When you own or run a business, customers aren’t the only ones with whom you need to build a great rapport. Positive business-to-business (or B2B) relationships can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to expanding your social media following, generating new online and walk-in leads, and improving your business’s overall reputation.
These ten tips are ones we’ve used to build and maintain effective B2B relationships through our own ventures. Try them all or use a few that are best for your business—you’ll form those valuable exchanges in no time.
Be transparent about your needs and wants.
Any business worth building a relationship with will understand that the relationship is mutually beneficial, not just for their advantage. When you reach out to another business, be sure to mention the benefits on both ends of your proposal, not just theirs. This sets the stage for collaboration free of miscommunication, and prevents both you and the other party from putting time and energy into a relationship that may not be worthwhile.
Take a genuine interest in the other business’s success, not just your own.
One of our latest ventures, TechAZ, allows us to work directly with several local startups. When we form long-term relationships with those startups, we always find something we can do to help them get on their feet. Whether it’s by adding their events to our event calendar or featuring their latest product in an article, we don’t just consider the benefits our business will experience—we also do our best to drive traffic to their site or doors. This collaborative attitude and effort ensures that we’re holding up our end of the relationship, and (if we can say so ourselves) makes working with us a blast.
Understand that the benefits may not be immediate—and that it may be better that way.
Don’t stress if new customers are quicker to flock to the other business than they are to come to you. A truly effective B2B relationship is long-term, so your efforts may take a little while to be rewarded. And definitely don’t step away from the relationship just because they’re seeing results first; you’ll have wasted a lot of time and effort, and it will make you look greedy or impatient.
Build the relationship at all levels.
Who says a great exchange can only exist between two founder-CEOs? The most effective B2B relationships cross multiple—or all—levels of each business, making for a stronger and more communicative alliance overall. Even if you and the other CEO continue to meet for lunch, encourage your content creators, techies, and social media masterminds to collaborate on different projects.
Leverage social media.
Leveraging a public platform not only solidifies your B2B relationship, but also brings customers into the picture more naturally. If your customers already trust your business, they’ll love to see your relevant recommendations on their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. Try giving another business a “shoutout,” reviewing or photographing their product, or announcing a collaborative project to your followers, and encourage the other business to do the same.
Share your best customers.
If another business’s product or service perfectly complements your product or service, tell your customers about it! It’s the ultimate way to improve your relationship with that business, and if your products or services truly complement each other, they’ll be able to do the same for you. You’re also proving to your customer that you have them in mind by referring them to a business that suits their needs.
Communicate well and often.
Every business’s needs change, but some change faster than others. Your B2B relationships will begin to falter if you and the other party never revisit and adjust your goals. To keep your exchange going strong, make it a point to communicate well and often. This means checking in to see how the other company is doing; candidly conveying your business’s goals as they adapt; and being honest when a joint effort doesn’t go quite as planned. We do a lot of this at TechAZ, and not only does it keep us up-to-date on collaborative project opportunities, but it’s nice to chat, too.
Make your B2B relationships a priority.
Much like a personal relationship, B2B relationships need to become a priority if you want to make them work. We aren’t saying you should dump your other responsibilities and focus solely on your B2B relationships, but it should at least be a regular item on your to-do list. Answer calls and emails in a timely manner; keep up with your social media duties; and refer new customers as you find them. If other levels of your business are involved, check in with them often to make sure everything’s running smoothly. You don’t want the other business to think you’re dropping the ball.
If you share a local community, work together to improve it.
From a customer’s point-of-view, few things are more impressive than a business that puts in extra effort to improve its community. One of those few things, however, is a business that works with other businesses to improve its community. How you do it is your choice—host a neighborhood event, fundraise for a charity, or even start a nonprofit—but regardless, you’ll accomplish a great deal. Your business and the other will grow closer, and you’ll make the world a better place.
Put partnerships on paper.
Whether your B2B relationship is a casual one or one based on strict guidelines, you can benefit from putting it down on paper. Writing down your goals and intentions (and the other business’s) will clear up any confusion on what the relationship may entail. Just like a business plan, what you write will guide you when you feel a little lost, and it’s something you can update as each business’s goals change.
Positive, effective B2B relationships have a variety of benefits, and you never know where one might take you. What techniques have you used to build better B2B relationships?