"Begin with the end in mind." Covey
The end of everything you do in marketing is not the sale. Every single thing you do must be aimed at one thing: getting the customer to come back again (or refer someone to you).
The success of any business activity is dependent on three ideas: culture, consistency, and focus. For businesses stuck in band camp the culture, practices, and focus is overwhelmingly fixed on one point: the sale. They function in a crippled one-dimensional reality framed by customer acquisition, gross revenues, volume, commodities, and margins.
Great Performance is Built on Retention
For a business focused on a Great Performance, the focus is on retention. The sale is just one point in a 3-dimensional world of relationships, experiences, and sustainable profit. These businesses understand that the first sale is just an expensive step in building the long term customer experience (CX) cycle. Expensive for the business, not necessarily the customer.
Why are retention, repeat business, and referrals worth building your entire marketing reality on? Because they are up to 7X more profitable than the alternative. We live in a world where the importance of community and a rejection of disposability are growing values, and a successfully designed CX cycle fits into that beautifully. But in business as a discipline, the ultimate metric is always profitability. Profit is not why we are in business (we are in business to solve problems), but it is the ultimate metric of how successfully the business is being run.
A process that focuses on repeat business rather than the single sale is simply more profitable.
How important is that? Simply put, a business that cannot see beyond the sale will never achieve what it is capable of. It will be permanently crippled by its own failure of vision. It will never make enough of a difference, and it will never be as profitable as it could be.
What is the Customer Experience Cycle?
- It values the return of the customer more than any single sale
- It recognizes that customers value experience above products or services
- It recognizes that the customer’s experience is the sum of many elements including: products, services, customer service, communication, physical space, and social and community values.
- It recognizes that quality of experience must be addressed through 4 key moments: initial awareness, decision making/qualifying, the transaction, and follow-through.
Building the CX Cycle
- Be remarkable. This one is easy for me because I don't have to explain it, just point you to Seth Godin's The Big Moo, and The Purple Cow. In a nutshell, if your products, services, and customer experience does not have people talking about you positively out in the street then you have work to do. If you haven't read one or both of those books, you know what to do next.
- Create the culture. Building community, building a social organization, start from the inside. If your organization does not focus on employee retention, you will fail at customer retention. If your organization does not have a truly social culture, your social marketing (social media) efforts will fail. Like everything that matters, it starts from within. I have written about how to do that here, here, and here.
- Create the systems. Thoughtful, articulate, and rigorous systems recorded in operations and procedures manuals are the spine of great organizational culture. Without them, you get drift and inconsistency. Humans thrive on clarity and consistency; written systems are the only way to ensure that in business. Get it down in writing or be prepared to wander in circles for ever. Systems include schedules and budgets as well. Can you show me how your management schedule and your operating budget reflect your priorities? On the line-item level? If I can't find it on your schedules or your budgets, it isn't a commitment. It's a fantasy.
- Design the cycle. The CX cycle can be divided into 4 main moments: awareness (a person becomes aware you exist), problem solving (a person determines you may have the solution to a problem they have; they become a potential buyer), transaction (the close; the cash register rings), follow-through (use your CRM to deliver continual value and sustain the relationship). Every one of these points should reenforce the other, and should be designed to accomplish one thing: to exceed the values and experiences the customer expects so that they become a customer for life.
- Write the script. What is it that you most want your customers to value you for, and to remember you for? Aim your service in that direction, then tell your customers that is what you are doing, and finally give them the script to share with their network. Is guaranteed on-time delivery your primary differentiator? Focus your marketing and your operations on that above all. Then inform your customers through your advertising, signage, and in every conversation that you are all about on time delivery. The last thing a customer should hear in a call or conversation is "We'll get that to you on time. Guaranteed." Finally, focus all of your follow through content (stickers, email newsletters, desk calendars instead of fridge magnets) on one message "Tell your family and friends we'll get their stuff to them on time!"
- Follow through. While this is a part of the cycle already described in #4 it must be repeated. It is the most important, most ignored part of the program. Do everything you can, using every tool at your disposal to stay in touch with your customers after the sale. For tips on how to do this, just search "follow through" (use the quotes) on my blog.
Executed successfully the CX cycle not only drives repeat business, but it also drives positive word-of-mouth. Positive word-of-mouth is just as desirable as repeat business and a natural consequence of getting the CX cycle right. In fact customers who arrive at your doorstep as the result of a referral from a trusted source are more likely to become lifetime customers than those acquired through your own direct efforts.
Get on it.
At the Great Performances Group we improve the success of small and medium business anywhere in the English-speaking world. Check us out to find out how. Read Clemens’ book “Great Performances – the Small Business Script for the 21st Century.” Leave a comment or question! A Facebook “Like” is sweet too.