This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here
Marketers have long held to the idea of the marketing and sales funnel – a notion that suggests you start with a large target group and somehow squeeze a few clients down through the small end of the funnel.
For years now I’ve been promoting something I call The Marketing HourglassTM, a much more holistic and increasingly effective approach in the “era of the customer” we live in today.
The marketing funnel suggests that the buyer’s journey is a straight one and the we as marketers are in charge of how they tread the path when in fact so much of the buyer’s journey today happens without our knowledge and participation.
Today we have to understand how the buyer wants to buy and put our businesses along that path – long before a prospect even knows they are looking for what we sell and long after we’ve transacted that sale.
A traditional marketing funnel might have stages such as Awareness, Consideration and Purchase, while our Marketing Hourglass consists of seven connected stages – Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer.
Here’s the thing that the marketing funnel neglects to address – when it comes to lead and referral generation a happy customer is your best tool.
By taking the marketing hourglass approach and giving equal attention to building trust and delivering a remarkable experience, you set your business up to create the kind of momentum that comes from an end to end customer journey.
In order to apply this framework to your business your must get a baseline on how your business interacts with prospects and clients currently, understand how your prospective customers make a buying decision and construct an hourglass journey that guides prospects through the logical stages of your marketing hourglass.
Audit your touchpoints
The first step is to take stock in the ways that your business comes into contact with customers and prospects.
Experience tells me that some of these ways are planned and scripted, while some are not. Some happen by accident, while some simply don’t happen at all.
For example, a very common gap in the businesses we work with exists in the transition from transaction to implementation. Marketing and sales got the order, but what happens next?
Another very common mistake is to believe that all you have to do is run ads and respond to requests when, in fact, many potential buyers want hand holding and nurturing and follow-up in order to know you’ll deliver on your promises.
Map the customer journey
One of the hardest things for many business owners to do is to put themselves in the shoes of prospective clients long before that client knows that you have the answer.
We often want to convince people we can solve problems they don’t even know they have.
In order to effectively build your Marketing Hourglass you must fully understand the questions your prospects are asking themselves before they are aware that you or you solutions exist.
For example, if you sell signage, you must start to build awareness through your marketing to prospects, not by explaining how great your signs are, but by addressing ways that businesses can build a stronger culture, attract more clients and make it easier for customers to find what they need – all great uses of signs by the way.
Construct your Marketing Hourglass
Now that you’re thinking touchpoints and journeys you can start to fill in the logical stages of your hourglass with the campaigns, process and touchpoints that will lead to a great experience.
Know – This is the awareness phase so articles that do well in search, advertising and even referrals need to start here.
Like – This is the stage where once you attracted them to your site you have give them reasons to come back, reasons to relate and even reasons to like your team.
Trust – In this stage, reviews, success stories and client testimonials are your currency.
Try – Now that they are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to shower them with eBooks, Webinars and very detailed how to information. You might also have an evaluation, trial version or low cost option to offer here.
Buy – For this stage the focus is on keeping the experience high. Think about how you orient a new customers, exceed their expectation and even surprise them.
Repeat – Perhaps the best way to get repeat business is to make sure your clients receive and understand the value of doing business with you. Here’s where you need to consider adding a results review process as well as additional upsell and cross sell touchpoints.
Refer – The Marketing Hourglass journey is ultimately about turning happy clients into referral clients. You do this first and foremost by creating a great experience, by being referral worthy, but you also have to build processes and campaigns that make it easy for your champion clients to introduce and refer your business.
A fully developed Marketing Hourglass is a thing of beauty, but it’s never really done and you can always go to work on adding to it and making it better. Monitor and measure the places where people don’t seem to move easily to the next step and make conversion of each step job #1.
Every time you enter a new market or develop new product or service you can use this framework as a way to make sure you create the perfect end to end customer journey for every offering.
If you liked this post, check out our Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Strategy and the Small Business Guide to Shaping the Customer Journey.
Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!