Retail Trends

Essential Questions Merchants Need to Ask New B2B Partners

*This article was originally published on November 5, 2020.

Putting your brand’s gift card into as many B2B programs as possible sounds like an easy win. In general, this is true—more placements mean more sales opportunities. However, much like a brand’s overall gift card program, B2B program involvement cannot be set-it and forget it. Each program often requires additional dedicated time for strategy and promotions throughout the year, and, for many brands, these promotions are where the most significant sales opportunities arise. To help you make the most of your B2B partnerships, I’ve compiled a list of the five most important questions to ask potential partners so you can maximize your sales potential. 

1. What kind of access to data do you offer?

Many retailers who are newly using B2B channels are often surprised to learn that accessing sales data means sorting through complicated reports with unclear information. This situation most often arises when younger brands begin to work with long-standing programs that do not have systems set up to offer transparent data. My advice? Look out for the B2B gift card programs that value data sharing as an integral part of their success strategy. Many new partners and even some mature programs offer ample opportunities for growth beyond the traditional sales funnel by focusing on brand awareness and cross-promotions. These programs recognize the need for brand managers to be able to quickly and easily access numbers beyond sales and, as a result, offer an increased level of data transparency that fits the needs of the millennial brand. 

2. What makes this program different from other B2B programs?

As mentioned before, it’s not feasible for most brands to be in every single B2B program available while making the most of every opportunity. Therefore, retailers must have a solid understanding of how a given B2B program aligns with their brand and brand goals. For newer merchants, the number of B2B partners may be overwhelming, and it may seem like every B2B program is essentially the same. In reality, these programs run the gamut–from old-school to innovative, brick & mortar to tech-first. The best B2B programs are the ones that feel like the best fit for your brand. Most retailers will do best by working with various programs and developing a schedule that allows for an appropriate amount of time to invest in capitalizing on each opportunity. 

3. Who is your customer base?

Identifying the program’s customer base is vital for several reasons. First, self-use is increasingly prevalent within B2B gift card sales. The self-use trend further increases with programs that offer digital cards, as they are delivered significantly faster than traditional gift cards. Furthermore, gift card sales in B2B programs often increase during times of economic uncertainty as people look for additional value. This means some programs have a direct line to many high-value or niche customers who are engaging in behaviors much more likely to lead to a sale. Knowing who these customers are allows brands to create highly targeted promotions and collateral to further drive sales. 

4. How can I help my brand stand out?

Many B2B programs can feel oversaturated with hundreds of brands within their gift card catalog. Ultimately, this isn’t a bad thing because consumers love choice. However, more variety means it is harder for brands to stand out. This is especially the case for smaller and regional brands. Asking any potential B2B partners how they can help your brand get noticed will help you find the programs that are genuinely interested in your success. These B2B programs can offer marketing options such as cross-promotion, spotlighting the brand, seasonal value-add promotions, and more while staying in line with brand strategy and budget.

Further, when discussing brand promotions, it is important to ask which opportunities must be managed by the program and which options can be managed on-demand or through a portal. Often, bigger promotions will require coordination with an account manager, but many newer B2B programs also give power back to the brand to self-manage promotions. An agile B2B partner will offer a mix of promotional opportunities that will support various brand goals. 

5. How do you support brand success?

This question may seem simple at first glance, but brand success in a B2B partnership includes several elements. When discussing how a program will support your business, consider topics such as customer service during both business hours and off-hours as well as tech support above and beyond traditional account management. It is vital to remember that a B2B program acts as an extension of your brand, and having a well-defined understanding of what to expect will help both parties make the most of the partnership. 

We are currently in a climate where brands are looking for as many opportunities as possible to drive sales, keep customers engaged, and build brand loyalty. B2B programs have historically been and will continue to be a vital growth tool for every merchant brand with a gift card program. Because not all B2B programs are created equal, and gift card managers only have so many hours in a day, there must be a good business fit. At Prizeout, we have developed a B2B opportunity that stands out from the rest by using innovative technology and powerful customer targeting.

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