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4 Tips for Driving the Customer Journey with CRM

4 Tips for Driving the Customer Journey with CRM

As I’ve written about in the past, in today’s digital world, the customer journey is no longer a straight line. While you can’t exert complete control over the way in which customers and prospects interact with your business, it is possible to get strategic about guiding people differently depending on where they are in their individual journey.

One of the most useful tools for effectively guiding a customer’s journey is CRM. Because it is the place where you house all of your information on clients and prospects, it not only gives you in-depth information about each individual, it also allows you to see broader patterns in customer behavior and to tailor your approach to meet your customers where they are.

Below, I’ll share four tips for using your CRM tool to effectively drive the customer journey.

1. Identify Patterns in Customer Behavior

If you’ve been keeping good records in your CRM, it should have all of the data on your current customers. How they found you, the ways they’ve been in touch, what they’ve purchased, and the last time they did business with you. Using this information, you can begin to create a composite profile for your ideal customer, and then go out and target similar prospects.

Let’s say you own a photography studio. Maybe you work with a lot of couples who hire you as a wedding photographer. Maybe local business owners use you to do professional headshots for their team. When you’re able to identify patterns in demographics, it means that leads who fit a similar profile are more likely to be promising ones.

You can also use CRM to track the behaviors of existing clients. Is there one action that everyone seems to take before they make a purchase? Going with the photography example: it might be that prospects who convert always reach out via the CTA button on your wedding portfolio page, while your corporate headshot page gets less traction. That tells you something meaningful about your customer base, and that’s information you can use to assess the viability of prospects.

2. Score Your Leads

The next step in assessing your prospects is lead scoring. Lead scoring is the process of looking at a prospect’s profile and behavior to see how likely it is that they’re serious about becoming a customer.

Once you have a complete picture of your ideal customer, you want to begin comparing that profile to your leads. Those prospects that have a profile most similar to your existing customers are considered hot leads. Those who fall outside of the profile of your typical client base are not people you want to spend your time and money marketing to. It’s unlikely that they’ll ever convert, no matter how great your product or service is.

The most important thing in establishing a lead scoring system is consistency. Make sure that you’re evaluating all leads on the same criteria, and establish a point system that makes sense for you and your business. Some CRMs come with lead scoring tools built in, or it’s possible to get a standalone system. This allows you to effectively budget your marketing time and dollars towards those hottest leads, while not wasting efforts on those who won’t ever convert.

3. Keep Tabs on Your Hottest Leads

Once you’ve gone through the effort of understanding current customer behavior and identifying those leads that are most similar in behavior or profile to your existing clients, you’ll want to keep tabs on those people. Don’t just use your CRM to track existing clients; you should be managing your relationships with prospects here, too.

For those hottest leads, you want to move them towards the trust and try portion of your marketing hourglass. Keep track of all of their behavior, and take a personalized approach in responding to their actions.

Continuing on with the photographer example above, let’s say you meet a couple at a wedding expo. They stop by your booth and chat with you about your work. In previous years, you’ve had a high conversion rate amongst those couples that you met at wedding expos, so you know that this is a hot lead. Do not miss the opportunity to close the deal with them!

This is where personalization comes in. Hopefully you’ve made notes about your interaction with them in your CRM. Reach out the day after the expo to send a message thanking them for their time, mentioning something specific about the details of their wedding that they discussed with you, and offering them the opportunity to sit down for a free consultation with you to discuss their photography needs.

Obviously, this level of personalization takes time and effort, and that’s precisely why you only want to focus this kind of attention on those most promising of leads. However, when you do prove to those prospects that you’re willing and able to go the extra mile, this is how you build trust and move them one step closer to becoming a customer.

4. Use Email Segmentation to Keep the Customer Experience High

So all of this effort in targeting hot leads and offering personalized service has paid off: You’ve won over a new customer! But this is not the end of the customer journey, and you can’t let the high quality of service that you’ve offered thus far drop off now that you’ve taken down someone’s credit card information.

Fortunately, you can use email segmentation to continue to offer that personalized touch. Within your CRM, it’s possible to group people based on their stage in the customer journey or on specific actions they’ve taken or products they’ve purchased. You can then send targeted messages to people in these groups.

Back to the photographer: You can set up your CRM to follow up with clients based on their activities or demographics. That couple from the wedding expo? Add them to your mailing list for your wedding newsletter, where you share tips and tricks about how to plan a really special day. Once they become a client and you shoot their wedding, add them to the list of happy customers that you then target with messaging about your referral program. And if you keep in touch with them regularly (which your CRM should help you with) then you can also reach out down the line to offer them a discount on baby photos for their birth announcement and family photos for holiday cards for years to come.

When used properly, a CRM is a powerful tool that allows you to direct customers to have the experience you want them to have. You can identify and interact with those who really are your target audience, and continue to present them with valuable messaging at the right time, ensuring that their customer experience remains high during every interaction.

