Four ways to improve your business-to-business connections

How to strategically utilize your B2B network in the development of a reliable and stable customer base

Chandra Chase

Small businesses spend countless hours on strategic marketing plans with the single goal of reaching new customers. This is only one of many channels for customer acquisition. Another strategy includes recapturing current customers. What makes your existing customers return and refer? The strategies you have in place to foster and grow existing relationships are just as vital as reaching new blood. Another, often overlooked concept is a company’s business-to-business strategy.

“Business to Business” (B2B) is defined as the exchange of products and/or services between two existing businesses – not a single consumer. Think of the IT company that services your business network, or the heating and cooling company that fixes the air conditioner when it is broken. How do you enhance those B2B connections and convert them into a stable customer base?

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, with a 125 years in the community is built off the B2B model. Here are four tips to get you started:

Content – Create a dedicated rack card/post card detailing your B2B offerings. Consider a service or discount code as an annual contract incentive. Create a dedicated page on your website where businesses can go for their service needs. This page needs to be different then the residential/private consumer service structure.

Get out there – In the new age of digital media there are 1,001+ groups/clubs and organizations to join. When you connect with other business owners face-to-face, it’s the first step to creating a lasting relationship. The GVCC hosts “Southwest Washington Leads & Needs,” a B2B focused event on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:30 a.m. at Beaches. This is one of many B2B events operating in Clark County. Make a goal of attending one B2B event per month to get you started.

Niche publications – If you’re a contractor, advertise with the Southwest Washington Contractors Association. If you’re a nonprofit be active with the Nonprofit Network. Be part of the VBJ’s “Book of Lists” for your industry and be aware of the editorial calendars of the Columbian and VBJ – there is nothing better than being an expert in your field, validated by your local media or service groups.

Make the ask – Often B2B relationship are built from referrals. If you have a pool of existing B2B partners, ask the group for a lead for your emerging need. If possible, make the ask for their business in return. Grow your own network around you – you’d be surprised how many contacts you already have. Organize them and communicate with them. Ask them to refer you and assure them that you will do the same.

Chandra Chase is the programs and communications director & Small Business Assistance Program coordinator for the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (www.vancouverusa.com). She can be reached at cchase@vancouverusa.com.

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