It’s easy to buy into common beliefs about digital communication. It isn’t as effective as in-person interaction. It isn’t conducive to building strong relationships. But as time goes on, these assumptions about digital interaction prove less credible. After two years of reliance on digital interaction, B2B relationships are stronger than ever.
The importance of B2B relationships
All relationships are built on trust, and that includes business relationships. When you decide to purchase a product or service for your company, do you choose a commercial partner you’ve never done business with or one you’ve worked with many times? On the other hand, do you stay with a familiar company that has repeatedly abused your trust or switch to one with a better reputation for service and a positive customer experience?
Developing a business relationship is about earning loyalty through trust. Proving yourself a trustworthy partner ensures customers want to continue working with you, and the reputation you earn helps you connect with new clients.
Digital B2B communication pros and cons
Digital B2B relationships are the new normal. There are challenges associated with digital communication, which can create barriers when forming relationships with potential customers. Digital interaction may feel impersonal — especially when it’s unfamiliar and the only available option. Text communication makes tone difficult to perceive, and it may feel impossible to connect with words on a screen when you’re used to building relationships with face-to-face meetings. Gauging a potential customer’s interest is undoubtedly easier when you can see their face, hear their voice, and shake their hand. There’s no standardized language to text-based communication, so it’s easy to get it wrong.
Despite these downsides, there are benefits that should not be ignored. Digital communication is efficient. In-person communication requires you and your customer to carve out time to meet. With digital options, you can simply call, live chat, or email at whatever time suits you without rearranging any calendars. You can create a network of trusted customers and contacts through digital communication channels alone, and you’ll often get, or provide, an answer in less time than it takes you to find an empty slot in your schedule.
The biggest point in favor of digital communication is, of course, that it’s already here and swiftly becoming the standard for building and maintaining B2B relationships — including those with some measure of in-person contact. Attempting to avoid it will only harm your business.
Building better virtual relationships
How can you build and maintain digital B2B relationships with the same level of trust you expect from in-person connections?
- Create a consistent strategy. If communication is suffering within your company, it will likely suffer outside it. Internal consistency will ensure everyone in your company knows how to approach communication, and your clients can trust in your ability to react and respond accordingly.
- Tailor communication to client preferences. Get to know your clients. Listen to what they want and need, and tailor how you handle those needs to each specific client. Interact with multiple people from the same business to get a well-rounded picture of their communication needs and preferences.
- Earn a client’s trust, and keep it. Trust is built on doing your best to help your customers and admitting to and fixing mistakes when they inevitably occur. Treat your clients with respect, and focus on maintaining their accounts and meeting their needs to the best of your ability. If you earn their trust and establish a healthy, honest relationship, customers will likely be willing to forgive small mistakes.
While the Digital Age might seem to encourage a hands-off approach to customer interaction, don’t be deceived. B2B relationships are as valuable as ever, and special attention must be given to creating trust. All relationships are built on it, and building and maintaining customer trust is essential to a lasting B2B partnership.