Where Does Advertising Play Into The Customer Journey?

The Central Role of Advertising In The Customer Journey?

When you think of advertising, your first association might be with attracting new customers. Ads are supposed to reach out to audiences unknown, introduce them to your brand, and bring them on board.

But in reality, advertising can be used effectively throughout the customer journey. It’s not only a tool to reach prospective clients; it can also keep those you’ve already converted around for many years to come.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about the marketing hourglass, and while you’re undertaking that approach to marketing on the whole, you can incorporate advertising into each of the seven key steps along the hourglass.

Advertising to the Know and Like Crowd

Before someone ever becomes a customer, they will first need to come into contact with your brand and decide that you’re offering a product or service that’s unique and that will serve their specific needs in a way that no one else can.

If you’re looking to reach prospects, you want to target people who are similar to your current customers. It stands to reason that those who will have similar needs and wants to your current clients probably also have other similar attributes (age, location, budget, etc.).

Online advertising tools have become increasingly advanced and allow you to direct your ad spend only at those who are most likely to want to know and like your brand. Facebook offers a service called lookalike audiences, where business owners are able to upload the contact list of their current customers, and Facebook in turn identifies people with similar attributes for you to target with your ads. Google Ads offers business owners the ability to target users by geographical location and by those who are searching for specific keywords.

The key to advertising to prospects is knowing and understanding your current clients. The more data you have on them and their habits, the more likely you are to be able to hone in on a similar audience who would be more than happy to stumble across your business.

Advertising to the Trust and Try Crowd

Once someone becomes aware of your company, they move a bit further along the marketing hourglass to the trust and try stages. Here, you’ll want your advertising efforts to help users build confidence in what your brand can do, and to give them an opportunity to take what you’re offering out for a spin.

A key part of a prospect developing trust in your business is seeing you around consistently. The mere exposure effect in psychology says that people are more likely to trust someone or something that they see over and over again. Advertising across various channels (both on- and offline) will help to keep your brand front and center in prospects’ minds.

This also means that part of your advertising strategy is just about hanging in there. If you don’t see results right away from your advertising spend, don’t throw in the towel. Sure, it’s fine to tweak your approach, but scrapping the entire thing will take your business off the radar screen of those who might have been interested in giving your product or service a try if it had only popped up on their screen one or two more times.

Once prospects have seen you around and you’ve piqued their interest, they might want to take your product or service out for a test drive before committing and converting. Providing offers for free, advanced content like an eBook or access to a webinar, or giving prospects a free trial option can be the final step before converting. While I’d suggest that you take a more personalized approach to your interactions with prospects, it’s also possible to include offers in more general advertising. Just be sure that when you’re targeting specific people with personalized messaging, you’re offering something that isn’t generally available to anyone coming across your advertising.

Advertising to the Buy, Repeat and Refer Crowd

Congratulations! Your earlier advertising efforts were successful, and you’ve now gained your newest customer. But your work is far from over—now your focus needs to be on keeping the customer experience high.

Once someone has converted, your contact with them can be much more specific and personalized through other marketing channels, but it’s still possible to use advertising to keep current clients happy, have them coming back for more, and (most importantly) telling all their friends about you.

One of the most important things for creating repeat business is staying on-brand in your advertising. You’ve worked so hard to get in front of these customers and to win their trust, so you want to continue to hammer home your mission statement and keep your messaging and voice consistent so that your customers feel like they really know and understand your company. This helps to reinforce your trustworthiness, and will make those customers all the more likely to come back themselves and to become a referral engine.

You can also use these loyal customers as a part of your advertising efforts. Including testimonials from those who are already brand-loyal in your advertising campaigns can help to win over those who are still in the trust phase of the hourglass. Indeed, 70 percent of people say that they’re influenced by other consumers’ opinions shared online.

Advertising can be a powerful way to reach your customers and prospects alike. Advertising can be seen by and have an influence on people no matter where they are in marketing hourglass. Identifying the proper audience for your advertising efforts, creating a consistent message that builds trust, and staying top of mind with both prospects and current clients will ensure that you get the most out of your advertising dollars.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

marketing hourglass

The Marketing Framework That is a Must For Your Business

Traditionally, the marketing and sales funnel had the approach of taking a large target group and getting a few clients out of it (i.e. the funnel analogy).

Of course, the funnel concept won’t ever go away, but about ten years ago I defined what I think is still a much better approach – I call it the Marketing Hourglass.

It borrows from the funnel shape but turns it on its head after the purchase to help intentionally account for the idea of creating a remarkable customer experience.

However, the buyer behavior has changed significantly in recent years. In fact, according to a CEB survey, 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. If they decide they have a problem, they’ll go out and proactively try to find a solution.

If you’re not getting found in that state of the customer journey, you’re in real trouble.

In the same survey mentioned above, they found that 53% of those surveyed claimed that the sales experience itself was one of the greatest contributing factors in continued loyalty to the brand.

