Over the years, a number of marketing experts, economists and business leaders have studied B2B customer psychology, customer creation and customer retention. The theories and concepts they’ve developed have gone a long way to informing marketing campaigns around the world, with thousands of ambitious companies of all shapes and sizes using these carefully crafted ideas to boost business.
One theory that’s especially applicable to what we do at Blue Donkey is Payne’s Relationship Ladder. Central to many B2B loyalty campaigns and brand awareness drives, this simple but effective theory informs much of our intelligent telemarketing work, helping us to create, build and develop an enduring customer base for our clients.
What is Payne’s Relationship Ladder?
Developed by marketing theorist Adrian Payne in the late 1990s, the Relationship Ladder is an idea that illustrates how customers can be transformed from cold potential buyers, into loyal supporters for your brand. By leading customers through five steps from ‘prospect’ to ‘advocate’ you can develop an exceptionally loyal customer base and create a team of advocates who will spread the word about your brand.
‘Prospects’ are those people for whom you believe your products and services are relevant. Lists of Prospects are gathered together in segments based on their similar needs, they are then targeted with calls and information. Often Prospects may be people who have come across your company but as yet haven’t made a purchase or really interacted with your brand. At this stage it’s important to provide whatever impetus the Prospect needs in order to transform them into a Customer.
Blue Donkey’s intelligent approach involves carefully identifying the right key decision makers, generating the first contact with them, we then nurture a dialogue with a view to getting to the next stage (meeting, sales etc). This method quickly improves the chances of moving a Prospect up the first rung of the ladder. Whether it’s about engaging buyers with a few qualification questions, or the chance to build rapport and share information, this first level of contact is crucial when developing the Relationship Ladder.
Once a person or business has made a purchase they become a ‘Customer’. If the experience is OK but unremarkable the Customer may or may not come back. We refer to this as a transactional sale. Transactional sales are common in consumer marketing but in B2B we want high value relationship based sales, where service quality and Customer experience become differentiating factors that win repeat business. This stage therefore has to go well in order for the next rung of the ladder to be considered.
Your ‘Clients’ are the people or businesses that return to your company again and again. Regular communication by telephone will help to create and retain Clients by reminding them what’s special about your product or service.
Blue Donkey are not afraid to recommend that good relationships regularly require picking up the phone. Taking the time to speak with clients and to properly understand and align with their unique needs or conditions, enables us to develop a stronger ability for giving them what they want time and time again.
At the ‘Supporter’ stage, customers are likely to be very engaged with your brand and take an active interest in your company. They’re likely to tell other people about your business, continually choose your products and services and have a loyalty to your brand. Supporters like your brand and your people, but they are still passive about recommending your brand to others.
Once you’ve built a strong relationship with a ‘Supporter’, they climb the next rung of the Relationship Ladder to become an ‘Advocate’. At this stage, they’ll have enough trust in your products and services that they’ll promote your business to ‘Prospects’ helping you to build your customer base and ensuring your good reputation in the industry.
Though your ‘Advocates’ will be invested in your business on some level – be that emotionally or professionally – they still need to feel valued if they’re going to stay on the fifth rung of the ladder. Blue Donkey can help you to develop and maintain these crucial relationships, enabling you to focus on making your business thrive.
The Relationship Ladder makes helpful links between quality, retention and profit because the cost of marketing is amortised over the lifetime of a customer with several growth and profit benefits. Customer spend increases over time and customers are cheaper to sell to than prospects because they are already invested in your brand. Additionally, satisfied customers value the service enough to pay a premium.
To find out more about our intelligent approach, or if you want to build and develop your own customer base, contact Blue Donkey today.