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The Four Doors to B2B Relevance

4_istock-red-open-doorWhen it comes to reaching customers, the window of opportunity is often realized by traveling through several doors. When that customer is a B2B client, those doors can lead to the executive suite, the manufacturing floor or even the farm field.

Consider a day in the life of a business customer. Perhaps a purchase manager just found out she landed a promotion but at an office in another part of town. This event would likely change her needs and preferences. For example, due to her longer commute, the new executive may prefer to get her communications during her drive time via cell phone (hands free, of course).

The point is that the relationship between a loyalty initiative and its customers, regardless of who they are, is a collaborative one, reinforced through meaningful communications and recognition. So how does an organization get there? By being relevant, which comes from understanding four doors that outline the basic behavioral dimensions of the customer: the spatial, temporal, individual, and cohort doors.

I’ve written about the four doors of relevance before, but always applied them to a business-to-consumer relationship. When I began writing my book, “The Loyalty Leap for B2B,” I reconsidered them from the point of a B2B company. Let’s walk through each door together.

Spatial: In the B2B setting, the spatial door refers to physical, online and otherwise digital locations of the customer company. It requires mapping a company’s venues, knowing the whereabouts of its customers, and how the physical and digital locations affect how the organization brings its products to market. All of this means understanding how the company’s customers use its business.

Temporal: In its most basic sense, the word “temporal” means timing. Businesses, like people, have life cycles and life stages that introduce different needs at different points in time. What a business needs at one stage might not be relevant at the next, particularly if it acquires a new competitor or moves offices. Key markers such as size also will shift or introduce needs, in particular with financing, office equipment and government regulations.

Individual: The individual door reveals a company’s interests, mission, and preferences, as well as the unique proclivities of the buyer or business owner who is the contact. However, the B2B operator should recognize the characteristics of the business, not the needs of the individual with whom it is doing business. The needs of the individual in a B2B setting should be viewed as a collective.

Cohort: The last door opens to those characteristics – the moral compass, themes and purposes – that define an organization’s culture, under which its employees come together. These core purposes may include sustainability, which is a focus of Procter & Gamble and Walmart, or shared missions, such as feeding the hungry. The cohort door also discloses a company’s memberships to trade groups or organizations, as well as partnerships with buying groups.

With the use of the four doors, a B2B organization can ensure that everything it does throughout the company is formulated around its customers. Consider a family farm. While the spatial door reveals how different soils and climates affect growing conditions, the temporal door will provide insight into seasonal needs. More intimately, the individual door will open to specific values, such as a preference for recycling, while a membership to the National Family Farm Coalition, exposed through the cohort door, will indicate that the farmer is likely not an agribusiness.

By using the four doors in this way, a company can put the client at the heart of its objectives and develop the kinds of relevant products, promotions, messaging, and delivery that make its customers stop and say, “Hey, they get us.”

That is a sentiment that will open many windows, and doors, of opportunity.

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