Knowing this is why I developed the Marketing Hourglass as a tool that can help you create the picture for your client’s overall marketing strategy. In my opinion, it’s a more holistic and increasingly effective approach in the “era of the customer” we live in today.

Instead of creating demand, our job is to really organize behavior, and I believe this behavior falls into the following seven stages:

Know 

One of the best ways to become known is through organic search. Keep advertising in mind during this phase as well and use content to spark interest.

Creating a process that makes it easy for current customers to refer the business is also a great way to generate awareness with new prospects.

Like 

Once a prospect has been attracted to your site, you must give them reasons to come back and like your business. An eNewsletter is an example of a tremendous content tool for nurturing leads during this phase as it allows you to demonstrate expertise, knowledge, resources, and experience over time.

Trust 

Reviews, success stories, and client testimonials are your golden tickets in this phase. The ability to tell why your organization does what it does in stories that illustrate purpose in action is perhaps the key trust building content piece of the puzzle.

Try 

This is a phase that many people skip, but it can be the easiest way to move people to buy. This stage is basically an audition and it’s where you need to deliver more than anyone could possibly consider doing for a free or low-cost version of what you sell.

In this stage, offer ebooks, webinars, and other information-focused content. Consider offering free evaluations or trials here as well.

Buy 

In this phase, you must be able to show real results. Keep in mind, the total customer experience is measured by the end result, not the build-up to the sale. Keep the customer experience high. Exceed their expectations and surprise them.

Create content that acts as a new customer kit. Consider creating quick start guides, in-depth user manuals, and customer support communities as well.

Repeat 

Ensure your clients receive and understand the value of doing business with you. Don’t wait for them to call you when they need something, stay top of mind through educational content.

Consider creating a results review process where you help your client measure the results they are actually getting by working with you.

Refer 

The Marketing Hourglass journey is ultimately about turning happy clients into referral clients by creating a great experience.

Start this phase by documenting your referral process. Create tools that make it easy for you to teach your biggest fans and strategic partners how to refer you.

marketing hourglass

For people who have come to know about your business, you essentially need to walk with them all the way down the path to where they become your biggest fan.

Mapping customer touchpoints

You can use this framework to build an overall strategy and launch a product or campaign. By doing this, you’ll start to find flexibility where anytime somebody comes to you, you can fill in the gaps with the stage above to truly help them out.

Everybody’s business has these stages, they may just not be addressing them all and that’s what you need to point out.

Take a look at the ways that your business comes into contact with your customers and prospects. Some of the touchpoints may be planned and scripted, and some may not. Some happen by accident, while some simply don’t happen at all (i.e. are people successfully make it from marketing to sales). Touchpoints can include:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Enrollment
  • Service
  • Education
  • Follow-up
  • Finance

Understanding the journey

Once you map the touchpoints, you need to have a conversation about:

  • Customer goals
  • Customer touchpoints
  • Customer questions
  • Projects

You may only be paying attention when somebody is trying to buy and a lot of times people have to be nurtured and trust your before you can even attempt to help them solve a problem. This element is important, but it’s often hard for people to wrap their minds around because many are used to just focusing on the sale.

In order to effectively build a Marketing Hourglass, you must fully understand the questions your prospects are asking themselves before they are aware that your solution exists.

It’s helpful to just brainstorm around the seven stages.

Constructing the hourglass

With an understanding of the customer’s touchpoints and journey, you can start to fill in the logical stages of your hourglass with the discoveries you found, which will lead to a greater experience.

By taking the marketing hourglass approach and giving equal attention to building trust and delivering a remarkable experience, you set your business up to create the kind of momentum that comes from an end to end customer journey.

Want my advice? Take the time to fully understand this tool, as it is something you will return to over and over again.

If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy.

customer journey

How to Develop Content for Every Stage of the Customer Journey

For marketers, it’s nearly impossible to get through a day without hearing about or discussing content in one way or another. As the core of your strategy, you can not view content as a bunch of one-off projects. The creation of it needs to come out of one comprehensive strategy.

Because it is such an important piece of the marketing puzzle these days, it needs to be incorporated in every phase of the customer journey. While people often split this journey into three phases, Awareness, Consideration, and Content, I believe there is a bit more to it than that, which is why I’ve developed the Marketing Hourglass which consists of seven stages: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. These phases will get a person from their first encounter with your business and then past your point of purchase where they not only turn into a customer but a loyal fan and advocate for your business.

As a person moves through the customer journey, you must hit them with content throughout the process to keep them engaged with your business, and the best way to do this is to match the content you’d like to develop with the various phases of the Marketing Hourglass.

Mapping the Customer Journey

When it comes to the customer journey, it’s important that you don’t get ahead of yourself. I often see small businesses trying to convince prospects that they can solve their problems before they even know they have one.

In order to map out your customer journey, you must understand who your audience is, and I mean really understand their wants, needs and pain points, as well as the types of questions they’d ask themselves before they even seek a solution like yours.

