I just called to say hello (I'm doing market research)
How many of your customers do you really know? Are you up to date on organisational changes within each and every customers (and are you tracking these in your CRM?) Do you know of any strategic changes your customers are going through?
Equally, do you know what they think of you? When you're managing a long sales cycle of several years, the collecting and maintenance of information regarding your clients is essential so that you're best positioned for renewal or upgrade towards the end of that cycle. At Integrity, we run customer satisfaction surveys for our customers - a form of market research, the market being your customers. Sometimes, your customers can tell you more about the market than your prospects...
How are we doing?
A permanent challenge is one of customer service. If you're running NPS surveys, and you're cutting and splicing your data to better understand in which customer segments you're performing well, you may want to drill down into the bad more than the good. Your customers are more likely to open up to an independent organisation acting on your behalf than they are to you, and can reveal some significant information.
How are you doing?
Just as you're meeting the customer service challenge, there's another potentially more important factor at play here. How are they doing? What are the threats to your business in terms of structural changes within your customers. For example, if a customer has recently merged, is your provision under threat? If a customer is expanding, are there potential opportunities for up and cross-selling?
You're not just sniffing around, you're maintaining contact and hopefully maintaining loyalty. In a B2B environment, loyalty is a fickle thing, but it can be fostered through relationships and understanding. Even a market research call, so long as it's focused on the customer and their needs, can act as a vital touchpoint in building customer loyalty.
There's an argument that if you don't know your customers, you don't know your market. But you could know much more, and obtain further customer loyalty in the process...