If you were asked to think of an image that represents the word “infinity” you would most likely think of a sideways number eight, right? That’s the standard infinity symbol.
Now let’s think about your buyer’s journey. This journey typically involves three stages. The first stage is Awareness. This is when your prospect is aware that they have a challenge that needs a solution. The second is the Consideration. The Consideration stage is when your prospect realizes they need a solution for their challenge. The final stage of the journey is the decision stage, where the buyer moves towards a solution that specifically addresses their problem.
If your solution works for your prospect, then they will hopefully move on from the decision phase and recommend your solution to their peers and colleagues – word-of-mouth marketing. If they are satisfied, then they will re-enter the cycle but bypass the Awareness and Consideration phases and end up right back in front of the decision piece of the cycle.
What if it was possible to capture the prospect in an infinity loop where they continue to come back to you for solutions for additional challenges, while evangelizing your services to others in their industry that are in need of similar solutions? Traditional inbound marketing techniques often involve building funnels. If we reimagine the buyer’s journey as a loop, we focus on making the journey cyclical and ongoing.
This is the holy grail of buyer’s cycle optimization. The first step is creating the customer loyalty loop. But where in the buyer’s journey does loyalty begin to develop, causing your prospect to return to your brand and your offers?
There are a few key components of customer journey mapping that can reliably build the level of customer loyalty needed to propel them into the marketing dream-loop. Here are a couple of highly actionable adjustments that can be easily implemented.
The Shining Moment of Authenticity
It’s no secret that whatever your product or service may be, there are competitors out there with the same or similar offers. And in today’s world of multi-channel content delivery, you can bet that your prospects are getting messages from a lot of other voices within your space.
A key strategy to standing out from the noise is to be authentic. Cohn & Wolfe, a global public relations agency concluded in a recent study that “authenticity in business beats product utility and innovation”. More specifically, “63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic over and above competitors.”
What exactly do we mean by brand authenticity? Digitalintelligencetoday.com defines it as “The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves.”
As your prospect moves towards the decision phase, they will narrow down the possible solution providers. The data shared above shows us that authenticity plays a big part in that process. In short, be real and be consistent with your message and authenticity will happen naturally.
Become a Master of Post Purchase Care
Another way to develop a deep client loyalty within an infinity loop is to carefully plan your post purchase interactions. Remember, there are plenty of other providers out there. If your new client feels that you were just in it for the quick close then they will likely look elsewhere for continuing service. Not only do you want your clients to drop back into your loyalty loop, you also want them to bring referrals in with them. A client is much more likely to introduce their associates or colleagues to your offer if you still have a relationship with them after the initial purchase. An online survey conducted by Nielsen found that 84% of consumers trust the recommendations of others over other forms of marketing.
McKinsey.com recently reported that “more than 60% of consumers of facial skin care products, for example, go online to conduct further research after the purchase—a touch point unimaginable when the funnel was conceived.” When a provider reaches out in front of that touch point by creating an exceptional post purchase experience, those same research efforts can funnel back into your menu of solutions. Often, while looking at the other services you provide, they will notice a perfect fit for a potential referral.
Leveraging Technology to Seal the Loyalty Loop
Ideally, the best case scenario would be to have face-to-face touch points with prospects that are considering an offer. It would be even better if the opportunity exists to sit down one-on-one with each client after they have made a purchase. And yet, to compete in today’s marketplace, no matter what the industry may be, focus must be placed on operating on a global level. That makes direct handshake interactions with every prospect or client logistically impossible. The good news is, in today’s amazing age of burgeoning technology it’s possible to create the same level of relationship-driven interaction that cultivates customer loyalty.
Turn Your Upsells Right Side Up
This is an idea that has been around for a while, but Neiman Marcus serves as a good early example of restructuring the typical upsell cycle. On most e-commerce sites, algorithms are used to suggest products based on a customer’s previous purchases. That’s a backwards way of suggesting products. If a customer goes to a sporting goods site and they purchase a $5,000 snowmobile, they are probably not in the market for another snowmobile the next week. A recent Forbes article described how Neiman Marcus uses pattern recognition algorithms to accompany the buyer as they navigate through their site.
Instead of trying to target the buyer’s preferences based on their purchase history, the algorithms are set-up to suggest items that complement what the buyer is currently searching for. If somebody is searching for a winter hat, they may need some gloves as well.
This can be applied to almost any product or service, and while system based algorithms can be wonderfully effective, it’s the mentality here that counts. It does not take a team of tech masters to have your clients divided into specific categories based on the level of product or service that they have purchased. By categorizing your customers, you can effectively walk them forward to the best add-ons you have available based on what they have purchased from you and what they will need to enhance that product or service.
If you seem to be on the same page as your client and you are offering them solutions that seem tailor-made for their needs, then their level of loyalty remains strong because they will feel that your suggestions are made specifically for them. If they feel that they are operating within a specially made journey that responds to their needs, then the need to engage in interactions with competitors becomes nearly futile. And their recommendations bolster when they realize they are not loading their colleagues into cookie cutter buyer’s journeys.
Anticipate Opportunities for Excellent Customer Service
Anticipatory Customer Service (ACS) is becoming a very powerful x-factor these days. Good companies have used the concept for decades, but now with the advent of certain pieces of technology, the level to which “ACS” can be used has increased ten-fold.
Here’s a fun example. Micah Solomon, a Forbes business contributor, tells a story about when he purchased tickets to the Philadelphia Ballet. A couple of evenings before the show he received an automated phone call along with an email message that suggested that he leave for the show 45 minutes earlier than planned. The message went on to say that based on his home address, he would likely run into traffic because on the same night as the show there was a street festival going on that would likely create traffic that would make him late.
While you may not be selling ballet tickets, using the data your client provided to you at the point of sale can become invaluable in providing geo and demographical solution-based advice or consultation.
While examining ways to create an infinite customer loyalty loop you will find a common thread of staying a step ahead of your buyers as they make their way through the cycle. Today’s technology allows you to keep tabs on who is where in your buyer’s journey. By walking a step or two in front of your clients, it’s much easier to reach back and lead them by the hand to re-enter the loop. And if you play your cards right, they will use their other hand to bring new prospects along with them.