You must be aware of what your customer’s journey looks like in order to develop content for each stage of it. To help you do so, I’ve described the stages below as well as recommended content to go along with each stage to help you brainstorm what would work best for your business.

Know

The Know stage is the phase where people first become aware of your business, and it’s your job to put a piece of content out there that get’s their attention.

Types of content:

  • Blog posts answering common client challenges (to help boost SEO)
  • Advertising (consider paid search and paid social) promoting content upgrades to boost lead conversion
  • Presentations at speaking engagements
  • Social media

Like

Once you attract a person to your website, you enter the second stage of the Marketing Hourglass: Like. At this point, you need to give them reasons to keep wanting more and move towards gaining permission to continue the conversation.

Types of content:

  • eNewsletters for lead nurturing and to demonstrate expertise, knowledge, and resources over time
  • Blog content around specific topics
  • Social media
  • Webinars
  • White papers

Trust

I believe Trust is the most important step but arguably the most tedious and time-consuming. Building trust is a marathon, not a sprint. The more a person trusts you and your company, the more likely they’ll be to buy from you.

Types of content:

  • Reviews
  • Success stories
  • Client testimonials
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks
  • Custom presentations
  • How tos
  • Client readiness packets
  • Proposal documents
  • Customer-generated videos
  • Case studies

Try

If you’ve built trust to the point where people begin wondering how your solution might work for them, it’s time to enter the Try stage of the hourglass. Try is a phase that many people skip due to the desire to leap rather than lead, however, I think it’s the easiest phase to move people to the purchase.

Here, the content needs to represent a sample of the end result. By creating content in this phase that demonstrates how much better your product or service is than the competition, you can differentiate your business.

Types of content:

  • Ebooks
  • Online or offline seminars
  • Webinars
  • Workshops
  • Audits
  • Evaluations
  • Video demos
  • FAQs

Buy

This is the step all businesses want, but you must look at it as just another stepping stone to growing your list of thrilled customers (who become brand advocates). For this stage, the focus is maintaining a good experience for the prospect. In order to continue to deliver a remarkable customer experience, you’ve got to continue to educate through content.

Types of content:

  • New customer kits
  • Quick start guides
  • Customer stories
  • User manuals

Repeat

To keep customers coming back time and time again, don’t wait for them to call you. You need to stay top of mind, and a great way to do this is to provide them with high-level content.

One of the best ways to get repeat business is to make sure your customers understand the value they receive by doing business with you. In the Repeat phase, you need to consider adding a results review process as well as additional upsell and cross sell touchpoints.

Types of content:

  • Start an auto responder series that provides education on additional solutions
  • Handwritten notes for no reason
  • Send press clippings systematically
  • Customer-only newsletters

Refer

The whole point of the Marketing Hourglass is to turn happy clients into referral clients. To do this, you must build processes and campaigns that make it easy for your brand champions to refer your business.

Types of content:

  • eBooks, videos, or gift certificates that your customers and strategic partners can co-brand and distribute
  • Feature your client stories in your marketing materials
  • Create a hot 100 prospect list and share it with clients for introductions

Keep in mind, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to content development. You can repurpose old content (i.e. turning educational videos into written blog posts) and you can even optimize and re-publish previous well-performing content to give it new life.

Creating content can be time-consuming, but by mapping it out along with certain themes and the customer journey, your life will become much easier.

What types of content do you find helpful in each stage of the journey?

If you liked this post, check out our Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business.

customer journey

How to Use Webinars for Every Stage of the Customer Journey

Simply put, webinars (online meetings) are a convenient form of content that gives you the ability to create “one to many” engagements. One of the things I love most about them is that you can use webinars for every stage of the customer journey by altering the intent of the content as the buyer’s questions, goals and needs change. In fact, you must consider this approach to get the most from this medium.

Think of webinars as a form of content, because that’s what they are.

To see what I mean, take a look at the sections below to see what webinars can do for your prospects and customers throughout each phase of the journey. I’ve also sprinkled in ways that we at Duct Tape Marketing use them to give you some food for thought on how you might be able to apply these ideas to your business.

Create awareness

When it comes to spreading awareness around a business, many marketers resort to blogging, social media, emails, PPC, and so on. While I am all for these methods of building awareness and use them myself, I’m always perplexed as to why more business don’t add webinars to that list. They are an excellent way to promote useful content and teach timely topics.

Duct Tape Marketing Example: Every month we host what we call a System Webinar that covers topics that I believe are relevant to marketers at that time. Anybody is invited to these calls, and it’s a great way for me to share my knowledge on a topic while at the same time give a good impression and introduction of my business. Past topics have included:

  • Pay Per Click Advertising Basics
  • Create a Referal Machine That Works Everyday
  • Tips and Tools for Greater Productivity

Build trust

I’m all for testing out various formats on webinars to see what works best for you and your audience, but if there is one thing I’m against on this type of platform, it’s selling. Don’t sell, give. Repeat that sentence over and over again so that it sticks with you.

