Continued from the Loyalty 360 Interview with Toni DeWitt, XO Communications Senior Manager, Loyalty & Retention Marketing (Read Part One, from our interview with Toni, in the September 2011 issue of Loyalty Management)

The B2B marketplace often requires a different approach to loyalty and engagement strategies.  Knowing where to start and how to integrate tried and true practices with tactics specific to the B2B marketplace can be a challenge for many organizations.  We had the opportunity to hear from Toni DeWitt of XO Communications, to learn more about how a B2B loyalty & engagement strategy can be a unique and valuable addition to an organization’s marketing efforts.   This is part 2 from our conversation.

L360:  Tell us a bit about the XO Customer Connections Program.  Is this a part of the overall loyalty strategy?  
DeWitt:  I am really excited about our Customer Connections Program.  This communications program is a part of our loyalty strategy that is continuing to evolve.  Over the past three years, we created an email marketing program to nurture and educate our customers on solutions and service tips.  We expanded the program in late 2009 by adding a feedback component to the program which allows customers to select the type of inquiry or request they have, and the request is then routed to the appropriate customer-facing team that is equipped to address the inquiry.  

L360: What is the response from clients and new connections in regard to these campaigns?
DeWitt:  It is wildly successful both internally and with customers because it gives our customers another channel to dialogue with us, while allowing our customer-facing teams a cost-effective means of response management.  

What additional programs is XO working on to engage customers and engender loyalty?
 DeWitt:  We are expanding this program this summer to include introduction of our proactive customer-focused presence on Twitter, are partnering with our Customer Care teams on redesigning our Customer Care website, and will be developing additional branding for our Client Services communications so that the Customer Connections theme permeates through a variety of customer touch points.

L360:   What is the difference between customer experience vs. loyalty?
If so, how do you approach these differently?  How do you integrate the two effectively?
DeWitt:  Loyalty is the end result of a positive customer experience.  Customer Experience includes communications geared to generate loyalty, but mostly, customer experience occurs through interactions with a brand’s products or services, and through contact with Customer Care (or other people groups).  In terms of our approach, the Customer Experience Team collects and analyzes customer intelligence data to determine opportunities for improvement initiatives.  Loyalty Marketing works with this team to understand and use this data for audience segmentation and loyalty campaign development.  

L360:  Is there room for B2C best practices in a B2B strategy?
DeWitt:  Absolutely.  Although some of the tactical approaches to B2C loyalty management may not be appropriate for a business customer, we have to remember that there is an individual consumer inside of every decision maker in a company.  Our job is to ensure that our loyalty and engagement strategies and programs appeal to the decision maker’s (and also influencers’, in the case of mid-market or enterprise-based businesses) thoughts, opinions and business needs.  People consume information individually, but serve as advocates for their companies.

L360:  On the flip side, is there something consumer loyalty programs can learn from a B2B approach?
DeWitt:  That’s a really good question.  Consumer loyalty programs are very successful because they’ve stood the test of time.  The cycle goes somewhat like this:  Engage, sell the benefit of a product/service, engage, convert, welcome, educate, engage, renew/repurchase, reward.  The key is keeping a customer engaged with your brand throughout their lifecycle.  B2B engagement is a little tougher because there are more members of the target audience that programs must reach and appeal to; perhaps consumer (or direct marketing) programs could take the B2B approach and expand reach beyond the individual into the network of influencers as well.  

L360:  What can a B2B business learn/gain from their clients by investing in a B2B engagement campaign?
DeWitt:  B2B engagement campaigns offer valuable insights to the business if feedback data is used to make business decisions appropriately.  These campaigns offer businesses opportunities to check the pulse of customers which lead to ongoing improvement initiatives that can result in greater loyalty with existing customers and can help attract prospects as well.

L360:  Where are the opportunities for out of the box ideas in a B2B engagement and loyalty approach?  Incorporating celebrations and videos into the social space, is a new and innovative strategy in the B2B space, how do you use these tools as part of your program?
DeWitt:  Last year, Loyalty Marketing led a cross-functional team which included XO employees across the company in an engagement program that celebrated a company milestone, our one millionth VoIP customer.  We wanted to create a big splash in showing appreciation for our customers who helped us achieve this, as well as for the employees who were a big part in making this happen.  The internal celebration included an all-employee call with our Executives, with cake and t-shirts distributed at our major locations.  The external celebration included an email/web campaign that honored our VoIP customers and XO employees through a video, a timeline, and invitation to enter a sweepstakes to win free VoIP services.  We went viral with the videos through the major social media outlets and used segments in our prospecting initiatives.  We also use videos for solution education, executive and holiday messaging as well, which tends to generate positive response, a ton of engagement, and I have to believe it results in good will with our customers and employees.

L360:  What is the overall goal for developing loyalty and customer experience/engagement initiatives in the B2B space?  
DeWitt:  Our loyalty program goal is to create better and more valuable customer relationships through programs that foster loyalty and deepen the connection to the XO brand.  Our customer experience goal is to make it easy to do business with us by reducing the customer’s effort.  Our programs and customer experience initiatives go hand in hand when it comes to fostering loyalty. 

 Toni DeWitt is a loyalty marketing practitioner with over 15 years in consumer-centric marketing strategy to include both consumer and B2B marketing, customer lifecycle management, and customer experience initiatives.

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