When it comes to making the most of your leads, the path to consistent growth involves moving them through a defined series of stages in order to unlock the full profit potential that lurks within each one.
In this piece, we’ll break down a sensible sequence you can use to drive long-term growth and maximise your return on that initial marketing dollar. Let’s kick things off with a look at the very bottom of the ladder.
Stage 1: First Contacts
You’ll hear different terms used to describe this particular cohort, but for our purposes a first contact is somebody who’s essentially coming to you cold. A large percentage of your weekly or monthly leads will fall into this category – somebody who’s contacting you for the first time and you haven’t yet checked whether they’re potentially a real customer or simply a tire-kicker.
Job number one here is qualifying the lead. You want to find out as soon as possible if they have a real interest in your product or service – and the authority and cash to actually make the purchase. If you can establish those things, the person moves on to stage two.
Stage 2: Prospects
Your initial follow-up has confirmed that you’re dealing with a genuine opportunity – now it’s a question of sealing the deal.
Depending on your business, you’ll sometimes see this sales process broken out into separate sub-processes such as solution presentation and objection handling, but the end goal with this group is the same – you’re looking to convert and complete the initial sale.
Stage 3: Purchasers
Once somebody has actually given you some cash, they fall into the purchasers category. Having a lot of one-time purchasers is good for short-term cash-flow, but successful businesses are built around turning this group into long-term customers.
By converting people from one-time buyers to repeat customers, you’re maximising your return on every stage of the acquisition cycle up to this point, and potentially turbocharging your long-term profits.
Stage 4: Customers
Once somebody has bought from you more than once, they’re a customer. Now you can start getting really creative in terms of attracting further purchases. You know what they’ve already bought so there’s plenty of room for special offers, promotions, and regular reminders there to boost the number of future transactions. You’ll also want to explore add-on products or services you can pitch to this segment in order to ramp up the value of the average sale.
Once you have a solid base of customers at your disposal, you’re free to experiment with more advanced tactics such as making unique offers to them from commercial partners that you may be exploring joint ventures with.
Stage 5: Raving Fans
This is the holy grail of customer development – rabid fans who are happy to go out there and essentially do your marketing and sales for you. The explosion of social media over the last eight years has made it easier than ever for your best customers to share their enthusiasm – make sure you’re taking advantage of this!
If you spend enough time trying to delight your customers, rather than simply trying to squeeze every last cent out of them, you’ll have an excellent chance of building up an army of raving fans over time.
Mastering customer development is the difference between lurching from one hit-and-hope sales and marketing initiative to the next, and having control over a predictable profit engine you can ramp up at will. Use our five-step ladder as a guide to graduating your own customers and you’re sure to see stellar results over time!