It is a general notion that CRM is for customer centric businesses only. The name of the application also suggests the same since its called customer relationship management (CRM) system. Honestly, it is the customer management aspect of the application that has attracted most attention and therefore, when it comes to discuss the past, present and future of CRM, b2c businesses steal all the show. B2B companies, on the other hand, received very little highlighting. So, does customer management software really fail to cater to business to business users?
The natures of b2c and b2b businesses are different but not completely so. When business to customer establishments cater to hundreds and thousands of customers, B2B businesses deal only with a known base of clients, who are probably doing business with them for ages. B2B relations are more personal, often one-on-one, and in many cases still follow the old methods of communications, i.e. mails, phone calls, faxes, personal meetings etc.
B2B transactions arent frequent but often are of large volumes. They have smaller, often specialized product range compared to their B2C counterparts. Yet the need for better customer management persists even for business to business firms. In the core their requirements arent vey unlike that of B2C enterprises.
Web based CRM software solutions can also be applied to a b2b environment to streamline and improve customer management conditions. The elements and nature of customer management may vary but the underlying concept of customer management remains the same, i.e. to understand your customers and deliver the best services to them. But b2c and b2b CRM systems arent created equal. There are subtle differences on how a CRM system applies to b2c and b2b conditions. Although it delivers the same functionalities its purposes vary.
B2c relationships are of shorter span and the deals are conducted in high speed. But b2b relations take longer time to mature but once the connection is established last for years. The SaaS CRM solution needs to recognize the level of existing relationship between companies. The CRM services therefore in a b2b environment must be personalized and delivered at individual level.
Corporate relations are complex compared to straightforward b2c relations. Often corporate relationships are channeled, layered and distributed. The customer management system applied to b2b scenario therefore needs understanding of complex corporate relationship structure. It must be able to establish meaningful, logical connections between the different channel partners of the corporate.
In B2B situations there are relationships within relationships. In this scenario, an account may be the business house or the corporate whereas the contact is probably the purchase manager or the dealer or anyone in the company hierarchy. An account in b2b setup may have multiple contacts. To forge a successful business relation with a corporate one therefore needs to identify the key person with the power and position to influence business decision.
Next, unlike b2c corporations, b2b businesses cater to a small number of clients. So, they might not use the customer management system for data mining. The statistical tools that are designed to offer insight on changing customer behavior for b2c enterprises therefore may fail to offer similar insight on a b2b scenario.
B2b selling is often knowledge based selling – often involves many people and is complex in nature. A b2b selling is essentially a business decision and driven by the objectives of achieving certain business goals by the client. Unlike b2c relationships, which are direct and may involve sentimental decision making, b2b transactions must deliver certain commercial advantages to the client. It may therefore be beneficial to offer a self service platform within the CRM to the b2b clients that will help them managing their businesses better.
The history of b2b customer management is perhaps older than that of the b2c one. Businesses are known to have nurtured their relationships with their business clients for ages. The customer management system helps them to organize their operation and generate more leads. A b2b client can extract more benefits from the lead generating functionalities of a CRM system than b2c firms. It helps establishing logical relationships between different departments of a corporate and categorizes contacts under single account. It thus helps exploring cross-selling opportunities within its existing corporate account.
Moreover, a b2b deal takes more time to mature. During this period the company needs an effective plan to manage its corporate relationship with its clients. Marketing automation of CRM can help in designing a prolonged marketing campaign that will nurture the relationship over a period of time.