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Creating a Better Customer Experience

March 5, 2010

From American Express Open Forum  February 2010, by John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing

For so many small business owners generating leads, converting customers and creating a predictable flow of business is a constant battle.

While there are many reasons for this, the primary one is that most small businesses focus all of their marketing attention on selling when they should really focus every fiber of their being on creating a better customer experience.

The best way to generate more leads is to create a customer experience that makes people talk. The best way to convert more sales is to create a customer experience that puts sales and marketing on the same team. The best way to create a predictable flow of business is to create a customer experience that builds trust over and over again.

The logical path

There’s a simple definition of marketing that I’ve coined after years of working with small businesses. Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like, and trust you. Once you’ve established know, like and trust, you can more easily move to creating try, buy, repeat and refer.

These seven steps make up what I call the “Marketing Hourglass”  as they produce a logical progression of steps from the point where a prospect first becomes aware of your business to where they voluntarily work to help you grow it.

Creating a marketing system that addresses and offers products and processes at every step along this logical path is how you teach your business to market itself.

Plug the gaps

Almost every business I encounter attempts to move from know to buy, without addressing the phases in between or after. This causes gaps in the customer experience and often leads to generating a customer that’s not a good fit or one that doesn’t value your unique way of doing business.

By carefully plotting how a prospect comes to know your business, how you help them understand and like the unique benefits of doing business with your firm and how you build trust by showing them customer proof and expertise, you properly prepare them to try and buy your products and services. (Usually at a premium)

Of course once a prospect decides to become a customer you must work equally as hard at plugging any gaps in customer service, delivery, packaging, communication, and even finance. In every fashion that your business comes into contact with a customer you are in that instance performing a marketing function, no matter with department is engaged.

So ask yourself this question? Does every department in your organization produce positive customer experiences? Here’s how to find out. Become a customer of your business. Follow an order or service request around your entire business from advertising to ask for referral and see how many gaps you can find. 

Gaps come in many forms, but the two most common are gaps that are produced intentionally – a process that doesn’t make sense to anyone but Bart in customer service, and unintentionally, no follow-up process to make sure your customer is thrilled.

Process and product

As you teach your business to market itself, you need to arm it with products, services and processes that can make this notion a reality.

If you sell a product, surround it with services that allow you to create better product experiences and repeat sales. If you sell a service, ask yourself what product might enhance your service or be used to create a trail priced version of your service.

In fact, ponder these lists of questions as you consider your gaps.

Product/service questions

  • What is your free or trial offering?
  • What is your starter offering?
  • What is your “make it easy to switch” offering?
  • What is your core offering?
  • What are your add-ons to increase value?
  • What is your “members only” offering?
  • What are your strategic partner pairings?

Process questions

  • How do you identify an ideal customer?
  • How do you use content to build trust?
  • How do you nurture new relationships?
  • How do you present your offerings?
  • How do you orient a new customer?
  • How do you assess value delivered?
  • How do you teach and educate?
  • How do you handle problems?
  • How do you create success stories?

If you can address and fill the gaps from know to refer with products, services and processes that create a winning customer experience, creating a well-oiled referral engine will be your reward.

John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach,  award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.

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