By: Bre D’Alessio South, Sr. Content Marketing Manager
When our team started out four years ago, most of our marketing plan was to overcomplicate any strategy we came up with.
This wasn’t intentional.
But we had this habit of overlooking some basic foundations for customer satisfaction and retention and ended up getting further and further away from finding a solid marketing strategy.
Or long-term customers.
What were we missing?
The fact that an audience was such a vital focus to each step of a comprehensive marketing strategy. We didn’t cover all our bases because we failed to put real intention on each part of our marketing equation.
In short, our funnel development was a mess. We clumped our efforts together and didn’t evenly analyze what pieces were working for us and which were working against us.
We did a lot of rinsing and repeating for accounts and failed our audience by not taking the time to simply refocus what our efforts were showing us.
Our team spent so much time and energy into the awareness part of the sales funnel, we failed to focus on the customers who were meeting us in stage one and providing key insight into the following stages of success.
We brought them in and then immediately forgot about them by moving on to the next sale. We’re sorry about that, y’all.
The see-saw of our back and forth efforts ended up showing us a focused strategy for all our clients.
Our aha moment wasn’t immediate.
It was a long process of seeing the pieces as they unfolded. And then analyzing the pieces to see what we missed along the route.
We could blame it on the fact that our summers consistent of 100-degree temperatures or how we’re in one of the top rated cities for allergy sufferers. But at least we read the tea leaves within the mess and made it our own.
We took this approach and newish-found knowledge and were able to delicately fine tune it, focusing our efforts into three easy but robust steps.
Enter the Texas 3 Step
1. Audience Development→ 2. Sales Funnel Development→ 3. Client Retention
Prior to this 3-step approach, we were just plugging the holes in our leaking strategy ship.
Instead of labeling audience development in one category we separated the faces: cold audiences/prospects are different than a warm audience or an already engaged client.
But why were our efforts not separated from the beginning?
We believed the way we spoke to a warm audience was the same way we could speak to a cold audience.
We weren’t making their path special or catering to what they wanted. Nope, we were lumping them both together assuming they were the same type of people with the same needs.
Kind of like lumping U2 concert-goers with Drake fans and saying they want to see the same stuff. Probably not the same road traveled.
Once we separated our two audience groups we created a carefully curated path for this type of person to be on and engage with our content how they wanted. This allowed us to know what to produce and for who: Where were they in their journey? What was next in the path towards long-term commitment with us?
This strategy showed us what was missing as we focused in on the separate audience paths, and what we needed to convert at the highest rate possible. We’re not saying we just wanted them to convert to sales. Sure, that’s our long term goal but we want them to like us first.
Enabling an audience to want to become a member of your community and to allow them to trust you, is the first step to any path you want them to travel or any relationship.
The traditional sales funnel sounds like a terrifying vacuum where you get people to enter this device by some offer or awareness piece and then suck them through a process (as quickly as possible) without really paying attention to what you’re saying. Or what your audience is wanting.
Nobody wants to get stuck in your vacuum. And your audience is getting smarter. They aren’t engaging with content that isn’t relevant to them and with over 4,000 pieces of content in front of us each day, you better get your game on track if you want to connect with your ideal customer for the long haul.
Their journey should be fun and informative, not filled with dust and mites and who knows what else you stuffed in your pipeline. Leave your sales vacuum in the community dumpster where all other failed sales funnels have crashed and burned.
Step 1 – Audience/Awareness/Engagement Building
Awareness starts with curiosity.
In order to build an audience, you have to produce content that gets their attention. The awareness funnel allows the first conversation between brand and customer. A meet-cute wrapped in content the client has been searching for and found in us.
We’re the potential solution to whatever problem they are needing solved.
Audience development is where branding and awareness should be magnified. The engagement built here will showcase not only your product or service but also lead you to find the people who will convert to customers.
How do you reel them in?
By identifying the sweet spot of content you can use to inspire and delight potential customers.
What type of information is your client looking to get an answer to? What areas in your field are they wanting to gain knowledge?
What is your job as a brand? Your job is to provide insight and solutions to the people who need it.
Somewhere buried behind your company’s vision board and that mission statement your employees were told to memorize, lies the content mission statement that gives your brand, its purpose and why. The reason you started doing the thing you’re still doing today.
Find the connection between the audience and your product or expertise.
What can you do with that sweet spot of knowledge you want to share and your potential customer is looking for? There are so many ways to provide insight into an audience through a variety of different platforms.
A few to start would be written or video content, conferences, speaking engagements, radio, contests, social media, collaborations with other influencers...the list is endless! But, just because it's endless, doesn’t mean it will all work for you.
Take the time to test and figure out what works and what doesn’t. The point is that your audience is looking for guidance and you have the answer. Give it to them.
This connection is key to your top funnel engagement where you are delighting clients with educational and informative content.
