5 years after I-Next was founded we came to the decision that our core strength was digital technology. We changed direction to focus our strength to help other, more creative and consumer focussed, businesses to build digital solutions (websites in those days). We’re still working with a number of the agencies we started with over 20 years later.
What was our strategy to build such long-term relationships?
In truth we didn’t have a strategy, we merely tried to work with B2B customers as genuine partners by applying 6 principles of partnership which we characterise as the ALLTER culture:
- Tell the Truth
- Risk it
Assist: In a B2B relationship, success is shared so be prepared to assist your customer in achieving it. Be on calls, attend customer meetings, write parts of proposals.
Listen: “Two ears one mouth, use them in that ratio” was drilled into many a young salesperson. There is no better way to uncover opportunity than to listen to your customers and their customers.
Learn: Never stop learning things from the people you work with or the projects you work on. Explicitly seek new solutions to problems and to take your business into new areas. Never rest on your laurels.
Tell the Truth: Be transparent and honest. If you can’t do it, or if you think a mistake is being made, say so. Respect for your opinion is directly associated with your perceived truthfulness.
Educate: Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. Training your team is a force multiplier and is never wasted. If you have some technology that will assist your B2B customers to succeed then train them ... for free!
Risk it: Be prepared to take a risk WITH your customer. Risk can take many forms, from just moving an invoice date to ease customer cash flow to developing a proof of concept for a speculative opportunity. Not all risks work out, but the willingness to take a risk with a customer is a powerful bond and almost always pays back.
In uncertain times it is reassuring to know that our B2B relationships go beyond agreements, discounts and the last project. The ALLTER culture is definitely not a path to quick success or payback, but it is a long and enjoyable route to a sustainable business.