For a Financially Secure Future, Invest in Your Past
It's time for you to drop the "project" mentality and replaced it with the "customer" mindset, as in: “Once a customer, always a customer.” Even if a customer doesn’t have an active project at the moment, they are still a customer and should be treated that way, no less than the loyal Nordstroms customer is a customer even when they’re not in the store making purchases. They should be a part of your “loyalty program” and “future customer” program.
One way to ensure their unshakable loyalty is to craft a 100-day campaign to create Lifelong Loyalty. It’s all too easy to work hard to impress a prospective customer up to the point of the sale, only to then turn your attention to the work at hand and, as a result, lose touch with the customer as a human being and ignore their emotional journey.
But you lose a customer when they feel neglected after the sale is made. Pay particularly close attention to the distinction between a customer feeling that their project is being neglected (rare) and feeling like they are being neglected (common). The project and the client are NOT one and the same. Each must be managed separately and differently.
The Customer Life Cycle
In his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, author Joey Coleman depicts the following customer life cycle.
There’s much of value here, but I’ve taken the liberty of restating Coleman’s lifecycle with the size of the bubbles meant to loosely represent the percent of a marketing budget (time, effort, and money) that is typically spent in that phase. I get something that looks like this:
As an example, any sort of social media, paid placement, advertising, direct marketing, etc., is almost always focused on building awareness of, and knowledge about your firm. You are seeking to be considered first and selected second.
But after being selected, most designers hold the mindset that the “marketing” aspect of a client relationship has ended. They spend very little and have few if any structured programs for the last three phases shown above. In fact, if I could have made the font smaller, I would have shown the bubbles that occur after the selection phase (satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy) even smaller, indicating that virtually nothing is typically spent in these phases.
Now, consider this pattern of investment in light of a statement that I am ready to make on the basis of the hundreds of successful interior design firms I have studied over the past twenty years.
“Over the life of your career, more dollars will flow to your bottom line from the Post-purchase investment in marketing than the Pre-purchase investment.”
Yet all of your time, money, thought, and effort are going into websites, blogging, posting, mailing, networking, etc. I’m not suggesting you stop those efforts as I think some ongoing marketing activity is essential. But, I am asking that you rebalance those efforts and put more into lifetime customers (as I’ve defined them) and not quite so much into more and more new customers.
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Let's look at this data and introduce another key variable—the dollars you spend on marketing during each phase. The long triangle underneath the lifecycle indicates your marketing investment of time, energy, and money. It shows that a high percentage of your budget is spent to gain awareness and almost nothing to formally build on lifetime value while clients are clients.
The provocative question this leads to, is: “What would the long-term impact be on your career earnings if you completely reversed this spending pattern?”
If I had to choose between these two spending patterns, and my sole goal was to maximize lifetime earnings (without concern in my hypothetical world for paying the bills this month!) I’d choose the second one.
One More Flaw
There’s a lot to like about Coleman’s book, but I kept waiting for him to convert his lifecycle into the order in which it actually flows when properly executed. He never did, so I’ll do it for him. Here is how the lifecycle should work with the relative size of the circles indicating the amount of conscious marketing and business development time, money, and effort required during that phase.
There is no start and stop. There’s no discrete project or job. There’s nothing linear. It’s a cycle, a never-ending cycle! It’s a continuum that just happens to have projects and jobs and clients contained within.
Of course, the task at hand is often to get new clients NOW! And there’s nothing wrong with that. We have methods for doing that. But I am convinced that at least in the background, you should be playing the long game and at the end of that game, I’m convinced you will have generated more wealth by how you attended to Post-purchase phases of the lifecycle, than to Pre-purchase phases.
[If that's something you need, please see this blog post.]
Studies show that the lifetime value of a loyal customer can be greater than ten times the value of their first purchase. Like money left in a bank account, investments in customer loyalty compound over time. The clients who will determine your financial future are more likely former ones, than current ones.
In this case, an investment in your past truly is an investment in your future!