We have a culture problem in the workplace today, and it's causing us to miss great opportunities.
Businesses have a singular focus on pursuing new customers. It dominates the way they think, the way they measure performance, and the way they forecast future profitability. This mindset is so hard-coded into the company DNA it's hard to imagine working toward a different set of goals.
But it's time to confront a new truth: Concentrating all your efforts on finding new customers means you are forgetting about your existing ones. And they have the power to ignite your growth.
Brands that want to differentiate themselves need to start giving some love to the loneliest stage of the buyer’s journey: Customer Delight.
The marketing lifecycle stages we use to gauge sales-readiness of prospects are badly in need of a tune-up.
The reason is because those stages reflect an organizational culture that puts all effort and focus on acquiring new business and almost none on keeping it.
Let’s look at the customer journey as defined by HubSpot years ago:
Which stages does your team spend all of their time on? Most likely, it is the first three: Attract, Convert, and Close. What about "Delight?"
You might send an email to customers once in a while, letting them know you still think about them (like when you were a teenager and your mom reminded you to call your grandmother. Yes, you love Nana, but let's be honest. Calling her was never at the top of your list.). Beyond that, most businesses are doing precious little to “delight” their customers.
And why would they? The company culture celebrates sales and relegates customer care to service teams.
Delighting customers is rarely a priority at most companies. As marketers, we need to correct this imbalance and get everyone – sales, service, and marketing – working toward the goal of providing a great experience to buyers, especially after they sign on the dotted line.
At Creative Side, we have reworked this model to place equal emphasis on what happens before and after the sale:
Attract & Assess – a prospect recognizes they have a challenge and considers your solution. Marketing and Sales use buying insights from persona research to identify buyers early in the exploratory process, and help them find the right fit.
Engage & Affirm – the sales team closes the account, and starts on-boarding your new client. The first 90 days are critical for setting the tone of the relationship, helping the customer acclimate to your process, and proving they made the right choice.
Deliver & Earn – you have a clear objective, and everyone involved knows exactly when the client has gotten what they paid for. Your team delivers the solution, working hard to optimize results and earning the customer’s trust. Turning them into a true advocate is difficult to achieve, but it can be done with dedication and focus on their professional and personal needs.
Do you see the difference?
Look at any other model of the buyer’s journey and you will see an oversimplified view of the sales process. We need to stop looking at the journey in terms of sales, and start paying attention to how the customer is feeling about the process and evaluating the partnership. New sales are wonderful, but real growth begins when we slow or stop the revolving door of exiting clients.
Now that we have committed to looking at the journey from the customer’s perspective, we can reevaluate the activities every team uses to engage them.
From a functional perspective, these three departments really are one team. Each contributes to the other’s goals, and they must present a unified experience to the customer.
We’ve divided these activities into two categories:
Low-Touch – these activities passively impact customers, including blogging, video production, email marketing, social selling, and adding content to the knowledge base. Content marketing is not all of it though. Your internal processes, employee incentives, and workflow automation all apply as well.
High-Touch – this involves all direct contact with the customer by people in your organization. Examples include email, in-person meetings, video conferences, phone calls, meetups, parties, and gifts.
It’s important to note that high-touch tasks are not scalable, nor should they be. A human-centered approach to marketing demands human-to-human contact. There are no substitutes, and the impact it will have is totally worth it. When the entire marketing community is sending people generic, automated messages, and you show up with a highly personalized, handwritten note full of valuable insight – who is going to make the best impression?
When you start taking a more deliberate approach with these two types of activities, you will find ways to enhance one with the other. Analytics from low-touch activities will help sales and service teams work proactively on important issues. Likewise, direct feedback from customers can translate into low-touch improvements, from internal workflows, to content creation, to departmental goals and rewards.
Better still, people working on both sides can repurpose content for use by other teams. When Marketing produces a video tutorial for interested buyers on how to solve a challenge, they can easily create a duplicate version for on-boarding new customers.
The first video shows interested buyers how to do it on their own (Attract & Assess phase), the second one explains to the customer how your teams will do it for them (Engage & Affirm phase).
Now, let’s talk about implementing specific activities for the “most neglected stage of the journey.”
A unified strategy that gets marketing, sales, and service working together – using high- and low-touch activities – is vital at all parts of the buyer’s journey, but perhaps none more so than the Deliver & Earn stage.
Customers are used to being forgotten. With the exception of sequenced email messages (and of course, the invoice that never fails to show up on time), they almost never hear from their partners. Ever.
If you really want your brand to stand out – shock your customers with personalized touches in the months and years after the sale that show you understand their needs better than anyone else.
I’m not just talking about work-related stuff either. Customers are people. They have emotional needs like you do. Here is a recent example of how we try to make the emotional highs even higher for clients when the time is right.
One of our clients crushed their first quarter goals this year. Sales were up 14 percent over prior year, and almost everyone on the team met their quotas. On top of that, they rolled out several extraordinary new products that shook up the market.
When they shared the details with us, we produced a one-minute video, highlighting their successes. Not once did we mention our agency or the role we played – the focus was entirely on them, where it belongs. This was their achievement.
We produced the video free of charge and delivered it in time for a town hall meeting with all employees present, including the CEO. This was a beautiful moment for our client, especially since -- in prior meetings -- they often found themselves standing in the shadow of other higher earning divisions.
In the words of the sales and marketing manager, “This was the first time we could tell a great story in a unique way.”
The video helped us amplify a great moment in our relationship, and make it memorable. There are many ways you can create impact during the Deliver & Earn stage, of course. We will explore them in future posts, but for now let me leave you with this:
Branding is what people think and feel about your company, and this is not the sole responsibility of Marketing anymore. The job belongs to the entire team now -- sales, service, and even product development, as well as marketing.
Departmental goals are starting to blur, and we may finally reach a stage where silos break down and we can all work together to provide a genuinely cool experience to people that have the greatest impact on our business.
This is what real growth will look like in the years to come.