Is Your Competition Winning in The Customer Engagement Cycle?

February 2nd, 2009 by Will Scott

Holy cow it’s taken me a long time to write this! But that’s good news because I’ve been adding to my own understanding in the meantime.

I have been intending to post on this since before my friend Chris Schultz wrote his “10 Tips for Launching Your Startup” in which he brushed on the core concept, the Customer Engagement Cycle: A C I P R (Awareness, Consideration, Inquiry, Purchase and Retention (Referral)).

Take for instance the “Referral” above, I’ve come to realize that this is as valuable as “Retention” in the model. And sometimes is more effectively leveraged toward referral than repurchase.

Chris Schultz and I were both reminded of this at a recent Net2NO meeting (New Orleans Net Squared Group) by Chris Skinner, a New Orleans local and a big-brand search pioneer.

Being an entrepreneur trying to lead our business, with a little tunnel vision, I tried to apply it to my own recent experience, and below I’ll share that with you.

At the time, “awareness” seemed a heady concept but I’ve since come to recognize how it applies to what we do. Often as not, our customers’ “Customer” is already Aware. They know the product exists. There are clearly times, however, when it behooves us to drive awareness as well, and I’ll close with that story. As you think about these, their meaning is pretty obvious but I’ll editorialize in case it’s not all the way there for you.

Customer Engagement Cycle Defined

  • Awareness
    “Hey, check that out. I didn’t know that was an option. Wow, that’s kinda cool. Glad I saw that”
  • Consideration
    “You know, that thing I saw might fill this need / desire. Hmmm”
  • Old Telephone PictureInquiry
    “Hi, I heard about that thing, and I have a need. Do you guys have that thing? Do you think that thing fits my need? Could I come down and talk about that?”
  • Purchase
    If anybody is unclear on “Purchase” raise your hand please.
  • Retention
    “Hi Bob, this is Suzie down at widget-town. I wanted to check in and see how you’re enjoying that thing. Oh really, that’s great! Glad to hear it. Keep an eye on your inbox because we’ve signed you up for our newsletter with some great tips on maintaining that thing. Thanks again Bob, we appreciate you.”

So, Skinner gives his talk and I say “yeah, yeah, Awareness — big brand heady stuff”.

Consideration, I get that. That’s what keyword research is for, right? You’re thinking about it, you’re typing it into Google and I’m taking you where my client wants you to go.

Inquiry – that’s when conversion matters. You’re asking questions, I’ve got answers and I need you to know how to get those questions answered. Once you arrive, I need to get you in our funnel so we can make sure you make it to the next step.

Old Cash Register PicturePurchase…

… cha-ching!

Retention: or as my step-father always said it’s much easier to sell to someone who’s already bought from you.

But what about referral? Your customers can be your fans if you let them. My friend Mack Collier talked about social media as “Making Yourself a Rock Star” and I think it was taken in the wrong connotation. His intent was not that you should put yourself on a pedestal, engage in substance abuse and fly around in private jets, it was that if you made a point to make fans from your customers you would have all the free promotion that fanaticism brings.

I often reference my BNI membership and it proves the value of a good referral.

For instance, one of my BNI fellows recommended us to a friend who is having a reputation management issue. I met the guy for lunch on Friday, we talked for an hour and he signed for a nice sized one-time fee. I was pre-sold by the referral and it got us past the point of proving the value to discussing the issues.

Light Bulb
Finally, back to Awareness and a couple recent stories which led me to my to rethink my perspective.

One of our clients is among a very few plastic surgeons in the US who have had special training in a combination procedure called Lipoabdominoplasty. This is, essentially a tummy tuck with upper abdominal liposuction. There are a number of benefits, which I’m not near qualified to talk about, but suffice it to say it’s a less invasive tummy tuck with shorter recovery time and, many would say, better looking outcomes.Week before last, they had an appointment scheduled by a patient from California. They’re in New Jersey! Do you think there aren’t any qualified surgeons in California, clearly there are, but by virtue of promoting this specialized procedure our guy was able to garner interest from the plastic surgery capital of the world.

This lady was ready to fly cross-country for a revolutionary procedure — that’s Awareness!

And really finally on Awareness, I had an epiphany about Twitter. How many of you have heard of Twitter ? Twitter is a micro-blogging platform used for quick messaging encompassing both broadcast and dialog. For those of you not using it, it’s like instant-messaging to hundreds at a time, with the occasional conversation breaking out. It’s definitely a bit of work to find out with whom you’d like to connect, but once you get going you’ll find it easy to grow those connections.

Twitter IconIn thinking of Twitter and some of the things we’ve got going on with a couple clients I came to the realization that Awareness isn’t necessarily a big-brand issue. Awareness often applies to making a prospective customer Aware you exist.

So, we’ve got a couple customers who are building Twitter followings. In one case, the Twit (he he) is a young lady who is already enmeshed in social media and for whom it’s a natural form of communication. She is engaged in the community and sharing information and her follower base is growing quite nicely.Oh, and they’re also running the occasional giveaway — on Twitter.

The impact in links and mentions in blogs and real media is nothing short of amazing! People who never heard of these guys are getting exposed, becoming Aware and spreading the word.

Will it work for everyone? No, probably not as well. These guys have a consumer product which is ripe for giveaways and, given the demographics of Twitter, inherently viral.

These two instances the plastic surgeon and the retailer have completely changed my thinking about the Awareness component of the customer Engagement Cycle.

There is a place for us there, but it is more a function of PR then traditional website promotion in the search engines. Sure, these two cases have a search ranking perspective, but the bulk of the traffic, Awareness and interest is outside of the search engine results pages.

I find that as I look at the work we do for our customers it is helpful to think in terms of the Customer Engagement Cycle. Are we messaging appropriately? Do we have the tools we need to measure? And are we on a path to Purchase?

That last is the hardest question to answer when you’re thinking about Awareness, but our experience thus far indicates that the right kind of Awareness will definitely lead to Purchase.

How can/do you apply ACIPR to your actions with your customers (or prospects) today?

Please comment with examples.