What It Takes to Cultivate and Keep High-End Business Clients

©IDG Communications, Inc. Photo contributed by Matthew Mikaelian.

Personal Branding Magazine, Feb. 2012

By Howard Sholkin

What It Takes to Cultivate and Keep High-End Business Clients

The business-to-business (btob) segment of our economy is sometimes overlooked but it is fundamental to how businesses and organizations buy goods and services to operate each day.  Some of the country’s largest corporations are primarily btob such as GE, IBM, Boeing, Raytheon, and Oracle.

I interviewed two executives focused on btob markets:  Michael Friedenberg, president & CEO, IDG Enterprise with media and event brands including CIO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, and Network World; and David Bernstein, associate publisher, BtoB for marketers and Media Business for the media industry.

Relationships, communications, and commitment

While Friedenberg and Bernstein serve different markets, they share some similar views.  They both emphasize the importance of relationships, communications, and commitment by high-end clients to repeat business.  “A high-end customer uses at least two media platforms including digital, events, custom solutions, and/or print,” explained Friedenberg whose clients include the largest technology vendors and agencies who serve them.  He said these clients have an in-depth plan to reach their prospects in IT, security, and finance professions, the same people who are IDG Enterprise readers, site visitors, and event attendees.

Bernstein, a media sales executive for 17 years, looks for a customer who wants to reach marketers across industries and who “regularly uses BtoB to meet marketing objectives and to do their jobs better.”  Bernstein adds that a high-end customer is not necessarily a high spender.  At IDG Enterprise, “The high-end customer spends 13 times more per year than the average customer,” noted Friedenberg. While high-end clients make up 30% of IDG Enterprise’s business, at BtoB the high-end represents more than 50%.

Not Just Order Taking

Both executives underscore the need for expectation setting and consultative selling.  “Continual conversation on goals and objectives and how we can work together to drive results for our customers forms the basis for a high-end relationship,” according to Friedenberg, a 20 year sales and management executive in technology media.  For Bernstein “communication is not just asking for the order but also working with clients as an extension of their marketing team.”  Friedenberg echoed those comments when he said; “With trust and an open dialogue our customers let us ‘inside’ to understand their challenges and allow our team to propose new programs to meet the marketers’ goals.”

Both recognize the strategic partnership that goes with high-end clients where services and advice play key roles.  For example, at IDG Enterprise, Avaya grew into a high-end account starting with online advertising and in-person events.  “With Avaya’s willingness to try different tactics to tell its story,” Friedenberg explained, “Avaya and IDG developed a custom program, the CIO Debate Series, which includes buyer research, multimedia content, IT executive participation, and the social web.”  He mentioned the adage that it is five times more expensive to find a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Finding High-End Clients

IDG Enterprise and BtoB mix direct selling with a variety of marketing programs.  BtoB leans on newsletters, print and online ads, the social web, and in-person events to find the next high-end client.  IDG Enterprise prospects with a blend of corporate, product, and field marketing programs via newsletters, social media, email, and events.

Neither Friedenberg nor Bernstein mentioned a marketer’s title as a high-end indicator.  As Bernstein pointed out, “in this economy all prospects need to be considered high-end potential because a small opportunity can ultimately grow into something big.”

 

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