Do You Really Know How Your Channel Partners Feel?

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has traditionally been all about appealing to the buyer’s rational side and making them perceive brands as having strong business value. But a 2013 study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and Google showed that emotion plays a large role in how B2B customers perceive the brand value of their channel partners. Today’s B2B marketing strategies should capitalize on the previously untapped power of emotion. In this article, we’ll discuss how Loyaltyworks sales channel loyalty programs act as emotionally resonant marketing tools.

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Why Business Value Is no Longer Enough for Channel Partners

In today’s B2B markets, customers no longer need brand representatives to determine business value. The information B2B customers need about your products, services, history, pricing and reputation is already out there for them to research. During the infancy of the Internet, making your information and business value available online put you ahead of the game. But proclaiming your business value is no longer much of a differentiator, since your competition is out there making the same claims. In fact, CEB and Google found that:

“Business value perceptions hardly vary at all between brands, either within an industry or even across industries. The reality is that buyers perceive little difference between the business value various suppliers can offer.”

Because customers no longer perceive business value as differentiators, it’s up to B2B marketing strategies to provide something more: personal value.

The Dawn of Personal Value in B2B Marketing

It’s B2C marketing that’s known for eliciting strong emotions. Just think about all those feel-good Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Campbell’s soup ad campaigns. But here’s another interesting finding from CEB/Google’s 2013 research: “A greater proportion of B2B customers are emotionally attached to the brand they purchased than B2C consumers are.” They discovered that business value (functional benefits, business outcomes, etc.) had only a 21.4% impact on perceived brand benefits, while personal value (career advancement, self-image, emotional and social benefits) had a 42.6% impact.

It’s surprising, at first, to think that a B2B customer could be more attached to his/her forklift supplier than a diehard Apple fan is to his/her new iPhone. But it makes sense considering the fact that B2B purchases come with much greater risks that B2C purchases. B2B customers could lose time and effort, credibility and even their jobs in making the wrong choice of brands.

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One of the best ways to add more personal value to a B2B brand is the implementation of an online B2B customer loyalty program.

Adding Personal Value with a Channel Partner Loyalty Program

  • Give them the loyalty rewards they really want.

When kicking off a B2B customer loyalty program, unfortunately you can’t sit down with all B2B partners and ask them what kind of rewards would be most motivating to them. What you can do is offer them an online rewards mall with millions of items and enough rewards diversity that they can find the item that has the most personal value and significance to them. Flight tickets to Orlando may be meaningless to a single 24-year-old, for instance, but those tickets could be priceless to a parent whose children have been pleading for a Disney World vacation.

  • Offer them the benefit of bonus point marketing strategies.

Customer loyalty programs not only have the potential to provide personal appeal to participants, they can also give your sales channel partners a leg up when it comes to marketing strategies and career advancement. For instance, you could invite your vendors or manufacturers to join regular bonus point promotions in your loyalty program. This means that you offer buyers digital reward points for purchasing qualifying products. Those points can then be redeemed for any item in the aforementioned online rewards mall, which gives customers a great incentive to purchase one vendor’s products over another’s. You and your vendor both benefit from this increase in sales.

  • Make their lives easier with a mobile loyalty program.

Lastly, the availability of online customer loyalty mobile apps has great emotional and social benefits for B2B partners due to their on-the-go convenience. Rather than having to keep up with invoice paperwork in order to claim qualifying sales, B2B customers can use native smartphone technology to scan UPCs or photograph invoices and warranty registrations, upload the documentation to your online loyalty program database, instantly receive reward points, then spend those points on items in the online reward catalog. In essence, they’re carrying your loyalty program and their rewards around with them everywhere they go, which is an immense personal perk your brand can offer.

There’s no question that perceptions of B2B brands are changing. In an age in which B2B customers determine for themselves what your business value you, B2B marketing strategies should begin focusing on adding emotional and personal value as a differentiator. Online channel partner loyalty programs can help B2B companies add personal value to their brands by offering program participants diverse and desirable rewards, profitable B2B marketing strategies and mobile apps that greatly simplify the rewards process. In industries that are just now beginning to feel the benefit of emotion and personalization-based marketing strategies, adding personal value to your brand can truly set you apart from the competition.

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Nichole Gunn Loyaltyworks Marketing

Nichole Gunn
Director of Marketing at The Incentive Solutions Group of companies, consisting of:
Incentive Solutions, Inc. | Loyaltyworks