And, the HaaS (Humans as a Service) video content marketing program uses video as the entry point to meet your audience. A simple concept but a singular platform no one had really taken the time to outline.
It’s no mystery that companies are finding success with video marketing. The HaaS makes it easy for your brand and audience to find each other.
Step 2 – Sales Funnel Development
Say goodbye to an outdated sales funnel and yes to developing a relationship.
Once your audience has met you formally and agreed they want to stick around for more content; your next step is to grow the relationship and lead them towards your intention.
What is your intention? Like any strategy, you need a goal for your customers, some accomplishment or next step to get them to.
You may have heard this called the “bread crumb” offer. A small incentive to move people deeper into the relationship. Most people get caught up in the idea that this offer must make them money.
They fail to realize most people aren’t ready to make a purchase with you yet (so back off!).
The last thing you want to happen is the scenario where a prospective customer is genuinely intrigued and engaging with the content you are serving them and out of nowhere, get slapped with some quick offer asking to BUY NOW.
But I barely know thee?!
Most likely, your customer is going to hit unsubscribe or turn off your notifications.
Like the high schooler that got overconfident after the first date and thinks they can score on the second, you have to put meaning, integrity and time between you and your customer before jumping ahead.
We were that high schooler. We just wanted the sale.
Completing a sale sounds too transactional for our taste, and frankly demotes the human on the other side of the screen. We’ve grown up since then and like you, don’t want to push our customers away because of some poorly timed offers.
As intentional marketers today, we recognize our past hang-ups and are committed to this process for any campaign we roll out. We’re sorry if we were pushy or rude. We didn’t deserve you and we are definitely making up for it now.
All of us marketers should be honored that someone has decided, out of all the millions of pieces of content out there on the web, that our stuff resonated with them. They want to stick around so let’s make sure it’s worth their time.
This relationship of trust is one to be nurtured and optimized for growth (both for the business and most importantly, the customer).
Keeping the customer in mind, what questions do they need to be answered before they would want to make a purchase? What problems will they need to overcome?
This doesn’t have to be a big offering either. We’ve found success in low barrier-to-entry offers to give our customers a taste of what could provide for them.
A free trial of your product or service is a great next step and makes it easier for the customer to test if your platform is a fit for them before they fully commit. Test different offerings to see which ones resonate with your audience.
A great approach is to offer a free incentive that helps your customer get closer to their goals and gain you more trust.
We were guilty of moving too fast with our customers. We would put an offer up, put a shiny call-to-action next to it and then pat ourselves on the back for moving our clients ahead in the funnel.
We didn’t ask them if they were ready.
And we didn’t give them the proper amount of time and content to earn their trust.
There were so many more steps we needed to accomplish between a new member joining and them wanting to take the next step in the relationship.
Every relationship needs a few test runs before a marriage certification is signed.
Step 3 – Client Retention (ie: Delight)
Customer relationships are like any other relationship you care about.
Once you’ve built a solid community of customers, it’s your duty to make sure everything you produce is there to keep them satisfied.
Remember the reason they chose your content to follow. Don’t let them down by producing sub-par stuff. Your clients will ultimately become your biggest advocates and brand ambassadors.
We’ve seen so many clients (including ourselves) cringe at the thought of asking for more from their customers. But like your mom always reminded you, “what’s the worst that could happen...they say no?” We tend to imagine an answer before we even try asking.
Here’s the truth: If you have a great product or program, your clients will want to share it with people they know.
Mostly because they want to be right about something, but also because they want friends to see the benefit too.
This relationship can enhance your community by extending this relationship to people they know, and more. How do you think testimonials happen?
We’ve found when people trust your brand and want to share with others how much your service has impacted their lives.
That’s content gold right there.
Take a look at what current customers are asking for and how you can enhance their experience. Better yet, is there another product or service at your company that would serve them?
Cater your content around this and you’ll see not only the growth of customer satisfaction but also your sales.
You already have the relationship intact so just because the honeymoon phase might be over, the relationship is still growing to even more potential.
We’ve created personalized offers for customers who have been with us since the beginning, and incentives for those who refer our services. There are so many ways to keep customers motivated and engaged.
A happy customer means a happy you. Check out some examples of highly favorable content you can use in our own marketing strategy today:
The wheel is always moving with current customers because we recognize everyone is different.
We’re still growing and learning, so is our strategy.
The Texas 3-step was created after multiple failures.
We know we aren’t through the finish line just yet and are far from washing our hands of the idea of never having to re-frame our approach.
We’ll always be tweaking this strategy but for now, we have a solid approach to begin the conversation and ultimately know where we want to direct our efforts.
As technology continues to intensify and access to our audiences changes in response to it, we at least have these three points to guide our mission.
Texans are known for many things, but we like to believe southern charm and hospitality has helped in making this strategy work.
Sure we’ve been kicked down a few times and lost some footing along the way. But in true Texas style, we met the challenges head-on and found our strength to shine.