By Stan Garber, president at Scout RFP

We have all experienced the joys of customer onboarding. After a time, however, the customer’s passion for your product begins to fizzle -- even though that same customer started out engaged and enthusiastic. In my experience, this downturn often happens due to an all-around lack of engagement, not with the product but with the partner vendor.

The fact is that only 29 percent of business to business (B2B) customers are fully engaged (read the other way: 71 percent of customers are not engaged), according to Gallup. Let’s think about that: 71 percent on average are not engaged. That is too large a number to overlook, but companies commonly do.

How can you build an environment where customers remain engaged beyond the initial onboarding period? This endeavor is possibly one of the more difficult, yet important jobs of a leader. After all, engaged customers ultimately dictate the success of the overall deployment of your solution and, ultimately, the overall success of your business.

Here are a few ways my company has created a culture of engagement for our customer partners. With these steps, you too will be able to cultivate a customer base that genuinely believes and evangelizes your solution and, in turn, your business.

Commit to a customer-focused event.

Each year, I look forward to our annual customer event. It’s a chance for me to learn best practices, listen to engaging speakers and build lasting relationships with our customers. We all like to shake it up every now and then, and planning a customer event gives your customer base an opportunity to step outside of their day to day and into a world of like-minded people. In this world, your customers can build relationships with and learn from peers who face challenges similar to the ones they face. Additionally, a user conference can engage your customers with new product capabilities that will make their lives easier. So, consider hosting speaker sessions, networking opportunities and user conferences on at least a yearly basis to engage with your customers.

Implement a customer advisory board.

Arguably more important than sharing your insights with your customers is creating spaces where your customers can share their insights with you. One of the ways we do this is through our customer advisory board. Encourage a willing group of customers to share product insights and feedback with you. We have transformed this group into a close-knit coalition of individuals who have vivid, real-world discussions around their top challenges, biggest priorities and best practices in sourcing.

Hold customer round tables.

On top of our customer advisory board, we regularly host round-table discussions where our customers can share best practices and tips on how they leverage our platform for success. It’s not every day that you have the opportunity for your customers to share success tips with other customers, but when you do, it’s a powerful tool that lets your customer base advocate for your product.

Foster industry knowledge sharing.

Take it upon yourself to not only foster knowledge sharing about your product but about your industry as a whole. To do this, hold regular sourcing leaders events in your community, and even across the United States, that give your customers and non-customers the opportunity to drill down on hot topics in the industry and help solve each other's problems. These events have provided us with an insider look into our industry and a better understanding of challenges, and they have ultimately allowed us to address our customers’ frustrations and questions head-on, keeping them more engaged with our company as a whole.

All of these practices focus on building up and elevating the procurement profession. As we play an active role in doing so through ongoing education and improved solutions, we also play an active role in continually engaging our customers. In short, our customers are our obsession. Our customers view us as not just a tech partner but also an educational partner. That’s why we do the legwork up front to engage them and add value to their path, empowering them in every way we can.

Stan Garber is the president at Scout RFP and sets the marketing and growth strategy.