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The Relationship Curve is one of the most important Marketing 2.0 concepts around.  It states that as relationships improve over time, the target person (prospective client, prospective member, prospective employee, etc) moves through the stages of awareness, preference, trial, and commitment.

The job of marketing is to put together initiatives that help that target person or organization along on this journey.  Those initiatives can be as simple as PR (awareness), blogging (preference), or an interview (trial).  Or they can be more complex, and cross a number of these stages:  a Social Media strategy, a new product launch plan, etc.

Key marketing question: What happens after Commitment?  If there is a significant investment in marketing to get a target to finally transact, how can this marketing investment be spread across transactions beyond the initial one, both additional ones with the same client, and additional ones through referral?

To answer, look more deeply at two parts of the relationship curve: Trial and Commitment.  Trial is the test drive, while commitment is the transaction. If the target transaction is to sell a book, then a potential Trial initiative might be to give away a few chapters, or to provide a discount coupon.  Or if the target commitment is a large service engagement or a large product sale, one Trial initiative might be to sell them a book.  The book in these two cases serves two purposes: a demonstration of commitment, and a trial for the next transaction.  Every transaction is merely a test drive – a Trial – for the next transaction.  We define this as the Relationship Chain.


Yes, the marketing strategist must determine the initiatives underlying the Relationship Curve, but to build a strong, engaged “ecosystem”, the Relationship Chain demands far more, starting with excellent delivery. Not only must there be no buyer’s remorse, but the post-commitment experience must vastly exceed their expectations.

The next step is to define the potential chain of next-step products and services that your target might be interested in – the actual Relationship Chain.

For an association, the Relationship Chain might look like this:

  • Attends monthly meeting as a guest.
  • Becomes a member.
  • Chooses to attend annual conference.
  • Volunteers on a committee or at an event.
  • Sits on Board.
  • Seeks certification.
  • Teaches courses in the area.

In professional services – say an accounting firm – the Relationship Chain would be quite different:

  • Attends a tax planning seminar.
  • Decides to get a second opinion on a corporate tax matter.
  • Moves corporate tax to the firm.
  • Moves audit and advisory services to the firm.
  • Moves personal tax to the firm.
  • Asks the firm to help with a transaction due diligence.
  • Responds positively to a pro-active pitch for management consulting re technology.
  • Attends the firm’s training sessions.
  • Sits on the firm’s industry advisory board.

Finally, with a strong relationship comes the right to ask them for help.  Fundamentally, this means doing three things:

  1. Ask for testimonials, via LinkedIn, and also on video.
  2. Empowerment: help tool them up to advocate on your behalf, and share their experience with you with their network.
  3. Ask directly for referrals.

This week’s action plan:  There are only two types of relationships:  those that are getting better, and those that are getting worse.  Look at your long-timers – what did their Relationship Chain look like?  And then look at the most recent people or organizations that have made a commitment to you:  what is the next step in their specific Relationship Chain?  Finally, document all of your organization’s Relationship Chains.  Once you do this, you’ll know far more about your organization’s marketing priorities – and you’ll build in a process that can only improve your relationships – and your brand.

More Insight:  Interested in another take on the concept of customer journey?  Read about Omni-channel marketing.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Carrot and Stick Resolutions

by Randall Craig on December 29, 2009

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Motivational

Tagged as: , ,

If you’re like many people, you will make a New Year’s Resolution: start this project, finish that project, exercise more, eat less, etc. Yet despite our best intentions, too often there is little follow-through, and the resolution is quietly abandoned. This year, can it be different? (Yes!)

Translating resolution to action is far easier when you add four extra ingredients: Intention, Carrots, Sticks, and Commitment.

Reasonable Intention: It makes no sense to intend to do something that is impossible or unreasonable. If you have mandatory early morning meetings each day, then you can’t go to the gym at precisely that time. Your intentions should be something that is physically possible for you to do (or stop doing).

Carrot: If you intend to go jogging two times weekly, then rewarding yourself. A new jacket in three months might be just enough incentive to keep you going if your resolve starts to falter. And when you do get that jacket, the jacket itself will mean much more: it becomes a symbol of your ability to follow through on your commitment.

Stick: In the same way that a Carrot provides incentive to act, the Stick imposes a cost for inaction. Choose a penalty that is meaningful and would “hurt” each time it is incurred. This might mean foregoing two days of Starbucks coffee, doing household chores for others,etc.

Public Commitment: Often we keep our resolutions to ourselves: then when we don’t follow through, no one ever finds out. This year, make a public commitment to your friends, family, co-workers, etc; not only will these people keep you honest, but they can be your biggest supporters. Side benefit: when you follow through, you strengthen your reputation as a promise-keeper.

This week’s action item: Many people have long given up on New Year’s resolutions. This year, try it again, but don’t just choose a resolution – also choose a carrot, stick, and make a public commitment.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Weasel words have no weight

by Randall Craig October 7, 2008

Have you ever met someone who doesn’t give you a straight answer? They have a way of saying things that leave doubt in your mind about whether they will deliver on their promises. When this happens, listen to their words carefully: they use conditional words to express commitments. For example: I might try to work […]

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Urgent vs. Important

by Randall Craig September 16, 2008

We are a society looking for instant gratification. When a customer calls, we rush to meet their needs. When we check into a hotel, we expect prompt, courteous service. When we drive our cars, we always take the shortest routes – at the fastest speeds. And when we do a great job, we want to […]

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Yes means No

by Randall Craig October 30, 2007

It is tough saying “No” when someone asks for your help or your commitment. We don’t want to let down our peers, managers, friends, or family. We don’t want them to think we lack the capability. And we want to develop the reputation as someone who always steps up to the plate. Yet when we […]

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Summer Resolutions

by Randall Craig June 27, 2006

We’ve all heard about New Year’s resolutions, but how about Summer Resolutions? Or, for that matter, First-of-the-month Resolutions, Monday resolutions, or 9am resolutions? While some of these may sound absurd, there is actually something that can be learned from them. For most people, New Year’s resolutions have two things in common: they are made with […]

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Mentor Mentee

by Randall Craig May 23, 2006

I’m not sure if mentee is a proper word, but it should be. So much has been written about the importance of finding a mentor, but when you get one, what is your role as the mentee? First, consider the reasons a mentor is showing an interest in you. They might enjoy coaching/developing others. They […]

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