When I was in my final year of college, I did a co-op term at Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. You may not be familiar with Ritchie Bros., but they are a renowned brand for purchasers of industrial equipment worldwide. Like any lowly co-op student working for a global brand, I did my fair share of filing and other marketing administrative duties during my term. But the folks at Ritchie Bros. were really good to me and offered me meaningful and interesting work as well.
One of the tasks I was assigned was to conceptualize what a new customer loyalty plan could look like. Like many of the IT Service Providers that I work with today, Ritchie Bros. does entirely business-to-business marketing. And for whatever reason, colleges don’t teach students much about B2B marketing, so it was a lot to wrap my head around. How would I come up with recommendations to improve loyalty among the blue-collar business owners that Ritchie Bros. tends to do business with?
In retrospect, I am not sure there was even a faint possibility of implementing the recommendations I came up with. And indeed I don’t think I conceptualized anything all that useful. But the false pretense of meaningful work inspired me on a course of learning about loyalty marketing for B2B. I was fortunate to have a family friend who did loyalty marketing for one of the largest IT Service companies in the world, to whom I reached out to pick her brain. We’ll call her Karen – no, wait – we’ll call her Susan. The main takeaway Susan emphasized to me, was that the best way to gain the loyalty of a businessman, is to give their wives something they can brag to their friends about.
Now I’ll pause for a moment to acknowledge that this conversation took place about 13 years ago. In today’s social and business climate, I doubt Susan would’ve phrased her sentiment in such a bluntly gendered way. But in the spirit of journalistic integrity, I won’t sanitize the story. It is also probably worth noting that 13 years ago, the lack of female representation in tech was even more drastic than it is today, and perhaps Susan’s sentiment was just reflective of her actual experiences. Regardless, it was a bit jarring even at the time, and that probably contributed to it being memorable for me. Hopefully it will contribute to it being memorable for you too. By today’s standards, I’d rephrase the same sentiment expressed by Susan thusly: “The best way to gain the loyalty of a businessperson is give their partner something to brag to their friends about”.
Susan was playing 4D chess here. If the nature of the reward were to benefit just the businessperson themselves, you’re putting yourself into a category with many other companies vying for their loyalty directly. But by tailoring the reward more to their partner, you’re putting yourself into a category unto yourself, and you’re gaining an ally that has more influence over the businessperson than anyone else.
How might IT Service Providers take advantage of this insight? Try to offer loyalty rewards that are Instagram-worthy experiences for both the businessperson and their partner. Tickets for two for a show that’s in town. A luxurious bottle of wine that can be shared between two. A gift certificate to a fancy restaurant. I’d say flowers too, but let’s be honest, the businessperson would just stop at a corner store to replace your card with their own…stolen flower valor if you will.
Humans are really good at pretending to use logic to justify what are actually emotional decision making processes, and it’s no different when purchasing IT Services. By gaining the loyalty of your best clients’ life partners, it’ll further that dynamic in your favor in a major way.
Are you interested in marketing assistance from an agency that really gets B2B tech? Contact us today.