Use your webinars to help your audience solve a problem they’re having. This helps to establish trust and credibility, which are two attributes that are key if you want somebody to eventually buy from you.

Convert

A percentage of people who attend your awareness-based webinars will want to know how they can act on that useful content, so you need to be prepared for this question and create a webinar that outlines how you might be able to help them.

A conversion-based webinar can even be used to deliver a proposal to a prospect.

Duct Tape Marketing Example – Whenever a person expresses interest in the network, we recommend the next step is to attend our Benefit Discovery Session that takes place twice per month. In this webinar, I showcase the many benefits of partnering with the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network and explain why many consultants believe it is the best business decision they’ve ever made.

Additionally, we conduct Total Online Presence Audits where we provide a detailed report that shows a business the highest priority issues for optimizing their online presence. This report is presented in a webinar format.

Train

Once you have clients, you can continue ongoing engagements through webinars, covering anything from onboarding to new feature rollouts and demonstrations.

Duct Tape Marketing Example – Within the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network, there is a plethora of tools, templates, and processes to get consultants up and running to make more money fast. Along with the benefits mentioned above, we also have Breakthrough Training Series calls bi-weekly for consultants, that address hot topics and best practices to further their marketing knowledge and expertise.

We also use webinars to train new consultants on our systems and processes which have proven to work very well thus far.

Report results

If you’re in marketing, you know how important it is to follow metrics and report the results from your efforts. Webinars are a great way to deliver this information, whether it be to a client or an internal team.

Duct Tape Marketing Example – We present mid-month reports to our clients, and it’s almost always through a webinar. The people we present to appreciate this efficient and interactive method.

Referrals

Once you have educational content, you can start to offer it to strategic partners, which can eventually lead to guest appearances on their webinars or webinar collaborations between the two of you. This helps to increase your referrals and eventually lead to more business.

Duct Tape Marketing Example – I’ve developed relationships with numerous people within the industry that have helped me build up my client base and expand my referrals. For example, through relationships I’ve established, I’m doing webinars for BuzzSumo, SCORE, American Marketing Association, and Copyblogger this quarter alone. This helps to expand my exposure, reach new audiences, and increase my referral network.

Helpful tips

Best practices for conducting a webinar

There are numerous ways you can run a webinar, but below are a few best practices I would follow regardless of the format:

  • Narrow in on a topic that the webinar will focus on and stick to it.
  • Don’t read off the slides – you can reference the points on the screen, but be sure to elaborate and expand on them to add value.
  • Practice, practice, practice – Until you’re a master webinar host, and even after you become one, it’s important that you practice so that you have a good handle on your talking points as well as your timeline (this is especially important for webinars that have a strict cut off time).
  • Promote the webinar – no matter how great the content you’re presenting is, none of it will matter if nobody sees it.
  • Make an engaging slide deck – you need to keep people focused on your presentation, and this starts with the visuals.
  • Test your technology – I always log on a few minutes before the webinar start time to ensure everything is running smoothly from a technical perspective (this includes checking to make sure your computer is fully charged).

Tools

To implement these webinars effectively, you need to make sure you’re using the right tools. We use the following for various types of webinars, and I highly recommend you check each of them out to see what will work best for you.

Those are the most effective use cases for how I use webinars throughout each phase of the customer journey. If you’re using them for additional purposes, I’d love to hear what they are!

Where Does Social Media Fit into the Customer Journey?

Businesses know that they must have a presence on social media, but they don’t know how to use it. The wonderful thing about social media is that there are multiple platforms and countless ways to use them. It can also be overwhelming for some business owners who begin social media marketing without a plan.

To understand how to use social media marketing, you first have to understand how your customers think. We’ve posted a lot about this idea customer journey a lot in the past, but it is critical to your customers. The bottom line is that there are seven behaviors that all of your customers exhibit as they interact with your company: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer. It is your job to guide them through those behaviors.

You can use social media to assist in guiding several of these behaviors, particularly know, like, trust, repeat and refer. If you go into your social media marketing campaign with the mindset of achieving these behaviors with customers and potential customers, social media suddenly becomes much clearer.

But each of these behaviors requires specific tactics to achieve. Here’s how to use social media to guide your customers through their journey.

Know

Social media is incredibly helpful in first introducing your customers to your business or product. Being active on social media, especially Google+, and engaging with your local community can help your SEO ranks. Often, social media channels will show up high on any local search. Frequently use keywords for which you want to show up in searches, and you can improve your search engine rankings in those keywords.

In addition, social media advertising has become more robust and effective over the years. You can target potential customers based on interest, who they follow or like, even location getting your brand/product or service in front of more of your ideal clients.

