I rarely lead with the negative, but sometimes it’s the best way to get someone’s attention.
When I present marketing strategy to groups I’ll often ask them to identify the characteristics of their ideal customers, and they can’t seem to narrow their thinking beyond people with money. But when I ask them to tell me who they “don’t” want to work with, many characteristics leap to mind.
Here’s the deal – every way, shape and form that your business comes into contact with prospects, customers and friends of both, you are performing a marketing function. So let me ask you this – have you considered the impact or lack of impact of every touch point in your customer’s journey?
In order to expand your thinking on this point, let’s audit the real and potential touch points that impact the customer experience and ultimately your brand, in general. (The main thing we are looking for is an appealing, positive, consistent message across these touch points and a call to action that makes someone want to go on a continuing journey with you.)
Some of you might recognize the categories of know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer as stages in something I’ve been calling the Marketing Hourglass, that point to the logical way to think about a perfect end-to-end customer experience.
Know – This is how people become aware of your business and brand.
- Website – Many times a prospect visits your website first to learn what you have to offer – what message does this touch point send? (add this question to every point below because that’s what I want you to consider.)
- Advertising – Your ads may be the first way someone is introduced to your business.
- Marketing materials – Don’t forget offline materials that help tell your story in more tactile ways.
- Networking – How you network, where you network and who you are in conversations with, are all part of your brand
- Networks – What social network you choose to engage in, and how deeply you choose to participate matters.
- Referrals – When a raving fan refers someone to your business, how are they greeted? Are they treated special?
- Content – How are you using content to both create awareness and act as a home to send those who encounter your ads?
Like – This is the stage in which people are starting to notice your brand and decide if they want to know more.
- Community involvement – Encountering your brand through other communities and community involvement can send a strong signal about what you’re passionate about.
- Events – Demonstrating your expertise and giving advice before you ever start to promote is one way to gain respect and authority.
- Physical presence – What does your office, your store, your dress say about your brand? I’m not suggesting what it should say, simply that it does speak something.
- Value proposition – Do people automatically understand that you do something very, very well that matters to them?
- Social engagement – How you engage on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is observable – have you considered the impact of this on your brand?
- Graphic design – Many companies have won with a focus on design. Many more don’t give it a second thought. What does the design of your product, service, website, communication, email signature say or not say?
- Content – Again with content – it has an intentional use at just about every stage, but you must understand each use – for like, content might just be mostly about telling your story.
- Your people – Culture is marketing and for the most part people experience culture through people. Do your people understand your brand and have they been recruited because your story resonates?
Trust – No one buys from companies they do not trust and it’s never been easier to learn who is trustworthy, and who is not.
- SEO – I like to put search at the top of the trust list because today if you’re not showing up in a variety of online fronts, you’re throwing off a huge trust downgrade. If you don’t dominate the entire page one for a search on your company name, you’ve got an issue.
- Reputation – We won’t do business with companies that even total strangers have told us don’t keep their word. Proactively managing your reputation online and off has to be part of the marketing puzzle.
- Referrals – Referrals, like other elements, show up in different stages because we are no longer really in charge of how people go on a journey. A referral can be the ultimate trust signal if you treat it that way.
- Demonstrations – People often misinterpret a demo as a way to show what a product or service does – it’s not, it must first be a way to show why what it does is so awesome for me. Fix this part!
- Influence – Like it not, the last time I checked my Klout score (okay it was today) is was considered pretty good. Yes, people obsess over social proof and that’s what makes it matter as a factor. Work on building your influence by helping others build theirs – more on that.
- Success stories – Show me proof that other people just like me actually achieved what I want to achieve by working with you.
- Public relations – I believe someone else who says you are super talented more than I believe you telling me that. Seeing your name penned by others or reading a piece you contributed to a publication I respect send huge trust signals.
- Consistency – This is a tough one. I guess this is actually a rallying cry for process documentation, but know that one of the greatest eroders of trust is an inconsistent experience. How do you make sure I get the same experience every time and every place?
- More events – Getting to experience your knowledge and slightly sarcastic sense of humor by way of a webinar or presentation at the lunch network I belong to is one powerful way of building trust.
- Connecting – Who you are connected to, who you have as a guest on your podcast, and who you reach out and connect me to suggests you are someone to trust.
- Content – Oh no here it is again – what content are you offering freely that takes our relationship to entirely new level now that I’m really paying attention?
- Sales process – This might be another call for consistency, but simply having a process for when someone completes an online form or requests a demo is a start. Even better, what could you do that would blow me away in response to my hinting I might need what you offer?
Try – This is a stage that many neglect, but now that I think you have the answer, can you prove it?
