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Insight: Unpacking the Relationship Curve

by Randall Craig on July 3, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Growth, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Marketing, Strategy

Tagged as: , ,

Have you ever felt that you were being “sold” to?  Perhaps an over-the-top marketing campaign, or perhaps a slightly-too-pushy salesperson?  If so, then you’re not alone; the question, however, is why.  And why do organizations so often encourage such off-putting activities?

Some of the obvious reasons:

  • The momentum of the past (“we’ve always done it this way.”)
  • Management focus on current-period sales (“we must make our numbers.”)
  • Overly aggressive commission plans. (“and If they don’t make their quotas, we’ll fire them.”)
  • Aggressive ad agencies looking to sell another campaign (“This will drive leads so your sales people can sell and you can make your numbers.”)

Beyond these reasons (and the many more), the main reason why organizations market and sell the way they do is because it works.  But might there be another way to drive sales that is more aligned to how a prospect thinks?  And might these other approaches be even more effective?  The Relationship Curve client journey model provides some clues.

The Relationship Curve describes the strengthening relationship between an organization and a prospect, as the prospect becomes Aware of their need and aware of the organization, Prefers the organization over competitors, goes through a Trial (or “Test Drive”), and ultimately Commits.  From the prospect’s perspective, a simple example:

Awareness:  My car just died – I need a new one.
Preference:  I prefer Toyota, and specifically the Toyota Sienna minivan.
Trial: I’ll go to the dealership and take a test drive.
Commitment:  I’m ready to sign the contract.

Unpacking this model yields some interesting insights.  For example, how might the prospect feel at different stages of the relationship curve?  What is their emotional state of mind?

Awareness:  Annoyed – didn’t expect to replace the car.
Preference:  Curious about the alternatives.
Trial: Excited to try something new.
Commitment:  Nervous about the purchase, but confident in the decision.
Post-Commitment:  Satisfied, and possibly some uncertainty (buyer’s remorse).

At each stage, the prospect has a number of questions: if answered satisfactorily, the prospect will move themselves up the Relationship Curve:

Awareness:  How do I decide what to get?
Preference:  Does Toyota make a mini-van?
Trial: I wonder if I will like it?  Does it really meet my needs?
Commitment:  Should I get it here?  Or somewhere else?  Can I really afford it?  Should I buy or lease?

This week’s action plan:  Using these concepts, the questions for marketers will be very different:

  • How might we develop campaigns or initiatives focused on each of Awareness, Preference, Trial, and Commitment?
  • How might we remove friction along the curve, to make it easier for the prospect to go from one stage to another?
  • How might we address the prospect’s mindset – their emotional state – at each stage of their journey?
  • How might we create content to answer the prospect’s likely questions at each stage of their journey?

This week, look at your current marketing and sales plans: what changes need to be made to answer these questions… and move prospects up the curve, instead of down it?

Marketing Insight:  If you feel that you are being sold to, it is either because the marketing is aimed at answering the wrong question, or because the marketing activities do not take your emotional needs into account.  Said another way: answer the right questions and address the emotional needs at each stage of the relationship curve, and the buying process will be consummated, seemingly all by itself.  There really isn’t a need to “sell”, if you spend your time helping a prospect help themselves through the buying process.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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