Like

Because social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook give businesses unlimited opportunities to interact with their fans, you have a chance to get them to like you and your business beyond your product. Be active and present in local social events, even cheer on local sports teams during big games. Enjoy the moment with your community, and your community will respond.

Trust

The longer a person is engaged and likes a business on social media, the more likely they are to trust that business. Share customer testimonials and ask your customers why they like and use your product, prospective customers can see what value your product provides.

In addition, if you use social media as a customer service tool, (I’ll explain how later) potential clients can see and know that they will be taken care of after they buy.

Repeat

At Duct Tape Marketing, we know that if you hold a customer’s hand for 90 days, you’ve kept them for life. Maybe the customer doesn’t need as much hand-holding. You can interact with them using social media to increase brand loyalty. If they post something related to the use of your product, respond and reach out. They’ll feel important to your business and want to continue to work with you.

Refer

Finally, you can use social media to not only get your customers to refer your business, but share those referrals with other potential clients. Ask your customers to tweet with a photo using your product, or post a picture of the completed service on Facebook. If you share and retweet those referrals and endorsements, you can reach an even larger audience than the individual networks of your customers.

Social media platforms are powerful tools to help you market your business. Knowing which behaviors your customers exhibit, and how to tap into those behaviors on social media are critical to having a successful social media plan.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

2 Experiential Design: the Importance of Cohesive Event Branding

Today’s Guest Post is by Tori Atkinson – Enjoy!

Event branding offers companies, organisations and collectives a chance to massively amplify awareness – using experiential design best practices to offer an impactful and unforgettable experience. Through the power of distinctive, dynamic design, businesses can harness the immense potential of event branding – but it’s only through an intelligent and cohesive approach that you’ll experience the full effect.

Here’s how it’s done.

The Campaign Trail

The success of any event depends on how you execute the countdown. This phase is often neglected by businesses and organisations during the run-up to the big day – but taking the time and initiative to plan the preliminary elements, with a focus on cohesive design, is the key to ensuring the best possible results on the day of the event.

A strategic approach to event branding involves the creation of elements designed solely to build awareness and maximise the hype prior to the event itself. Considering how professional event design could enhance your invitations, tickets and even social media pages during the proverbial drumroll will generate as much interest as possible – boosting attendance and creating some welcome buzz around the event during the weeks or months beforehand.

Try it: bring some design cohesion to your event campaign materials by using one consistent tagline across the invite emails, print media and physical or online tickets to create a sense of recognition. Using one core aesthetic theme throughout, like one unifying symbol or colour scheme, adapt and embellish this as you see fit across the various design elements so that all materials are complementary without being visually identical.

From the Drawing Board to the Big Day

Event branding is an involved, ongoing process that starts with the drawing board and develops and evolves continually until the day of the big event. A sense of cohesion is crucial to experiential design – as no event will have the aesthetic or conceptual impact it should have without some harmony among its various parts. From the initial design stages to the production of event elements, the overarching concept should ring loud and clear across the campaign.

Ensuring that the unifying idea behind your event isn’t forgotten along the way will prevent the core message from being lost or diluted. So whether it’s pre-event advertising, the all-embracing branding or the experiential design itself, keeping a firm grip on the concept of the event will guarantee that it’s cohesive, connected and delivers on every promise.

Our work with 100%Design involved creating a holistic campaign design and carrying this concept throughout all elements made to support, promote and populate the event. Settling on an idea of ‘inspiring connections’ that tied everything together, we were able to guarantee total cohesion across the event branding.

Try it: keep a rigid focus on the overall purpose and concept of your event and create every element with this in mind. Promotional materials give you a chance to hint at your concept in a more abstract way, whereas the event itself is where you can bring these abstractions into the tangible, three-dimensional world.

‘Inspiring Connections’ was a theme that simultaneously offered inspiration for the pre-event promo design and informed the way the actual event was populated and presented. All elements of the event served as a translation or physical representation of this key concept.

Photo by Shaw+Skerm

Photo by Shaw+Skerm

Attendee Journeys

Creating a sense of togetherness throughout your event branding is especially important where the attendee journey is concerned. Whatever the ultimate aim of your event is – whether it’s to increase brand exposure, raise awareness on a given topic or drive sales and subscriptions – the journey an attendee takes from entrance to exit needs to be subtly and strategically designed.

With all elements of the event working in synergy, the journey from A to B should be seamless – that way, your audience will have the most immersive and engaging experience possible. Maintaining a sense of perspective throughout the event branding process guarantees results. It’s by keeping one eye on the big picture, exploring how different elements interact and how they work to communicate your core message, that you’ll deliver a meaningful and memorable event.

Try it: when designing the event itself, keep all primary components connected by enforcing one overriding aesthetic theme – whether that relates to colour, form or the message your displays communicate. Guaranteeing that all elements contribute to the central theme in a way that’s clear to all attendees will ensure you leave a powerful and lasting impact.

