Thanks to mobile devices, social media and online everything, people are more empowered than ever to take control of their purchasing decisions. And if you try to get in their way by shoving them through the traditional sales funnel, there’s a good chance your brand will wither and die. Pay attention to the updated way of doing things, however, and your brand can enjoy high levels of customer engagement, satisfaction and meaningful relationships created and sustained through the new customer lifecycle.
The Traditional Sales Funnel
The traditional funnel put the company in control. Your goal was to shuttle the customer through the various funnel chambers or, as Direct Marketing News so eloquently put it, “push the prospect through the sales grinder.” The end result was indeed a sale, but it was also literally the end result. Once the customer was hooked and bagged, the game was pretty much over.
Components of the traditional funnel were awareness, interest, desire and action.
- Awareness: Prospect’s realization that your company exists
- Interest: Curiosity about your products or services
- Desire: Hunger to buy something
- Action: Making the purchase and calling it a day
Once the deed was done, your job was to find yet another prospect to push through that grinder.
The New Customer Lifecycle
The new customer lifecycle puts the customer in control. Your job is to recognize at what stage of the cycle your prospect currently perches and then cater to his or her needs. Unlike the funnel, there’s no pushing or grinding going on. Also unlike the funnel, the relationship with your customer doesn’t end once he or she makes a purchase. A purchase is merely the beginning of a thriving cycle that can be repeated again and again.
Marketing research bigwig Forrester introduced the new customer lifecycle, and its components are discover, explore, buy and engage.
- Discover: Customer realizing their new needs
- Explore: Checking out their options
- Buy: Making a purchase
- Engage: Connecting with the service or product experience
What the New Customer Lifecycle Means for You
If done right, the new customer lifecycle can mean loyal, satisfied customers that look to your company to fulfill a variety of needs. Keep up that satisfaction through unobtrusive engagement, and they’re likely to pass along a good word to their family members, friends and Facebook pals. And yes, the new lifecycle can mean a steady stream of new sales.
If done wrong, well, you can end up with a slew of annoyed ex-prospects who won’t go near your company due to its relentless, in-your-face marketing tactics. You could end up with a shoddy reputation and people passing along a bad word to their family members, friends and Facebook pals. And yes, doing it wrong can spell disaster.
How do you do it right?
A few key strategies can shake your brain out of the old way of marketing and help ensure you don’t get badmouthed all over Facebook.
Put the customer at the center.
Your main concern is to reach out and provide prospects with what they’re seeking at each stage of the game, not force each stage into a desired outcome. That means providing useful, compelling content when they want it and where they’ll see it. Learning the online habits of your target audience can help set a strategy to decide what content will best reach them at various hours across various channels, be it through blogging, social media or email campaigns.
Look beyond the single sale to the complete brand experience.
Customers appreciate quality experiences with a brand, not a company that likes to sell and run. Make a firm commitment to providing a top-notch experience in every facet, from your user-friendly website to your even user-friendlier brick and mortar shop, from your interactive social media posts to your compelling and tantalizing blog entries. Review and launch appropriate digital tools that can further enhance each person’s experience with your company.
Don’t assume customers will be loyal just because they bought something.
Even if an item or service is bought, loyalty still has to be earned. Consistent and long-term nurturing at every stage of the game, again and again, can help your brand win it on a regular basis.
We welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below. What does the New Customer Lifecycle mean for your business?