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Focus on the relationship during the buying process

By Peter Anders Franch, Marketing Lead

Earlier this summer I read an interesting blog post on Harvard Business Review’s blog page entitled “Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel”.

It dealt with the fact that the buying process is no longer linear. Leads and prospects don’t just pop up up at the top of the sales funnel, but they come from all parts of the funnel. They can miss stages of the process, stagnate in the same stages or move back and forth between them.

The explanation for this can probably be found in the wealth of information that customers can find online, on social media and from their network. This applies to both B2B and B2C.

The article refers to McKinsey’s alternative “Customer Decision Journey”. This journey is based on a funnel that is not linear but circular. Prospects and leads have various touchpoints before, during and after a sale.

Most companies put the decision in the centre and not the experience of interacting with a customer. And this is the biggest problem with “The Customer Decision Journey”: it focuses on the decision.

Engage your audience

The arguments are good. Today you can interact and engage with brands, companies, products and solutions in ways that go way beyond just a purchase. This can take place in seminars, events, webinars, content marketing, social media and many more.

Let’s take an example. A travel agency might facilitate a forum for people interested in travel. They might never buy a trip from the company, but in the forum they share their knowledge and experience. It might also be people (I’m one of them) who like Tesla or Ferrari on Facebook but who don’t own one of their cars. It might be people with an interest in shipping who go to a port in their free time to visit a large container ship or see pictures of the container ship on Instagram.

This interaction can also take place through various apps that make employees’ daily life that bit easier. Later on, the company might buy the enterprise version of the tool. Ambassadors or advocates no longer need to be people or companies that are already customers.

You no longer have to be a customer to be an advocate. The new social currency is sharing what’s cool in the moment,” explains Joel Lunenfeld, Vice President for Global Brand Marketing at Twitter.

Create a relationship and purchase value

All things considered, this means that companies need to make their customers ambassadors or advocates long before they buy a product or solution. That’s why it’s important to provide relevant content, such as emails, blogs, apps, events, happenings or similar.

This also means seeing your potential customers in a different light. Instead of focusing on the transaction itself, you need to focus more on the relationship with the customer or lead in question.

Marketing today is incredibly different from just a few years ago. We have to navigate in a landscape which is constantly changing, thanks to new technologies, platforms and opportunities. At the same time, we have to deal with customers’ ever increasing expectations.

Looking back over the past five years, the development in marketing has been hugely exciting. And it’s just as exciting to guess how marketing will develop in five years time.

One thing is certain: We will be even more driven by technology and the purchase process will probably be completely different compared to today.