How to Retain Your B2B Customers in 2024

April 18, 2024
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    B2B sales growth slowed in 2023, so companies focused on retaining customers rather than acquiring new ones. That trend is continuing into 2024.

    With B2B sales growth, digital data spending, and martech spending growth all slowing down last year, B2B companies needed to pivot to retainment strategies, or else face the risk of being cut out of their customers’ budgets entirely. Companies will continue to give up B2B tech that isn’t delivering on the ROI they want. Anything that’s not absolutely essential will have to go. The belt-tightening brought on by inflation and economic uncertainty shows no signs of slowing just yet, and we expect the stagnation in B2B growth to let up only a little bit this year. 

    So what can B2B companies do to boost their retainment strategies and prove their value? Here are some winning strategies for B2B retention in 2024–the year we should be prioritizing existing customer relationships.

    Managing the customer relationship

    Last year, all metrics of B2B growth were down. And they won’t improve by much in 2024: US B2B marketing data spending will only grow 2.5% this year–up slightly from last year’s growth rate of 2.3%, but down from the growth rates of 2021 and 2022, which were over 4%. US B2B product sales growth last year hovered around 3.4%, also down from the years before. 

    Focusing on retention is key to this year’s success for any B2B company–which means analyzing already-existing customer relationships. Which, without exception, always starts at the data.

    But unlike B2C customers, B2B clients are more nebulous. They are functioning on behalf of a bigger entity – their company – and advocating for its needs. Rather than responding to the needs of one customer, they’re responding to key decision makers that are advocating on behalf of the complex needs of their business.

    So who is your client, really? Knowing your client beyond the email address is key to retaining them, therefore, connecting B2B to B2C data is important. We don’t become different people when we leave the office and with consumer traits influencing buying decisions regardless of whether it’s B2C or B2B, getting a complete view of your customers is part of what retention looks like.

    And as you get to know your customer more deeply, managing the customer relationship begins to take center stage. Using the right CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform to track opportunities for upselling, deepen trust, and develop a view of each key decision maker in the complex B2B sales funnel is part and parcel of an effective retention strategy. That said, the digital space, when it comes to B2B marketing, is becoming more and more complex, with more B2B clients seeking the same seamless experience that comes from a B2C online shopping experience.

    Investing in ecommerce

    More and more prospects are being drawn to using ecommerce marketplaces, especially as B2B buyers as a whole skew younger. These clients are looking for the same seamless transaction potential of B2C purchases. Adjusting strategy here might be helpful, especially as B2B ecommerce sales are expected to exceed $3 trillion by 2027. 

    Effective digital relationships and smooth transactions will increasingly draw more customers as companies attempt to streamline their tech stacks, too. These seamless, swift, and painless transactions can be bolstered by investments in AI and other automated tools – so let’s talk about the role of automation in B2B retention strategy.

     Using Generative AI

    According to a study from Insider Intelligence, around 31% of B2B companies surveyed are experimenting with AI to improve their chatbots, help with their coding, or enhance their design. Another 30% are using it for content creation and presentations.

    Almost half of B2B leaders in North America see chatbots for customer support as important to the digital purchase experience of their clients. However, over 60% of marketers said their companies lacked guidelines for genAI – an oversight that could lead to issues down the line, especially ones that could precipitate client distrust. 

    And while large language models can help you build chatbots and make predictions about your customers’ future steps, it’s no replacement for human interaction, which is arguably more essential during B2B transactions than it is for B2C ones, especially deeper into the sales funnel.

    Generative AI will also bring about a reckoning for data quality and brand reputation …. which brings us to the next strategy.

    Brand reputation

    A good brand reputation for a B2B company is just as important as a good reputation for a B2C company. Retention is easier when customers recognize your brand, so it’s imperative not to have a forgetful or unclear image in the eye of both prospects and clients. 

    Consumers are expecting the same level of brand personality from B2B companies as their B2C counterparts, so while you want to demonstrate stellar performance, don’t forget to invest in that logo, those ads, and site design, too.

    Email communication and social media marketing

    In 2023, both B2C and B2B marketers increased their email budgets to spur their marketing efforts. Email is by far the most used tactic in B2B marketing. According to Insider Intelligence, it’s the most impactful channel for around half of B2B marketers, too. Right behind it are social media at 33%, and then content marketing at 26%. 

    As B2B buyers skew younger and younger, social media becomes an important medium to build not only brand recognition, but customer relationships, too – especially when it comes to digital-first clients. According to a study from Insider Intelligence, LinkedIn and Meta will account for over 40% of US B2B digital ad spend this year, but platforms like TikTok, which emphasize organic and creator-based forms of marketing are coming onto the field, too. And as social media is named the most effective revenue-driving channel for 60% of US B2B marketers, it makes sense to invest in multiple platforms both as a high-funnel strategy and as a lower-level retention-focused strategy focused on client connections and brand trust.

    While acquisition goals are mostly achieved by social media and emails, in-person events also contribute their fair share, with more than a third of B2B marketers agreeing that it contributes the most to top-of-funnel goals. And when it comes to retention, these channels are still prime avenues for connection and deepening relationships. Just consider email newsletters and their close associate, content marketing.

    Educating your clients

    Content marketing, which is using content that is educational and useful to clients on your website and through your other channels to market toward them, is a proven strategy to engage both prospects and clients. Not only can content marketing serve as the basis for an effective retention email strategy, forming the content for newsletters and check-ins alike, but it draws clients back to your website and can be used in social media campaigns, too. 

    This year, in light of economic recession strategies leaving companies focusing on their proven ROI-winning partners, B2B companies are focusing on customer retention. There are multiple ways to engage in a winning customer lifecycle strategy and keep companies renewing year after year. Focusing on the customer relationship gives B2B companies the confidence and means to pivot back to acquisition in the long run, and again to retention – a duo that passes the baton back and forth in the race to a winning B2B strategy.