Tori AtkinsonTori Atkinson is a creative design blogger for Shaw+Skerm – providing professional event branding services to SMEs and organisations throughout London.

3 Earning Referrals Takes More Than Luck

With the madness of the annual NCAA tournament upon us and St. Patrick’s Day behind us, there’s a lot of talk about luck. The luck of the Irish or that team was lucky to pull off the upset. Some of you may be thinking you could use some of that luck in your business for turning your current customer base into a steady stream of referrals.

The bad news is that whether or not you believe in it, luck it is hard to create. You also can’t just go to a store and buy a bottle of luck or a program to make yourself and your business lucky.

The good news is that you don’t need luck to get more referrals, what you need is just a bit of hard work and focus on your customers.

Referrals are the culmination of your customer’s experience with your business. They are the reward for completing the customer journey, and doing it in a way that surprises and impresses them to the point that they recommend that experience to their family and friends.

But here’s what is most important about referrals: people want to refer you. They want to be wowed by your company, and they can’t wait to tell everyone about it. It is your job to take advantage of this by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

Here are some ways you can increase referrals for your business:

1) Take Time to Educate Potential Customers

In order to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations, you must first make sure they are reasonable. Take the time to educate your customers about your product or service, and don’t rush them into buying it. If your customer knows exactly what they are buying, their expectations of what you will deliver are realistic.

2) Surprise Your Customers and Show Gratitude

Now that your customers have a clear expectation of your product or service, you can now take an opportunity to surprise them. Give them something extra, whether it be a promotion or a gift, which they aren’t expecting. It can be something as simple as a short personal letter to your customers or, as Sara describes here, you can send them a loaded new customer kit.

It is also important to make sure your customers know you appreciate their patronage. Go out of your way to thank your customers, and try to add as much of a personal touch as possible. The “Thank you!” at the end of an invoice is expected, but a Holiday card from you or your whole team still carries a lot of weight.

3) Resolve Issues and Welcome Feedback

In college, I spent a fair amount of time waiting tables, as I’m sure many of us have. One of the main lessons I will take away from that time is that people are willing to recognize that things don’t always go as planned. Whenever there was an issue with food or the environment or the wait times, I worked hard to resolve those issues as quickly as possible. Customers in those situations often tipped better than most, because they recognized and rewarded those efforts.

To bring that same principle to business, work with your customers to resolve any issues that may arise during the customer journey, and ask for feedback on how to improve. If you take their feedback seriously, they are more likely to refer your business. Just because something goes wrong doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost their referral.

4) Ask for a Referral

Too few businesses ask for referrals at the end of their customer journey. I don’t know if businesses feel like they are asking too much, or if asking somehow cheapens the referral. But because we know people want to refer your business, you should give them an opportunity to do so. Digital media has made this so much easier because your customers no longer need to be in the same room as their friends and family to refer you.

You’ll want to make this as easy as possible, or even give them an added benefit. Offer a gift or discount for a positive Yelp review or Facebook post, or use a tool like Get Five Stars to increase your reviews.

Just remember: you have to be constantly working to earn referrals. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

Want Life-Long Customers? Design the Customer Experience Through Their Eyes

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, Debra Mendes – Enjoy! 

The relationship you create and develop with your customer is key to developing a successful business. The experience the customer has with your business is a driving factor in developing this relationship. The experience or relationship is not just about how they feel about your product or service; it is the entire journey beginning from the first moment they meet or discover you.

To build a long lasting relationship with your customer, begin with a comprehensive and consistent framework. The Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ allows you to design the customer experience by identifying and understanding each interaction with the customer and progression in the relationship with you. The Hourglass will allow you to map the journey the customer takes as they get to Know, Like, and Trust your business, into the conversion phase of the Hourglass as they Try and Buy your product or service, and ongoing as a life-long customer who Repeats and Refers.

Defining your customer interactions may seem like a lot of work. It is. But it’s valuable. Customer loyalty and referrals deliver financial dividends and are the result of a positive customer experience – one that is worth sharing with others.

The key to building successful interactions is to predict your customers’ needs and proactively resolve them. Often what we do is think from our point of view of how do we connect, what do we give them. Instead consider questions from their point of view such as:

  • What information do they need?
  • When do they need it?
  • How do they want consume it?
  • What will they want to do next?

Questions to understand what your customer needs and wants will help you create and reinvent a positive experience. Taking the approach from the customer perspective first instead of mapping out the points of contact and how you want to interact with them will give you the fresh look at what it is the customer expects.

Step 1 – Getting Started

In order to design and deliver these customer interactions, you first need to have developed your marketing strategy. Understanding your purpose, difference, core message, and ideal customer makes defining your customer interactions easier for you and more valuable for your customers. Each of your interactions should be designed from the perspective of an individual customer persona.

Step 2 – Understand the Customer Perspective

Begin by creating a customer experience map. In the first column list the following five (5) questions. (Note: you can do this on a piece of paper, a spreadsheet, or a white board.)

