Imagine a partnership with your customers where both of you are accomplishing your goals and getting what you want. Is it idealistic? Maybe. But it’s also the goal to strive for in every B2B key account relationship.
Creating a Win-Win
Set the bar high. Look for win-win scenarios with your customers by seeking out opportunities to create value for them. The holy grail of all business relationships is when both parties are benefitting from it. Through your negotiations, relationship building, and deal-making, that’s what you need to keep in mind.
It’s not enough to focus on the value the deal will create for you. If you focus too much energy on getting the best deal for your company, you may inadvertently drive your customers to other suppliers. By looking for solutions that bring as much value as possible to each party, you’ll be able to build a stronger partnership. Demonstrate your commitment to creating value for your customers.
How You Work Towards Mutual Benefit
Co-creation is a term that’s mostly used in a B2C context, but it’s got amazing potential for B2B companies as well. Through strong, strategic partnerships you can actually work directly with your customers to create value.
Instead of presenting them with a cookie-cutter solution, value co-creation involves bringing them into the value creation process to come up with unique solutions together with you. This way, they’re fully represented in the value creation process, so their goals and needs will be addressed at every step.
Co-creation gives you and your customer the opportunity to work together to find solutions that provide the most benefit for each of you. Rather than counting on your team to find solutions that are perfect for every customer, seek out the customer input from the beginning to make sure you get it right.
Because of the high level of collaboration needed to make this work, you should reserve it only for your key accounts. The benefits for both sides will be worth the effort put into making the collaboration happen.
Defining Value Co-Creation
Every customer has their own problems, opportunities, wants, and needs (POWNs). When these are addressed individually, you can help them to reach their goals more effectively. Co-creation is the process of working together with your customers to come up with a solution that takes into account their POWNs along with what you can feasibly offer.
Instead of giving out set solutions, work with your key account customers to create the solutions. What you end up with will be a product or service that’s tailored to fit your customers’ individual circumstances more easily. Your co-created solution will be:
Working alongside your customers will produce a unique product or service. It can vary a lot from what you regularly offer, though you do need to stick to your core competency and should not stray into something you can’t do well.
Use your strengths to compensate for the challenges and weaknesses your customers face. Complement your customer’s strengths with the right mix to help them get all the value they can from your solution. Take what they give you and make it work with what you already have, to produce a result that you didn’t have before and you don’t normally offer. It should be custom made for that customer and tailored to their specific needs.
Co-creation involves you working closely with your customer. Don’t wait until they tell you all the things they need. Bring your data into the equation too. Your customers may not have all the pieces of the puzzle, and they may not know exactly what they need from you to get closer to their goals.
Paying closer attention makes your co-created solution better. This is something you should be doing for your key account customers even if you’re not co-creating with them. But, when you’re working closely with your customers in this context, your solution will end up being well-suited to both their open needs and their hidden needs.
The end result of co-creating is a product or service that’s made specifically to help your customers achieve their goals. It’s custom-fitted to help them solve problems, tailored to enhance their strengths, and laser-focused on getting the right results.
From the beginning of the process, customer goals should be clearly known by everyone involved in the project. To produce something that’s going to make it easier for your customer to achieve their goal, you need to know that goal inside and out. Break down the goal and understand what’s needed to make it happen, then work your solution around that.
There would be no reason to approach co-creation unless it would benefit both parties. Research suggests that co-creation does just that, despite concerns from many B2B companies that the process takes away some of the benefit for them. Companies more familiar with collaboration, and those who have strong trusted partnerships with clients, will probably be more inclined to co-creation from the beginning.
Co-creation has been shown to give better success rates for services provided by B2B companies to their customers. When the customer is directly involved in building the solution, it’s only natural that they would create something that’s mroe likely to work for them. That means better solutions for your customers without making you go through a long trial and error process.
You benefit from having insight into everything about your customer before crafting their unique solution. They benefit by having a solution that’s focused on fulfilling their needs. The process of co-creation can take a little longer, but it’s generally worth the extra time to get it right.
Goal #1: Help Your Customers Succeed
It’s not an intuitive goal for you, but it works out to your benefit. Your customers are your source of revenue. If you work towards their success, you will also succeed as a result. Help them to succeed first, then your account growth will follow.
By providing a high level of value that helps your customers succeed, you’re actively showing them how important you are. They are likely to continue working with you, and to grow the account where possible, if you can continually demonstrate your commitment to their success.
Communicating Your Mission
To involve your customer in your process, you need to define clear parameters for them. Be open and transparent with them about what success and failure looks like, and how they can be involved. While they’re taking part in the process, you’re the one who needs to follow through and make it happen at the end of the day.
For that reason, you need to keep an open line of communication. Be honest about mistakes and issues along the way while keeping track of the positive progress as well. From the very beginning, the customer needs to know how the scenario is a win-win, including what your goals are and how they’re wrapped up in your customer’s success.
Why Customer Value Matters
The bottom line is that helping your customers grow gives you a larger revenue source to tap into for your own benefit. It’s cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than to seek out new ones. And, growing your existing account is both easier and generally more profitable than trying to increase your revenues through new customer acquisition.
Key account management is all about customer value. Co-creation is just another way to place the emphasis on customer value and to get as much as possible out of your partnerships. Co-creating with your customers is a strategic move that will help you build stronger partnerships.
More value means more incentive for customers to not only continue working with you, but to grow their account with you. Shoot for the long-term benefits and focus on customer value now. You’ll see the returns in coming years when you have larger key account customers who are strongly invested in their relationship with you.