The Other Side of the Sales Funnel

In my last article, we reviewed the traditional AIDA sales process — Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. The funnel describes the traditional sales process, and it works well. But what happens _after_ the sale? Customers are hard to come by (and usually cost a lot of money). The AIDA process doesn’t cover how to keep current customers happy or how to make them brand advocates. That’s where the other side of the sales funnel comes in.

In a presentation on mobile marketing strategy, Jeremiah Owyang asserts that there are two sides to the sales funnel. In his model (which is similar to the model in “Flip the Funnel” by Joseph Jaffe), the action (or the sale) is just the middle step in the process.

Sales Funnel

As you can see, the funnel now looks more like an hourglass. In this model, there are three additional stages — Support, Loyalty, and Advocacy.

Support

If you’ve ever had buyer’s remorse, then you can understand this stage in the customer lifecycle. No product or service turns out 100% as expected by the consumer. Often times, there is a learning curve that can be frustrating, and sometimes there are quality problems or other issues that arise. A company’s support is integral to their sales process, because immediately after the sale the consumer might be on the fence as to whether they made a good purchase decision. If they’re not taken care of, they could decide to return the product or cancel the service.

Even if they can’t return the product, they don’t have to ever buy from you again. It’s critical to establish support processes that hold the customers hand through the initial issues that arise. Whether it’s warranty support, online training, or a community of other happy customers, be sure that you get your customers past the “buyers remore” phase.

Loyalty

Once customers have used your product or service for a while, they often fall into this stage. They’re happy, and they’re somewhat loyal to you. A lot of companies stop here. That’s dangerous, because competitors can start wooing your customers at any time. You need to keep in touch, making sure customers are happy.

To build loyalty, you need good products (or services), but that’s just the beginning. How can you follow through after the sale? Apple does a great job building loyalty through both sales and support channels. They release software updates regularly, send emails about complimentary products and services, and have very helpful support staff. I just recently got a reminder email that I need to purchase an AppleCare warranty before my standard one-year warranty expires. It’s the little things that make a difference.

Advocacy

The final stage of the new funnel is advocacy. This is where you can turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors—evangelists who spread the word about your business telling people about your company. Using our previous example, Apple has some of the most evangelical brand ambassadors—they are passionate and eager to show other people why Macs are better than the alternative.

To build brand ambassadors, you have to get customers excited about your products. It’s not enough to have a great product or service, you have to have a company culture that puts the customer first&emdash;from sales people to support representatives, every employee must be empowered to go the extra mile. A great example of this is The Ritz-Carlton hotels. Every employee can spend up to $2,000 on his/her own to help a customer. One story that stuck out in my mind was a guest who lost an engagement ring on the beach beside the hotel. When they mentioned it to a hotel employee, the employee went and purchased several metal detectors and, with the help of other employees, searched the beach and found the guest’s ring.

It’s safe to say that guest will be telling people about The Ritz-Carlton and the lost ring story for years to come. That kind of brand ambassador will bring in more new customers than any slogan or ad copy.

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