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The chapter presents how business-to-business (B2B) actors may use branding as a tool for maintaining strong, long-term business relationships with their customers. Current knowledge on how to maintain business relationships is presented, related to branding as a tool contributing to long-term and strong business relationships. The phenomenon is studied in detail through a case company, Verso Globe, which operates in the consultancy area and is specialized in sustainability issues. The authors conclude that shared values and norms lead to beneficial business relationships and help maintain them. Also, the case company is closely collaborating and co-creating with its customers, which leads to technological adaptation and increases mutual commitment. A reputation of sharing values, having interest to develop, and co-creating with customers benefits the company and builds the corporate brand. The company culture must, however, support the efforts that make the brand. It is therefore important for B2B actors to understand the customer’s values and use it as a basis for customer relationship management activities. Concurrently, the company’s own values and how it directs employees are elements of its culture, which is the basis for the corporate brand. The perfect match of business relationships is therefore lies in aligning values and norms between the partners.
6.5. Trends and Further Research on Branding as a Means of Maintaining Business Relationships
Based on the case study, we suggest trends for maintaining business relationships in the future. These trends are related to online communication, social media, and sustainability. For Verso Globe, the next step is to introduce social media into its communication and sales efforts. Social media enables companies to keep in contact with their customers, and if designed well, may aid in acquiring new customers. Only a small number of B2B companies utilize social media, which means that early adopters can attain an advantage. Personal relationships on the B2B market are traditionally one of the most popular ways to maintain relationships, but as the technology advances, a shift toward digital interaction may lie ahead. Another issue that we focus on relates to the increase in good stories and examples of how to use sustainability in business. Storytelling is emerging as a means within the B2B sector, as a way to communicate emotional values and company culture. Storytelling helps in creating commitment and a sense of belonging, which may help companies solve the challenges of personal business relationships.