What We Can Learn From Walmart

Jim Swift

A woman is expecting a baby, therefore the family is probably in search of more space, a family car or minivan, etc. A man takes a new job in a new city, therefore he is probably looking to buy a new condo or house, switch his insurance provider, etc. Identifying patterns like these and using them to predict behavior has been the foundation of consumer marketing for decades; life events dictate the types of products people buy.

While the science of customer purchasing behaviors has been around since the dawn of commerce, these principles have not been applied to the B2B space. Times are changing, and when it comes to adopting such successful B2C marketing techniques within the B2B space, the time is now.

In the B2B world, the entire basis of marketing is underdeveloped, relying solely on less accurate evaluation methods such as demographic information (SIC codes, number of employees, revenue estimates) and risk scores to profile and target businesses. You can have two companies with the exact same SIC code, with the exact same revenue, but they’re totally different entities and their financial situations are completely different. On the surface both organizations may appear to have a lot of similarities but a deeper look reveals they are coming from two different places and going in two entirely different directions. When customers and prospects are viewed through this traditional marketing database lens, these customers and prospects all look the same, which results in generic marketing results. When these same customers and prospects are viewed through a purchasing behavior lens, however, we gain much deeper insights about their size, growth, and most importantly, what they buy. This level of knowledge enables businesses to target the right companies at the right time with the right marketing offer that is relevant to their specific goals and needs.

From a sales and marketing standpoint, purchasing insights acts as a tool for forecasting future spending behavior, enabling businesses to predict their customers’ and prospects’ next move. By understanding purchasing patterns, businesses are positioned to build customer loyalty and focus sales efforts simply by knowing where and how prospects or existing customers are moving and capitalizing on such information.

Purchasing business intelligence geared towards spending behavior not only acts as a catalyst to land that prospect as a customer, it also helps ensure businesses retain that customer through its power of personalization. If a business notices a customer is growing, use that as an opportunity to deliver smarter pricing. For instance, say something like, “I know your company is growing fast. Here’s a plan we can work out. I’m going to reduce your rates over time on a unit basis based on these growth projections we see for you.” In that brief conversation, you just won over that customer for the long run. By adjusting the pricing terms to fit that customer’s specific growth plan, you have locked that client into something longer term. It is all about anticipating their needs and understanding what they need to accomplish next. And in the process, you make that customer feel proud about their business and impressed that you recognize they are on the track towards growth. You are personalizing that relationship and sealing them up as a long-term customer. A win-win.

Using purchase behavior insights is more than just sales and marketing. It’s about retention. It’s about loyalty. It’s about singular attention toward your customer and improved customer relationship management. All of this translates into more revenue and profit for you. That’s the power of leveraging insightful data.

Jim Swift is CEO of Cortera, a provider of comprehensive business-to-business payment and purchase behavior insights on public and private companies. The company tracks $1.6 trillion in business-to-business purchases across 45 spend categories to deliver insights on 20 million U.S. business locations.