(and Why it Matters in Business-to-Business Sales)

I've heard it said that to succeed in business, you must master business tools. Some businesses make do with what they can afford, while others highly invest in cutting-edge technologies.

Customers have invested in integrated systems like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Hubspot, ZoomInfo, and others. At the same time, some try piecemeal solutions such as Zoom, Nimble, ActiveCampaign, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and others.

All of that is 100% reliant on people.

  • It takes people to set them up.
  • It takes people to add relevant data.
  • It takes people to interpret that data.
  • It takes people to connect with the people who make up that data.

With the advent of AI, companies hope that data can be gathered, processed, analyzed, and implemented faster and at a lower expense by a computer instead of people.

At some point (unless you sell via a computer and e-commerce), people need to communicate with people to generate and close sales.

So then, does it make sense to try to master people and then tools?

What is Relationship Marketing?

Business-to-business (B2b) is more like human-to-human, or people-to-people than company-to-company.

When you think about it, your people communicate with someone who works at a different company.

That is why and how I have built my business on relationship marketing, and I have been able to help other companies successfully implement that into their mix of tools.

Relationship Marketing is a strategy that focuses on building long-term relationships with customers instead of just one-time transactions.

  • It involves creating a personalized customer experience, understanding their needs, and developing trust and loyalty.
  • The goal is to build a customer base that continues to do business with you and recommends your company to others.
  • By investing in relationship marketing, companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors and build a strong brand reputation.

Can a part of that be outsourced to a company or even AI? Of course, it can, but at some point, it will involve your people.

How to Master Tools for Relationship Marketing?

You've heard of the term GIGO? It stands for Garbage In – Garbage Out. All installations of tools start with excitement, hope, and promise. Then the excitement fades away, and hope and promise become “busy, and what a mess.”

It's not just keeping information up to date; it's about people adding and removing the details that matter.

Many systems serve multiple functions like CRM, accounting, product management, and more.

I have an example from an organization where I volunteer. I was asked to be the VP of Communications for the Raleigh Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Many volunteers come and go, and so do the tools that they are comfortable and familiar with.

The National Association maintains and manages the membership and lists of new, current, and past members. That list is updated monthly.

Over the years, the process has gone through machinations that have recently settled on deleting the current list in an email program and uploading the most recent list. You can see the problem.

With hundreds of members and an email list of 5000, you need help maintaining the data with current people who are not members and may have changed companies. Also, we have separate systems to track volunteers, sponsors, mentors, proteges, and people who attend events.

The solution is to have one master list that tracks past, current, and new people, no matter what their involvement. What needs to happen is the records need to be updated with the most current data available. It also needs one group or volunteer to manage and complete that process.

That master list can then be tagged and segmented to become more accessible and valuable to all of the parts of the organization (the board, membership, communications, programming and events, community relations, partnerships, employment services, DEI, and others).

How to Master People for Relationship Marketing?

In business, maintaining customer data is often delegated to the salespeople and customer service teams since they interact most with active customers. Just like deleting and importing the active members with the AMA lists, only current people are touched. The past or inactive clients, vendors, and others lie dormant and slowly become more and more incomplete.

With that being said, and in the heat of the battle for sales, people often need to pay more time and attention to the details, so even the current customer data can slowly suffer from atrophy.

In the AMA chapter, we have created a volunteer position I call, “The Data Overlord.” We decided it made sense to have that person be a part of and managed by the membership team.

In business, I suggest you identify or outsource the addition of a Relationship Manager or Relationship Supervisor. That person can work with IT, accounting, sales, marketing, and the CSRs to help them ensure the data in your master list is being updated, tagged, and segmented.

That also means you have to decide where your master list will reside. In the AMA chapter, we have chosen Nimble. After testing, we found that it provides an easy-to-use and integrated low-cost solution that meets our needs.

In your business, that may be your CRM or ERP.

Why it Matters

Having the most current tagged and segmented data with the AMA chapter makes it easier for me, as the VP of Communications to create targeted messaging when we know who is a member and who is not. Understanding who attends events or the job seeker mastermind is also helpful.

Plus, you can create messages that can be customized. People who attend meetings can be reminded why they came to the last one, while those who did not can be encouraged to start attending.

Members can be reminded why they joined, while non-members can be encouraged to join (with discounts and benefits). Also, you don't want to send a sponsorship email to everyone, yet you want to encourage everyone to engage with sponsors.

In business, imagine the ability to send the same email to manufacturers, transportation, healthcare, and other customers with specific content that is written explicitly to their unique business needs and challenges. With the advent of new tools, you can have the same email with parts that are customized with personalized details that go beyond, “Hey (insert first name here)” followed by content that has to appeal to everyone.

Closing Thought

Relationship Marketing may mean something different to you, but for me, it's about creating conversations. The content you create and distribute should generate conversations between current, past, and prospective customers.

Tools are great, but I think of my job as creating creative content fuel that shines a light for your brand while sparking a flame to encourage better business relationships when the timing is right.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
– Henry (the Fonz) Winkler

Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about business-to-business sales and marketing today! Do you have a sales or marketing communications strategy that works for you? What tips or techniques can you share that work for you and your business?

To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast.

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