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On the shelf or on the rocks? Three quarters of B2B sales and marketing pros say their business relationships are not a marriage made in heaven

More than half of B2B marketing budgets are devoted to building and maintaining relationships with new customers, but only a quarter of B2B marketers say their relationships are akin to a happy marriage. This is according to new research from Skout, the B2B marketing comms agency.

Comparing findings to a romantic relationship, the survey carried out by Sapio Research reveals that of the 200 sales and marketing pros interviewed, 8% reckoned they were going through a bitter divorce or separation; 7% were on the rocks; 8% were having ‘difficulties’ with their customer relationships. This is a surprise considering nearly all marketers are heavily invested in building and creating relationships at key stages of the customer lifecycle. 14% added that they were casually dating or still at the first date stage of the relationship, whilst 14% said would ‘swipe right’ if using a dating app.

The impact of a relationship that’s on the rocks is clear. 41% felt the biggest risk was dissatisfied customers, a third said it resulted in poor prospect to customer conversion, another third stated it was likely to result in falling profitability and missing revenue targets. Despite these impacts, 97% of marketers agreed that good business relationships are crucial in B2B marketing.

Relationship lifecycle: From honeymoon to divorce

The early stages of the customer journey prove critical when allocating budgets. 94% of respondents say that their business is effective at forging and nurturing relationships during the ‘interaction’ and the ‘awareness’ stage. But effectiveness drops as the customer journey matures – 77% effective at the ‘advocacy’ stage – indicating that it’s harder to keep customers on side the longer they’re with you.

As part of the research, Skout identified the risks to customer relationships at each stage of journey, with the results clearly showing where B2B marketers are falling short.

Text Box: Awareness: Over a third think that marketing activities are ineffective at hitting the right audience at this stage.
Interaction: A quarter felt that they were selling too hard too early at this stage. 
Transaction: 27% feel that they are not adequately onboarding clients during the buying stage.
Retention: Failing to get customer feedback or worse, acting on it, is a concern of more than a third of sales and marketers.
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When it comes to retention, marketers do not appear to understand the value of building advocate programmes. Despite a lower cost of sale and the strength of case studies in convincing new customers to buy, 33% of companies have no dedicated customer loyalty or advocate programme in place. And 28% fail to monitor engagement or feedback to spot potential advocates.

Do you understand the importance of relationships in B2B marketing?

Here’s a short video that helps demystify the relationship eco system.

Rob Skinner, MD of Skout, says “B2B relationship marketing is making a comeback. Potentially part of a backlash against too much automation, buyers are looking for that human touch and connection. And while not every customer might be worth a fling, marketers need to profile their audiences carefully to ensure that they’re investing in long term, exclusive, mutually beneficial marriages of convenience and are not two timed.”

Budget constraints are blamed for getting in the way forging stronger relationships with customers according to half of respondents, but a further 38% blame lack of data/insights, people resource (37%) and lack of a clear strategy (37%).

So where are marketers focusing those limited budgets? In the past year, over half have used customer surveys, 39% identified where their customers are on the journey, 36% put budget to audience research and 27% into persona and audience mapping.  

For more information or to download the report, please visit: www.skoutpr.com/resources

Research was conducted with 204 brand marketing senior decision makers in the UK who were involved in the relationship between their company and the B2B businesses they sold their products / services to.   

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