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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 to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


How often do you research a product online, and then purchase it at the store?  Or, check out the product at the store, and then use the internet to make the purchase?  If so, you’re not alone.

These newer consumer behaviors are both the new reality for retailers – and a special challenge.  It even has a name – Omni-channel.

Omni-Channel recognizes that it is the consumer who is in the driver’s seat, and if the organization is going to engage with its prospects, clients, and other stakeholders, that is where it must start – mapping the journey.

Every organization has multiple channels; these can include email, the web, mobile apps, the telephone, kiosks, events, and physical locations.  Omni-channel traces out the multiple journeys that each stakeholder may take to the point of transaction, and then applies marketing (and process, and technology) to encourage a seamless experience.  An example journey of a person making a purchase:

“I was looking for a new computer, so I did some research using Google.  I found a web site that had all of the information, so started comparing models.  A WebChat window opened, and the rep asked a few questions, which I answered.  She also sent me some information through email.  Later that day, I went to the store, because I wanted to try the keyboard for myself.  The rep asked a few questions, and described some of the benefits of some accessories.  At lunch, I used my mobile to do a double-check on prices, and decided to make the entire purchase through the app.  I then was able to pick up the computer at a store closer to my house later that week.”

Consider all of the channels in this example: web, chat, email, retail, mobile, and then retail.  From the consumer’s perspective, it is a continuous process – but what is the company doing behind-the-scenes?  And what marketing is the retailer doing throughout the journey, recognizing that the journey itself is completely in the hands of the consumer? Simple, channel-based marketing misses the mark completely.  While this example is for a retailer, the same concept applies to every organization – from law firms, to banks, to professional associations and not-for-profits.

Beyond strategy, underlying a successful Omni-channel experience requires data: no matter what the entry point or channel, the service representatives (or their automated brother, the website) must provide a seamless – but not creepy – experience. To do this successfully requires sophisticated data collection and analytics, married to a CRM system, and usually, married to a sophisticated supply chain system.  The data also provides insight into – and measures – the effectiveness of any marketing investment in the area.

Connection to Social Media:  For many, social media is both a source of information discovery, as well as a channel for engagement.  Organizations will “logically” develop their LinkedIn strategy, Facebook strategy, and Twitter strategy as individual silos.  More advanced organizations may connect these together into an overall Social Media strategy.  All of this, however, is yesterday thinking:  To harness the real power of social media, it has to be properly mapped into the journey:  only then will Social Media be able to earn its keep.

This week’s action plan: Map one cross-channel journey, and then evaluate the role of your current Social Media efforts along the path.  If there is too much noise, then make a change.  Like in life, it’s the journey, not just the destination that matters.

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

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders