There’s both a science and an art to turning prospects into customers, and then transforming those customers into loyal partners who can’t imagine doing business without you.
It’s a lofty goal, but one that any partner can aspire to reach. To make it happen, you need to combine the science of conversion metrics with the art of business relationship management. Accomplishing that brings not only success, but also an advantage over the competition.
Like a superhero, you can be there at the right time and in the right way to save the day—at all stages along the customer life cycle, starting first with the buyer’s journey and then moving on to the customer’s journey.
Making the rounds
The customer life cycle is is extremely powerful when followed—and key to understand. It serves as a framework for understanding how and why people decide to make a purchase.
After a buyer becomes a customer, your job is only half done. You need to continue the conversation to ensure that your customer is deriving maximum value from your products and services. Turning a customer into a brand advocate brings opportunity for both referrals and additional business from the company. Failure to develop and sustain an ongoing relationship will turn your customers into someone else’s buyers.
This advice closely follows the concept of the Hero’s Journey, developed by professor Joseph Campbell in the 1940s to describe common threads in folklore and literature.
The theory suggests that heroes tend to behave the same way regardless of culture or time period. Hero stories are retold today because they resonate with human hopes and dreams. We instinctively recognize the stages of this journey, and that’s what gives hero stories their emotional and motivational weight. From a business standpoint, you become the superhero of your organization when your buyer or customer feels like the star of the show.
To do this effectively, it’s key to understand the buyer and customer cycles. Understanding these gives you the insight to successfully manage the customer experience and teaches you how to work with them at each stage of a potentially endless cycle of purchase and referral.
Buyer’s journey: explore, evaluate, and buy
The buyer’s journey starts in the Explore stage. The customer begins searching for keywords on Google, reading blogs, and asking friends for help on social media. The potential buyer needs to solve a problem or reach a new goal, and the exploration for possible solutions and finding new services becomes paramount. They then begin to evaluate and narrow their options by visiting review sites and industry news channels. The journey concludes with the Buy stage. In B2B, this can be the longest phase as customers secure budget approval and internal company guidance on when resources will be available for implementation.
Customer’s journey: engage, optimize, and expand
After the buyer becomes a customer, a new journey begins. Stage 1 features the opportunity to engage them. The customer relationship is fragile at this point. You need to work hard to prove that your products and services are valuable investments in order to solidify a long-term relationship. In Stage 2, you optimize the customer experience for engaged customers. Drip email campaigns and webinars further showcase the value you provide. Finally, the customer is ready to expand their relationship in Stage 3. At this point they become brand advocates capable of promoting your company on social media and other means. They refer their friends and network connections as they start shopping in a return to the buyer’s journey.
Where the road leads from here
Once you fully understand the buyer and customer journeys, your task is to examine your prospects and customers. Where are they on their individual journeys? If you’re unsure, put each buyer into the explore stage and each customer into the engage stage. From there, you can work to develop a better understanding of what they may need from you.
Together, the buyer and customer journeys create the customer life cycle. Mastering this process can help drive long-term revenue and prolonged success for your company. Follow the journeys to retain your best customers, encourage them to refer others in their networks, and prepare them for a return to the buyer’s journey. Be the superhero who guides them along the right path. Being a hero isn’t always easy, but it will be rewarding to you and to your bottom line.
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