Picture a group of your potential customers, standing at the edge of a chasm on Mount Everest and you and your product or service standing on the other side. It is your job and the role of your marketing efforts to help potential clients cross that chasm one step at a time. At this stage, your immediate objective is not to get them to purchase. It is simply to get them to take that first step out onto the ladder, followed by one more step, and than another until they reach the ultimate decision to purchase.
It is as ludicrous to expect a potential customer to reach a purchase decision in one step as it would be to expect a Mount Everest adventurer to cross a chasm in one step. So how can you begin to move your potential customers across the purchase chasm?
Step One - Awareness and Knowledge: Before someone can purchase a product or service they must be aware of it. They must also have knowledge about what problems the product or service will solve for them. They must be able to picture in their minds the benefit they will receive from using the product or service, and that picture must be enticing enough to motivate them to take that first step.
At this phase, your objective is to make potential customers aware of your product or service, generally through mass media type activities, advertising, direct mail, articles, public speaking, etc. and then to get them to take the first step by requesting additional information. You might offer a brochure, free report, newsletter subscription or other informational item in exchange for contact information. The key is to offer something that:
* Is of value to your potential client,
* Provides him or her with additional knowledge about your product or service and how it will solve his or her problems
* Poses a very low level of risk or obligation on the part of the prospective customer.
Step two - Liking and Preference: Awareness alone is not enough. Potential customers must also have a positive disposition regarding your product or service. Potential customers must trust that you will deliver what you say you will. Several years ago there was an insurance company that did a tremendous job of building awareness through television advertising. However, the ads were so obnoxious that Im sure the company ranked quite low on the liking, preference and credibility scale.
At this stage, the objective is to get those potential customers who took the first step to take a second step by requesting additional information perhaps a video or booklet, calling for a free consultation, signing up for a free seminar or teleconference, purchasing an e-book, etc. For example, a trainer might gain credibility and allow potential customers to sample their product by offering free, hour long presentations on topics related to their area of specialty. Again, the offer must be of value to the client, and should pose a slightly higher level of risk, obligation or commitment on the part of the potential customer.
Step Three Conviction and Purchase: The final step in the process is getting those potential customers who have begun the journey across the chasm by requesting information and then following up on the information requested to actually make the decision to purchase. In this step, personal, one-on-one selling becomes the primary method of achieving the objective. And, if you have developed a relationship with the potential client throughout their journey, this step should be as simple as reaching out to take their hand as they reach the end of the ladder and step off onto the ground. And reassuring them that they have made the right decision by embarking on the journey.
While the process is simple, implementation takes a committed and consistent effort. It may take as many as five to 15 exposures to your product or service for a potential client to move through the process and cross the chasm from lead to loyal customer. They key is to plan those exposures so each one:
Matches the level of the process where the potential customer currently is (i.e. direct mass media activities to potential customers in the awareness and knowledge phases, and use personal selling with prospective customers in the conviction and purchase phases).
Builds on the previous exposure, automatically moving people through the buying process one step at a time.
To begin the process of helping potential clients bridge the chasm to loyal customer ask yourself these questions:
1. What are three to five ways I can have an initial contact with members of my ideal customer group?
2. What can I provide as a free offer in exchange for contact information to get people to take the first step?
3. What are two or three intermediary steps I can encourage prospects to take?
4. What are the key promotional tools that I will use at each step?
Julie Chance is president of Strategies-by-DESIGN, a Dallas based firm that helps small businesses and service professionals Map A Path to Success by bridging the chasm from Lead to Loyal Customer. For more information or to sign up for our free Marketing Tips Newsletter go to http//www.strategies-by-design.com or call 972-701-9311.