From apparel brands to food delivery platforms, almost all B2C businesses offer loyalty programs; and a majority of them are a huge hit. But, implementing these programs in Business-to-Business (B2B) environments can be a little different. The major difference is because of the businesses’ approach to the customers.
Now, if you are a B2B business, you may have many questions on what to do and how to start. Don’t worry; we are here to help you with the right information and the right examples to help you.
Let’s start with understanding what the B2B loyalty program is and how it works.
A loyalty program is a marketing strategy to encourage customers to continue purchasing from them. B2Bs use loyalty programs to establish stronger relationships with existing customers.
By offering loyalty programs, B2Bs can tap into several benefits, including –
1. Access to reliable customer data
By offering loyalty programs, B2B businesses an invaluable customer data. It also helps them build data-driven direct communications strategies that help yield higher ROI.
2. Encourage up-selling and cross-selling
B2B businesses face difficulties with up-selling and cross-selling. One way to address the challenge is by offering rewards. Rewarding prospects in the form of free product trials makes it easier to sell it to them.
3. Gain actionable insights to enhance business strategies
The success or failure of loyalty programs tells a lot about the product, service, and customer behavior. For example, using direct contact information, it is possible to get product-related feedback. These insights can further be used to enhance the product, sales & marketing, and partnership departments.
Let us now discuss the opportunities and challenges B2Bs have with loyalty programs.
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1. Quality lead generation
Loyalty programs can work great for lead optimization. Loyalty/ referral programs can be designed in a way that the prospects have to share their details in exchange for the value offered. This helps gather high-quality leads and thus accelerates the probability of conversions.
For instance, you can offer a masterclass solving a unique challenge in exchange for their contact details.
2. Reserve money
Research suggests that ‘retaining existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones. This is a key reason businesses should invest in building customer loyalty, and loyalty programs help.
3. Better personalization
Customers tend to spend more on a brand/ product that provides personalized services. And with the customer insights from loyalty programs, businesses can build a personalized approach.
1. Customer experience doesn’t guarantee loyalty
A pleasant customer experience is an important factor in customer loyalty. Yet, there is no guarantee that a pleasant experience equals loyalty. Several factors decide loyalty, such as product quality, cost, post-purchase services, etc. Understanding this is a challenge.
2. Documenting the details
Every minor detail of the loyalty program must be documented. Otherwise, it would lead to confusion and inconsistency.
3. Managing data from the program
Loyalty programs are a great way to gain insightful customer data. However, the main challenge would be to manage the data collected. Most B2B companies fail to manage this data and integrate it with their strategies. Some of the struggles are separating the data and analyzing it to draw meaningful conclusions.
Examples of B2B loyalty programs
Let us now discuss some inspiring examples of B2B loyalty programs.
1. TRW Aftermath
TRW is a global brand that supplies parts to the automobile industry. To handle the heavy competition in the market, TRW started its B2B loyalty program ‘Automotive Diamonds,’ targeting workshops across Europe. It is a centralized loyalty system in which the members earn points for their purchase, which can be redeemed for rewards.
The company saw an improvement in its communications, and there was more customer data due to the program.
Back in 2014, when Lenovo purchased IBM’s X86 server, the company didn’t have any industry experience. This led to chaos among the former business partners (BPs) on whether to stay or leave the brand. To tackle this, Lenovo came up with the loyalty program ‘Lenovo Expert Achievers Programme (LEAP).’ The program aims to keep the existing business partners from leaving the brand. Through the program, it offered two ways to earn – 1. Educational modules about servers, and 2. By tracking sales performance.
With the program, the company was able to keep existing BPs, attract new ones and the participants saw a significant increase in their sales.
3. Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises is a well-known luxury brand that gets most of its sales via travel agents. In 2015 the industry started getting crowded, and to handle this, the brand introduced its loyalty program Celebrity Rewards. The program incentivized best-performing agents to work for the brand exclusively. For this, the brand offered points for every booking made by the agent. The program encouraged 12,683 agents to join. The ultimate results were increased activity rate, retention rate, and increase in sales.
4. American Express
American Express launched its referral-based partnership program ‘American Express Partners Plus.’ Through the program, American Express rewards organizations if they successfully refer their contacts to AE’s Global Corporate Payments program. The simple program played a key role in deepening trusted partner relationships.
The global tech company came up with the ‘HP Planet Partners Rewards Program,’ where the company rewards businesses for returning used HP print cartridges. The program is also aimed at supporting HP’s recycling initiative. Thus, businesses are able to earn rewards while also contributing to the environment.
US-based telecommunications sales agency Telarus introduced its loyalty program ‘Telarus Partner Loyalty Program.’ The program is aimed at motivating partner retailers to sell Telarus services.
7. Mailchimp & Co
Email marketing and newsletter service provider Mailchimp developed a loyalty program for agencies and freelance marketing experts. Mailchimp rewarded marketing professionals through the program, for using Mailchimp to serve their clients. The professionals would get insider training, access to exclusive tools, and invitations to exclusive events as a reward.
IBM – International Business Machines Corporation – offers a loyalty program, ‘IMB VIP.’ This B2B loyalty program aims at rewarding customers for their activities. At the same time, the program also encourages members to learn more about IBM’s services.
9. Nufarm Limited
Nufarm Limited is a leading global specialist seeds and crop protection company. The company operates through retailer channels. It has come up with the loyalty program ‘Priority Partnership’ for its partners in New Zealand. The company rewards partners for purchasing and promoting its products through the program.
This way, the company earned the loyalty of partners through rewards. At the same time, it was also able to educate customers about its products.
So far, we have discussed some successful B2B loyalty programs to take inspiration from. Next, we will see an example of a B2B loyalty program that failed. This will help identify what doesn’t work.
10. Seiko Visions
Seiko Visions is a global eyewear company. It had launched a B2B rewards program to engage its partners. However, the lack of clear documentation and difficult navigation turned the program into a disaster. As a result, the company’s website saw a bounce rate of 90%.
Now that we have seen some inspiring B2B loyalty programs, we can discuss the takeaways from them:
- Always separate your B2C clients from the B2B clients.
- Make sure that you clearly document the details.
- Keep it simple to understand.
- Make sure that the rewards you offer are valuable.
Considering the fact that there is a lot of difference between B2Bs and B2Cs, the way they conduct loyalty programs is also very different. While B2Cs use a casual approach, B2Bs are more reserved in their approach. But, if you do it right, loyalty programs for B2Bs can be a huge hit.36
Take cues from the examples we have shared and start your journey towards increasing customer loyalty.
Shivani is a talented CS manager with the skillsets to elicit, scope and manage end-to-end B2B SaaS project delivery. She has a keen interest in depicting her learnings in customer success by writing resourceful blogs and articles.
Published April 20, 2022, Updated March 01, 2023