The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 2)

This is the second of a three part post.

In post 1, I introduced the AIPEE pyramid, talked briefly about what it was and what it wasn’t, and pointed our attention to R Value Exchange (the circled blue R under Interaction Medium) – which represents our target destination when participating socially for the purposes of Customer Acquisition. If you missed that post – you may want to briefly revisit it here

In this post, let’s take a closer look at each stage and the progressive journey up the pyramid, starting at the bottom, where most new individuals will start their journey with us. (Click on the image to look at a larger view)

ATTENTION

For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

INTERACTION
You’ve now garnered some attention, and have established a little bit of relational capital. Now is the time where some 1:1 interaction might take place. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, some “Unconnected” community participation, etc.

Dialogue at this stage will vary – but the offline equivalent might be saying “Hi – how are you doing?” to someone while waiting for a drink at the bar on in the line at the bathroom at a networking event. There is a shared common interest, and we’ve just been presented with an opportunity for some dialogue in passing. Unless there is something compelling or interesting during that exchange, the conversation will likely be forgotten within 15 minutes by both parties. If there is something of value during the exchange, the natural response is something like “Hey, let’s talk more about that next week”, and contact information is exchanged. We’ve just gained permission to continue the conversation.

PERMISSION
Simply put, the dialogue during our brief interaction was compelling enough. We have offered something of interest and value that the individual have implicitly or explicitly asked to know more about us. Instead of handing them a business card in the offline world, with a few mouse clicks and a URL, we can point them to exactly what they are looking for in the form of pre-existing content. In exchange, they’ve give you permission to follow up to talk more.

Some examples of ways that this can manifest itself are:

  • Subscribing to our blog
  • Inviting us to connect on a Social Network
  • Giving us their contact information in exchange for a white paper, webinar, newsletter, free product sample or trial

We’ve been able to offer something of value and they’ve given us permission to engage with them in more conversation.

*** VALUE ***
This isn’t a stage by itself, but it is the most critical factor to all of them, respectively. If there is something that isn’t graphically represented enough in the diagram, it is the Value that is provided on behalf of our company. You will notice that as the prospect moves up the pyramid, the company must be providing more value in order to enable them to do so. If there is a strong undercurrent that is unseen by the casual observer… the invisible hand of the AIPEE Pyramid, it is the absolute necessity to PROVIDE VALUE at each and every stage of the process. Without it, the climb up the pyramid is simply too hard. It is the value provided by the company that compels the prospect to continue their journey.

ENGAGEMENT
This is where we get the chance to really “talk turkey”, and is likely representative of the transition from what is traditionally known as marketing into the realm of sales. At this same point, interaction that has previously been facilitated by social technologies and platforms now probably transitions to a more “traditional” or “more deeply engaging” channel. There might be a natural escalation in communication channels from social –> email –> phone –> web conference –> face to face. Typically, as we get closer to the most natural form of human communication (face to face), we are likely moving closer to a mutually beneficial value exchange with our prospect. (Conjecture on my part – anyone have any research to back this up?)

This stage could be (and likely will be), another post or two unto itself. But that is for another day. We all have work to get back to.

For the sake of brevity, here is the summary:

The two parties are fully engaged, figuratively “sitting on the same side of the table” and seriously exploring how they can help each other out. Trust has never been deeper up until this point in the relationship. The company’s main goal is to understand in detail what their prospect is trying to accomplish, and either offer an existing solution from their offerings portfolio, or co-create with them a product or solution that helps them accomplish their goals.

EXCHANGE
We’ve made it. It’s nice to be at the top.

We’ve consistently added value over a series of interactions. We’ve established trust. We’ve worked hard on behalf of our prospect to help them achieve their goals. We’ve now earned the right to ask for something. It might be a sale (Revenue). It might be a Referral. It might be a Recommendation. In some cases, it might be all three. We’ve successfully executed an R Value Exchange. But it doesn’t stop there… (It never does).

