. I’m going to focus on the B2B world.
What’s your customer strategy? This is an important question for the sales and/or marketing executives to answer as well as a critical question for your CEO. There are two important components to the customer strategy, they are:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What executive programs can help you solve it?
The Geehan Group works with very large organizations every day that have a myriad of events and initiatives with their customers. When we first get engaged one of the first questions we ask is what is the problem you are trying to solve? We rarely find alignment in the answer. Normally, there are programs running in various pockets of the organization and each has various goals and what success looks like. This is a huge missed opportunity as well as a potential misappropriation of the precious few marketing resources and dollars that are available in the organization.
Some examples of typical problems organizations have with their largest customers are retention, loyalty, wallet share issues and/or how to drive exponential growth. Answering what problem you are trying to solve will help you accomplish your first step in your strategy, which is getting your executive team in alignment so you know where to invest your precious dollars and resources.
Once the problems have been identified determining which Executive Programs will best solve your problem is the next step. For example, if there is a large need to learn from your top customers, then forming an Advisory Council with the decision makers of your top accounts will provide tremendous value. Gaining insight into the market to make decisions on the direction/strategy of the company (i.e., acquisitions or divestitures) product roadmap decisions and how you can position yourself better in the marketplace, etc. are just a few potential Advisory Council outcomes.
If you need to penetrate your largest customers at a deeper level to have a one-on-one relationship that is outside of any sales transaction then an Executive Sponsor Program would be an appropriate program. The Executive Sponsor Program provides a unique opportunity to have true account-based innovation. The innovative ideas are then put into solutions that the organization can replicate to other customers.
If you want to drive exponential growth in your organization, then focusing on Executive Summits to leverage your current loyal customers at the decision maker level might be the answer. These loyal customers at the decision maker level can help tell a compelling story to acquire more customers.
The key to success with Executive Programs is understanding when and how to deploy them so that you have an integrated approach to touching your most important customers at a decision maker level. This is also where the Geehan Group sees many organizations struggle. We find that as organizations grow they suddenly look up and they have all these events that aren’t integrated and their most important customers are getting pulled in five different directions.
We are starting to see organizations that have figured out how to effectively deploy an Executive Customer Program strategy. These organizations have a Chief Customer Officer that is responsible for all programs that touch their top customers so that the strategy and execution is consistent as well as sustained to evolve with the changes in the company’s strategy.
The Geehan Group focuses on helping B2B organizations drive a sustainable, predictable, profitable growth through executive level programs.