1. What is the customer goal(s)?
2. What questions does the customer have?
3. What is the customer expectation? (What expectations to they have in perspective of answering their questions?)
4. What is the customer feeling?
5. What action/outcome do we think best helps customer? (What action do we want them to take?)
6. How can we create the journey to achieve customer goal?

Notice we did not start with points of contact, the idea is to know why they would connect, and then design how to connect with a purpose.

Step 3 – Map the Customer Journey

Create a row above for each stage of the Duct Tape Marketing Hourglass™ begin with Know, Like, and Trust then continuing into Try and Buy and ending with Repeat and Refer. This framework will allow you to answer the questions about the customer experience and envision how they will progress from one step of the Marketing Hourglass to the next. Repeat the process for each of your interactions.

Step 4 – Prioritize and Implement

With your new experience map in hand, you can now prioritize and begin to develop or improve the systems that will provide the most value to you and your customer.

Designing the customer experience with a view to creating life-long customers doesn’t have to be complicated. Using the Marketing Hourglass as the framework and putting yourself in the mindset of your customer will allow you develop customer relationships that have lifelong benefit for you and your customer.

debra mendesDebra Mendes is the Co-founder of Valens Point, dedicated to helping small businesses in the high-tech industry achieve their growth goals in a systematic and practical way.  Debra is a Master Duct Tape Marketing Consultant. She currently lives in the beautiful and rich historic area of the Shenandoah Valley near our nations’ capital   In her spare time, she gardens, and hangs out on the back yard decks with friends and neighbors.  For more articles like this, visit the Valens Point Blog, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

"What's Rachael Cooking?" Integrating Brand Story and Customer Journey

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, Andy Catsimanes – Enjoy!

Racheal Ray

Tacos, it all comes back to tacos. via photopin (license)

Every workday I sit down with my business partner – who also happens to be my amazing wife, Shawn – for our mid-morning breakfast break.

We have a set routine, including our menu, which consists of steel-cut oats mixed with peanut butter, yogurt, berries, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon and homemade granola (or “crunchies”).

About 35 minutes after the hour, as we sit down to the table, one of us will turn on the television and say, “What’s Rachael cooking today?”

And then we eat our breakfast as Rachael Ray demonstrates her latest shortcut to culinary good times.

The takeaway for your business?

Rachael has made her brand story part of her viewer’s life story and parlayed that relationship into a small empire to the benefit of both her and her viewer.

How do you integrate your brand story into your customer’s journey?

Customer Journey

June 18, 2013 Basque in the Glory / Northern Camino de Santiago Tour #frescotours via photopin (license)

The first step is the most obvious. It’s also where many businesses stumble:

Have a story to tell and a point of view from which to tell it.

Of course, “point of view” refers to much more than your take on things; that’s just an opinion.

Your point of view should encapsulate the total value you bring to your ideal customer, otherwise known as your brand hero.

What is it about your own business’ journey that your brand hero finds compelling?

If you aren’t sure, ask! Or better yet, have a skilled interviewer ask for you.

Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars, describes this process as “finding the moral of your story.”

Your moral, writes Sachs, is a truth about how the world works.

Rachael Ray’s moral could be stated as “Cooking is more than nutrition. Cooking feeds the body and soul and brings us all closer together.”

And Rachael promises to show us how to make that work, even with the most time-starved of schedules.

Once you have the moral of your story, weave it into your content at every opportunity.

Equally as important, you must also understand your buyer’s story.

(Notice throughout this article, I refer to your “buyer” or customer in the singular case. That’s a habit I learned as a direct response copywriter, and one that the Duct Tape Marketing System places great emphasis on.)

As marketers, we have access to mountains of data. And the most effective way to organize that data is to personify it.

As Brené Brown likes to remind us, “Stories are just data with a soul.”

That’s why a buyer persona needs to be more than just a profile. It’s your window into the soul of your customer.

How to breathe life into your buyer persona:

In Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch recommends that you not only name your buyer, he suggests you might want to make a “Fathead” style cutout and seat it at the conference table during your next marketing meeting.

Ask your persona questions. Enter into the conversation going on in your customer’s head.

Rachael Ray’s marketing team can track how many hits a particular recipe gets online after it has aired on her show.

And like the smart marketers I’m sure they are, they’ll take that information and all the other data they have to not only enter the conversation in their customers head — they’ll use it to enter the story going on in their customer’s life.

Here’s the format we use to begin sketching out a buyer persona. If you haven’t already done so, use this as a first step before you create another piece of content.

persona1

Andy CatsimanesAndy Catsimanes is the founder of DayByDay Marketing, dedicated to helping SMBs, churches, and non-profits identify and implement workable marketing systems for predictable growth. Andy’s a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, direct response copywriter, and experienced WordPress professional. In his spare time, he volunteers as an ally for Circles® USA. For more articles like this, subscribe to the DayByDay Marketing Blog, or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.