In the final post, we’ll dig a little more into the Value Exchange Retention Cycles, the potential response(s) of the customer at all stages in their journey up the pyramid, provide some examples of how and when the customer might “skip” stages and get to the top more quickly, and how and when you might consider automating some of your efforts.

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part I)

This is the first of a Three Part Post.

“The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” — Theodore Levitt

So then, the next logical question is how do we create customers? And once we get them, how can we keep them? While keeping them engaged and developing them into advocates is vitally important and we’ll touch on that subject slightly in this post, the focus here is: How do we bring new sheep into the flock? This will likely appeal most to the Sales, Business Development, and Marketing types.

But isn’t this an old conversation? Has any of this really changed with the rapid rise of Social Technologies? I believe it has, and will illustrate the point below.

Don’t get me wrong. The fundamentals of business haven’t changed – but the tools and technology available to us, and how we can (and will be forced to) accomplish fundamental business goals like “New Customer Acquisition” have.

I’ve attempted to illustrate my thoughts in the image below – called the AIPEE Pyramid. Click on the link to view the diagram in a higher resolution. Special thanks to Mitch Lieberman and Graham Hill for reviewing my first draft and sharing their valuable feedback which have been incorporated into the current draft.

Before we get too far, here are some parameters to keep in mind as you study the Pyramid:

WHAT THIS ISN’T:

(1) A Comprehensive Social Business diagram – there is far more going on in the Social Enterprise than what is illustrated here. The focus is relatively narrow, specifically on Customer Acquisition. Quite simply, how do you have more conversations with more prospects, and provide enough value so that they participate with you in an R Value Exchange? (What happened to creating Customers you ask? More on that below.)

(2) A “One size fits all” solution: Most companies and business models can find value from this illustration. However, it was primarily built with a solution/consultative sale in mind. For Transactional Sales, the model might look slightly different. I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(3) A perfect image: You’ll notice that the image shows Beta Version 0.5. There will be changes and tweaks – hopefully because of your helpful feedback and critiques. Once the pyramid becomes more defined, the image quality will be better as well. 🙂 Consider this a rough “back of the napkin” sketch.

WHAT THIS IS:

A baseline road map of how to successfully find, attract, and engage prospects leveraging Social Technologies so that you may provide something of use to them, and therefore participate in an exchange of value.

What’s our Target Destination?

Before we start breaking down each stage, let’s focus our eyes on the first box under the heading Interaction Medium towards the top right of the image – this is where we’d like to ultimately go.

You’ll notice a blue R with a circle around it. No, this isn’t a tribute to the boy wonder. This is my uber creative symbol for the R Value Exchange. This is our target destination. If possible, we’d like to have as many of our interactions with new folks ultimately end up here.

This doesn’t necessarily always mean that we get money in exchange for the value that we’ve provided. We may receive money (ie. Revenue). We might also receive something of less quantifiable or transferable value – a Referral to someone who might find more value in what we are offering than the prospect we are currently engaged with, or a Recommendation, something that we may use as social proof that we are indeed a provider of value in the marketplace. In the ideal scenario, we’ll receive all 3 – over and over and over.

With that in mind, let’s breakdown each stage, starting at the bottom, since this is where things (generally) start. While I’ll lay this out in a perfect linear approach, it’s important to remember that in real life;

a. There are multiple entry points on the pyramid.
b. Most will abandon their journey before they get to the Circled R for a myriad of reasons.
c. Many could move up and down the pyramid in a non-linear sequence before they reach the Circled R.

This is a baseline. A framework from which to build a basic strategy, and a template from which to facilitate dialogue. In my mind, I have at least a dozen iterations of the the pyramid – but in all of them, this is at the core.

So without further adieu, let’s examine the first stage of the pyramid:

ATTENTION
For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

Tomorrow, we’ll look a little closer at the additional stages, and on Friday, we’ll wrap things up with a summary. I look forward to your thoughts, comments, questions, and critiques along the way.