The Secret to B2B Account Growth

September 18, 2019
Contributor: Laura Starita 

Gartner tested three common approaches that B2B marketers use to drive growth with existing customers to identify which thrived, and which failed.

B2B companies are under pressure to grow revenue on existing accounts.

Eighty-five percent of B2B marketers who responded to the 2019 Gartner Account Growth Marketing Poll say there are uncapitalized growth opportunities within existing accounts. Marketers are spending two-thirds of their time growing and retaining these existing customers.

“Because we’re a leader in our space,” one marketer reported, “totally new customers are less and less out there. We have to derive our revenue from existing customers, understanding the most effective ways of driving cross-sell/upsell behavior.”

Yet marketers find it difficult to effectively upsell. “Most B2B commercial leaders agree they are failing to capitalize on existing opportunities,” says Martha Mathers, Managing Vice President, Gartner. “Over half of B2B marketing functions have missed their account growth goal targets at least once in the past 3 years.”

What B2B marketing techniques have the biggest impact on account growth?

Gartner identified the three drivers that B2B marketers believe have the biggest influence on account growth and tested their impact in a survey of 1,100 B2B customers. 

Customer satisfaction

It seems logical that if customers report high satisfaction with a supplier and they are willing to recommend it to others, they would also be likely to expand the relationship. As it turns out, however, customer satisfaction has insignificant impact on account growth.1

Why not?

Because relationship growth is indistinguishable from relationship change in the mind of the buyer. Satisfaction can drive account retention and renewal, but change involves a different set of decisions and evaluations.

"Relationship growth is indistinguishable from relationship change"

Willingness to change

Even when a customer is considering a change, has a clear rationale for doing so and is motivated to make a decision, incumbent providers have very little advantage. In fact, 78% of B2B buyers with new business needs are as likely to choose a new provider as they are to expand their account with the incumbent.

Decision confidence

When B2B buyers feel confident about their ability to navigate a new decision, they are 2.6 times more likely, on average, to expand an existing relationship than those who lack confidence. Buying groups tend to feel more confident when they have consensus around the need for change, and they feel they have identified the right considerations and asked good questions.

B2B marketers can boost buyer confidence by providing useful content and consistent messaging on all channels, including company websites. Suppliers who help customers integrate new products or services experience a 2.9x lift in decision confidence. Suppliers who provide content to help buyers navigate the purchase process (buyer enablement) increase decision confidence by 400%. These actions contribute indirectly to account expansion.

Although incumbents may not have a huge advantage in the mind of the customer, they do benefit from having a complete view of the customer’s change process. From the initial purchase through integration and growth to repurchase, incumbents have insights other providers lack. B2B marketers can use that advantage to enhance confidence among members of the buying group and position their company as a key partner to help customers navigate change.

High-quality account growth purchase is defined as either purchasing a high-end, premium offering or not settling for a less ambitious offering and the purchase has met expectations.

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