You spend countless hours, and endless resources, to encourage your sales team to dump leads into the top of your sales funnel, with the hopes of squeezing them through the tiny orifice at the bottom.
Once those precious few fall out the bottom and onto your client rolls, now what? With an overheated market, dogged competition, and an enlightened consumer that is more fickle than ever, how can you make sure all of that effort is worth it? How can you ensure that you keep what is rightfully yours?
It’s a harsh reality that has been elusive to CEOs like yourself: One study found that, while 44 percent of businesses focus on customer acquisition, only 18 percent are dialed into customer retention.
After talking with CEOs, sales and marketing executives, and other interested parties across B2B and B2C enterprises, I came to this epiphany: The outmoded, unidirectional sales funnel is no longer relevant.
In its place, I would argue, should be a much different entity – a “marketing hourglass” that captures your hard-earned customer, keeps them in your ecosystem, and incentivizes them to remain in the relative comfort of the sandy bottom.
The traditional funnel is about a specific part of your client journey -- luring consumers through a series of engagements to meet the company’s transactional objectives.
My perspective is that the engagement process, all too often, ends at this point. But reaching out once a year to renew the deal – or, worse, interacting with a client only when they have an issue or complaint, is horribly shortsighted and risky to your bottom line.
In the confines of the hourglass, you can continue to nurture the relationship, with the same intentionality and fervor, as you did to get them here. Connecting with customers throughout their entire experience, from awareness, through the acquisition -- and onward through use and potential incremental purchase, ensures greater loyalty and build passionate advocates for your product or service.
Don’t get me wrong, the funnel tactics are important in maximizing ROI on your marketing spend, but the shape change is a harbinger of a mindset shift needed to nurturing relationships, and not just moving customer through the company’s marketing investment process.
There’s a nifty bit of flexibility you have by viewing the relationship in an hourglass form. Now, you can focus on finding the level, and mode, of engagement the consumer wants, both when they want to engage, and where they want to engage.
Instead of eliminating and replacing consumers, you’re now investing in a relationship that will continue to build (literally, replacing the drip, drip, drip of the funnel with an ever-growing mound of building sand at the bottom of the hourglass).
The beauty of this process, from a financial perspective, is increasing the liftetime value of that customer. And in the study I referenced above, though 76 of companies agree that LTV is an important concept in their organization, only 42 percent of companies do anything to accurately measure it.
In some regard, this hourglass notion is a throwback to a time when loyalty was king, and a company-customer relationship was a hands-on experience that could be cultivated to infinity. Ever hear the adage that it is easier to increase revenue with an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one?
But today, companies have lost sight of this simple concept – instead, prioritizing the search for new customers, clients, likes, or follows. This is true regardless of B2B or B2C.
But what if the relationship shifted after purchase to one that is more intimate in nature?
Let’s use the point of first USE as an example – rather than focus on delivery and leaving the customer to their own devices, how about a dialogue-driven process to gauge their initial experience. We can ask: What is that experience like? What is the interaction with the product/service? Is it a good experience? Does it deliver on expectations? This includes all components of use. If it is a physical product, it includes the ‘unboxing.’ If it is a service, it includes the first engagement. If it’s a virtual product, it includes the digital experience.
Once we assured satisfaction with use, there’s now an opportunity for SUPPLEMENTS – adjacent items, replacement of any consumables, or incremental services. If the end user has enjoyed the interaction with the brand, product, and they’re ready to consider what else can they acquire, this promotes a prime opportunity to offer product/service extensions that increase LTV.
At this point in the marketing hourglass, the sand is building at the bottom of the hourglass. Credibility is building. ADVOCATES are nurtured. Then, as if magic, these advocates can become valuable sources of referral, and can help feed the top of the hourglass when it flips over.They help support the company’s AWARENESS initiatives. And the cycle continues.
According to Jonah Berger in the book “Contagious”: [Such] social influence and word-of-mouth transmission are far more essential to drive “virality,” and ultimately account for 20-50 percent of all purchasing decisions.
Therefore, creating advocates and feeding our marketing hourglass with advocates creates impact.
Ready to fill, flip, and refill your hourglass? If I can be of service to you, please reach out.