Many B2B businesses see themselves as “service providers” and on the face of it that is what they are – they provide a service to other businesses that don’t have certain expertise in-house. But with so many service providers how can you distinguish your business as something different, and better, from all the rest? One way is to view your business as a strategic partner rather than a provider of services and work with the attitude and mindset of a business partner or an in-house team.
Work to understand each and every clients’ business and the people who run the business. What are their long-term goals, ongoing problems and things they are most proud of? If it’s not obvious start the conversations that will open up communications and help you understand the business – your client – better. If a client feels you are part of their team – going the extra mile to deliver your services then you are on step closer to being a strategic partner delivering something significantly better than a run-of-the-mill B2B service and providing expertise that the client does not have.
SPECIALISE IN YOUR AREA OF EXPERIENCE
Try not to be all things to all people and don’t assume that clients want to buy all their services from one company. It can be tempting to offer a wide array of services hoping clients are more likely to buy more from you – but the big question is – can you deliver all those services at an exceptional level?
Being a specialist at one thing is not a negative trait for a business – in fact, it’s a positive – it shows you are exceptional at this one thing and unashamedly proud of it. Take web development companies for instance – their speciality is designing and building websites yet increasingly companies such as these are offering branding and PR advice, social media management, digital marketing, SEO consultancy services. Pay-Per-Click advertising campaigns.
On the face of it these areas are all related to each other but, in reality, it would be difficult for a small business to excel at all of these. Specialist companies, on the other hand, can provide the best services and work in partnership with clients – as committed to the clients’ businesses and their success as if they were your own. This is the sort of good advice offered by a business coach to start-ups who are unsure of how to position their fledgling company. But it is advice that well-established businesses would also do well to take note of.
THE DANGER OF TOO MUCH CHOICE
An example of why specialisation is a good thing and a wide array of services not always better, can be found in the “jam study” by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. This study showed that a large choice of products/services will attract the most attention from potential customers but, perhaps surprisingly, greater choice led to fewer sales and lower customer satisfaction. With an overwhelming array of (in the study) jam flavours to choose from customers found it difficult to make a choice at all. When presented with fewer options it was much easier to make a choice – and that’s what customers did – they actually purchased more often when there was a limited range of options.
So a good way to be a strategic partner is to specialise and only offer services in which you can excel. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own business partners who provide related services in which you don’t specialise. White-labelling can be the solution to being a strategic partner yet offering a carefully curated choice of services.