- Demonstrations – The demo shows up here again because now I just might want to know how the thing is going to work for me and my team – this is a different kind of demo, but it still needs to be about me and my team.
- Freemium offer – Is there a way to let me try it for 30 days first?
- Starter offer – Is there a smaller version that would give me a greater sense of why I can’t live without you and your solutions?
- Switch offer – It’s painful to switch – what could you do to make it fun and risk free?
- Proof of concept – Personalize something just for me so I could see just how great life will be when you’re my partner.
- Events – Events are also a pretty good way to let someone see what it might be like to work with you – an event can be a meeting with the executive team of a prospect where you facilitate a discussion and help the team align on priorities.
- Conversion materials – Blog posts and ebooks are great in the start, but now you have to personalize and demonstrate or calculate the return on investment for me.
- Upsell process – Okay I’ve tried it out and I love it, but now you want me to pay? What have you done to hammer home the value and let me see that I would be a fool to not jump in full time now?
- Incentive program – Sometimes you’ve got to have a plan to sweeten the deal to get me act today – let me bring a friend, give me annual pricing or surprise with me something more than I was expecting.
Buy – The buying experience itself is an often overlooked touch point in the marketing process, but it must be as intentional as everything that led to this point.
- Sales process – What do you do when the phone rings? Remember if this has been done right, I already know, like and trust you – what do you in the sales process that keeps the experience useful?
- Nurturing process – I can’t make a decision right now or at least I don’t know how to – what do you do to continue to show value – what materials, training, education can you shower me with?
- Orientation process – I’ve said yes, now what? Do you have a process that makes certain I know what’s going on at all times, I know who to call, what to send, how to get in touch?
- Training materials – Yes I know you explained how to use your gizmo, but that was a while ago – where can go to learn how again, where can I send my people, how do I become a ninja user?
- Cross sell process – Worst phrase a business can hear – Oh wait, I didn’t know you also did that, I bought from XYZ company. How will you let me know what else I might need in a way that a friend might tell a friend about something cool?
- Contract process – Wait, you mean legal is part of the marketing team? Oh yes, and how many sales have been killed by this branch of the marketing team? The contract process is what it is, but does it have to be so painful? Why not make it one of the most playful parts of your brand?
- Financial engagement – You expect me to pay, I know that, but did you know your billing, shopping cart and even how you communicate about being paid are also marketing functions? Consider this touch point as part of the buying journey.
- Project management – Depending upon what you do, how you manage the work, communicate progress, add and assign tasks weighs heavily on how smoothly a project goes and whether there will be another.
- Delivery – This can be the delivery of information or of a physical product in a box, but it’s a marketing touch point. Think about the coolest present and wrapping you ever received, and work from there.
- Communication – As you work with clients you have to adjust to how they want to communicate. Sometimes that means you have to offer options, show them how to unify communications and teach them some new ways to communicate that will benefit their productivity and amplify your results.
Repeat – One of the best ways to grow a business is to do more with existing clients while you add new.
- Results review – Now that you think I’m happy what are you going to do to make certain? Do you actually know the value of what you’ve delivered?
- Events – Events and content are staples in every stage but now that I’m a customer I want to know that you consider me a part of your community.
- Testimonials – Part of the process of finding out how much value you’ve delivered is to use it as a way to consistently collect rave reviews.
- Case study – Do you have a process to document what a great result I got?
- Cross sell – Do you have a process to make sure I know what else you can do for me?
- On going training – Keep teaching me more about how to do things I want to do, and I’ll keep buying more of those things from you that allow me to do that.
Refer – Every business loves referrals – most get referrals for good work done, but few intentionally generate referrals.
- Referral education – Do you have a process to teach your referral champions the best way to spot and refer a prospect?
- Events – Bring your champions together and make them a network – empower them with extra attention
- Referral offers – Make a game out of referring your business, and keep your offers (rarely financial) top of mind by reminding me quarterly how to play the game.
- Referral materials – Do you make it easy for your referral champions to put something tangible in the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues?
- Partner outreach – Don’t forget about the power of building a team of best of class providers for almost everything your clients might need. This team could be the greatest source of new business for you.
- Co-marketing – Have you identified 4-5 other businesses that target your same ideal customer? How could you multiply the number of people that come into contact with your brand through this group?
- Referral content – Yes, I’m going to end on content. What eBook, webinar or presentation could you take to your partners with the idea that they could use this content to shower value on their network while also subtly referring you?
As I read back through this long and winding post it dawned on me that you could view this as a way to guide the customer experience or you could simply employ this as your entire marketing plan – either way, you win.