Most businesses feature a classic prospect and following a classic pattern, much of which we covered earlier when discussing prospects.
It’s worth noting what this basic pattern is, so that we can then go on to discuss slight variations of it. So what exactly happens to bring about a successful transition from prospect to happy and fulfilled customer?
In the beginning, you just have traffic. In that volume of traffic, you have people who, because of their basic needs, are prospects for your product or service. Try to think of this from that point of view: rather than the traditional idea of your business going fishing for prospects, your prospects are already to some degree ‘hooked’ simply because they have a need. They may not be aware of it, or they may be burningly aware of it. In the most usual of situations, they are only partially aware of it.
The sequence goes like this:
• a prospect is usually only partially aware of a need at the moment when he or she is a ‘traffic particle’, travelling through life. Let’s say a woman is browsing the internet, casually looking for sports clothing.
• though she may only be casually looking, in the context of this example she does have a hidden core need: something lies behind the browsing, perhaps a long term goal to get fit. This might only fleetingly have her attention, but the degree to which she is gripped by the need is the degree to which she is a prospect.
• she has her attention grabbed by a commanding figure or image or idea. This can be a customer template so exactly matching her own that it is gripping, like suddenly and unexpectedly seeing yourself in a mirror; it can also be an opinion leader or authority figure whom she respects. Let’s imagine she finds a female athlete wearing a particular brand of sports gear.
• this figure or template of the athlete is so uncannily like her, or resonates with her basic need, that she becomes more orientated to that hidden core need, opening up the basic vacuum of the process
• a journey commences, as she is pulled forward by this basic vacuum.
• her awareness of his or her need is magnified during this motion. This is where the marketing campaigns use of other kinds of vacuum come into play: she is drawn in by ‘What happens next?’ type questions, or mystery questions like ‘What is really going on?’ If appropriate, there may be a moral question involved too (which is why ‘Fair Trade’ products and other ethically-positioned products and services do so well). Perhaps the female athlete is in a short video about fitness, which points out the hazards of not taking action to improve one’s well-being. However the marketing campaign does it, the idea is NOT to ‘sell’ the prospect anything, but to magnify her vacuums.
• the prospect may encounter testimony from a happy customer at this point, but only if it assists forward progress.
• the prospect also may meet an image of failure - in other words, she may glimpse what might happen should she fail to become fitter, not just as a piece of theory but in the form of another template, a failing person.
All of the above succeeds in making her basic vacuum large enough to prompt her to take action and buy the sports clothing, or whatever it is.
• once that commitment has been made (and the product or service purchased) the prospect is now a customer. At this point, there is often an emerging customer involved in the process, someone a little further along the line than the prospect - an older companion who is making gains in filling her basic vacuum, whose experience can assist the now new customer in applying whatever it is that they have bought. Many businesses provide a way of contacting other customers through forums or in group pages.
• throughout all of this, there should be a backdrop to the new customer’s story, a dominating narrative which moves things along. The most successful products or services are those which present themselves as part of a wider story. Think about the recent trend towards ‘moral’ businesses, or ‘green’ businesses or businesses which are involved in charities.
• eventually, the new customer meets and defeats the core need that she had in the beginning: the clothing is worn and is enjoyed, or the toothbrush is used, or the insurance deal is settled and gives her peace of mind.
• the new customer transcends the world in which he or she has lived, leaving that particular basic need behind her.
What is the ‘nuclear reactor’ which has driven this sequence along?
The prospect’s initial core vacuum or need.
How did the business assist that nuclear reactor to do its work?
1) It had an accurate and commanding customer template, pointing at the core vacuum
2) It magnified that basic need by pointing out the dangers of it growing worse
3) It used, where applicable, testimony from a happy customer
4) It used a comparative image of failure to increase vacuum size, which prompted action
5) It provided a way of contacting other, already-existing customers through forums or in group pages
6) It used a narrative which moved things along, presenting the business as part of a wider story.
How is this different from the traditional model in which the person in the street is almost an antagonist with a lack of attention, then a lack of motion, then a lack of commitment? In that model, as we have seen, the job of the marketer is a quest to overpower a potential customer to get a sale.
In this new model, a marketing campaign is a facility designed to make the transition from need to fulfilment as efficient and smooth as possible.
Prospects are in orbit around needs. The truth is that, as far as your product or service is concerned, a prospect is already circling that need, even before they encounter anything to do with you. Your job as a marketer is to point to the need, magnify the need, indicate a solution to the need and then provide help in acquiring that solution.
This can go wrong at several specific points:
1) The customer template can be weak or non-existent, so that the prospect doesn’t see anything or recognise herself in the mirror you are trying to hold up.
2) If the prospect is captured by the customer template, you can fail to magnify her basic need which means that it will remain as it is, to weak to prompt action.
3) Testimonies from happy customers may be unavailable or not used.
4) You might fail to use a comparative image of failure to increase vacuum size, again leaving the prospect’s vacuum too weak to cause her to buy anything.
5) This is the biggest failure in business: once you have a customer, you fail to provide enough assistance so that the customer fails to use your product or service well enough. They end up as an ‘unfulfilled customer’: someone who was committed enough to buy what you offered, but who then wandered away dissatisfied, inadequately helped.
6) You didn’t develop a narrative which moved things along in the background.
These failings give us the slight variations that we see in practice in the business world: companies that have no idea of customer templates, who therefore struggle to get numbers up; companies who don’t bother trying to magnify prospect vacuums, meaning that they have a lot of traffic but few conversions; companies that fail to assist customers enough, so that they eventually lose them rather than benefitting from rave testimonies; companies who don’t develop a background story and thus stay smaller than they might otherwise have been.
Now what you need is a simple programme for implementing all of this.
That’s coming up next.
Next: A Simple Programme for Implementing All of This