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Sales, Marketing, and the Relationship Curve

December 1, 2016 by 108 Ideaspace

2016_blog_graphics-07Have you ever felt that you were being “sold” to? Perhaps from a slightly-too-pushy salesperson or an over-the-top marketing campaign?  If so, you are not alone. This reaction occurs because the marketing is aimed at answering the wrong question, or because the marketing activities do not take your emotional needs into account. The question then, is why – 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: Know your audience: what are their needs and interests? 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 give your prospect what they want and more – gradually pulling them through the buying process until they finally convert to a sale.

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