For B2B brands looking to grow their bottom line, bringing in new business — finding new targets, prioritizing accounts, increasing conversion rates, etc. — typically ranks at the top of the priority list. As important as that new business is, it’s also important to “show some love” to the people who helped you get to where you are today: your current clients. Remember, it costs far more to bring in a new client than it does to keep an existing one, so a good customer retention strategy is essential to your future success.
One proven tactic for reinforcing customer loyalty is to have an annual one-to-one “check in” with each client. It’s your opportunity to let your clients know you still care about them, and you’ll also gain some valuable insights that can benefit your brand strategy. When you know the right questions to ask clients, their answers can uncover a wealth of information about how your brand is performing in the real world.
If you need a little refresher, here are 5 questions to ask clients once a year. Spend 15 or 20 minutes with each client and you might be surprised how many dividends this simple practice yields.
1. “What was the best thing we did for you over the last 12 months?”
Let each client know you want to do more of the things that make them happy. They might mention a problem that your customer service team went above and beyond to solve. Or an invitation to an event where they met a host of potential new clients. Or, on the technical side, they might mention an upgrade to your software that they found particularly useful.
As you listen to their answer, think about what it says about your organization, and how you can leverage that in your brand strategy or in a customer retention campaign. You may not typically talk much about customer service, for example, but if enough clients bring it up, it might be worth including in your brand promise. Or if they bring up the software upgrade, it means that you deliver the technology people want. Gather the answers you receive and see if you can identify any common threads, then consider working those themes into your brand messaging.
(Pro Tip: Think about ways you can spin the best responses into customer success stories.)
2. “What keeps you coming back to us?”
If question #1 was about the one “big bang” that stuck in their memories, this question concerns the day-to-day, month-to-month benefits of working with you.
What you’re looking for here are differentiators. It’s highly likely that at least one of your competitors has tried to lure this client away from you over the last 12 months, and yet their customer loyalty remained intact. Why?
When clients share the two or three things that make them want to remain loyal to you, they’re probably sharing things they don’t think they can get anywhere else. It might be the quality of your product, your service team’s quick response time, or the reliability of your deliveries. If the same benefit comes up again and again, consider it a competitive advantage and start mentioning it in your marketing and sales conversations.
3. “If you could improve on one thing about doing business with us, what would it be?”
Norman Vincent Peale once said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” This question is often uncomfortable both for the questioner and for the client, but it’s an important one. Listen carefully to their answer and make sure that you understand it; you may be uncovering a flaw in your product or service that no one has been aware of, but that could be causing other clients to walk away.
Here again, it’s important to consider your clients’ responses in light of your brand strategy. Is the most common answer also one of the main talking points in your brand promise? If so, you have two choices: fix the problem immediately or adjust the way you talk about your brand.
4. “If you were to refer us to a friend or colleague, what would you tell them about us?”
This question accomplishes two goals. First, it gets the client thinking about a referral situation, which may trigger an idea to send someone your way. Second, it gives you an insight into what clients say when they brag about you.
You may hear some overlap with your client’s responses to earlier questions, and that’s fine. What’s important is that they start thinking not just about what you’ve done for them, but what you do in general — how they perceive your brand benefiting other organizations.
5. “What are your three most important goals for the next 12 months?”
This question is the point where you shine the spotlight squarely on the client and their aspirations for the near future. It’s also your chance to find ways to deepen your relationship. As they go down their list of goals, see if you can identify opportunities to be of help, which may or may not have anything to do with your product or service. For example, if the client wants to expand into a new territory, you may have contacts in the region who could be of assistance.
Of course, if any of the goals they mention are directly related to your solutions, this would be a perfect opportunity for an upsell or cross-sell conversation.
Once you’ve collected all your responses, look at them and see if you notice common threads. Maybe there’s a new technology that many clients are looking to explore, or an upcoming regulation that they need to comply with. Then think about the content you have planned for the next few months and see if you can publish some helpful advice on these topics. Your current clients will appreciate your attention to their needs, and you may attract some new leads along the way.
You’ve heard the expression “no news is good news,” but when it comes to B2B customer retention, that’s not always the case. Whether a client has been in regular contact with you or not, it’s always important to check in, take the pulse of your relationship, and identify how your real-world performance matches up with your brand promise. By focusing your conversation on these five questions, you can not only encourage continued customer loyalty, but also gain some gems of wisdom that enhance your brand strategy and help you create messaging that shows your company at its best.