One of the most common mistakes I see small business owners make in regards to their marketing efforts is that they expect their prospects to buy from them almost immediately after their first introduction to the business. It’s kind of like asking someone to marry you after the first date.
For example, do any of these situations sound familiar:
• You send out a postcard and expect your phone to magically start ringing off the hook after the first mailing.
• You meet someone at a networking event, invite him to coffee, and then expect him to hire your company after you’ve told him all about your business.
• You put up a LinkedIn page and expect a huge following and lots of sales simply because you promoted your company on your page.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “People need to know, like and trust you before they’ll buy from you.” People say that all the time, but then they don’t tell you specifically what marketing activities will help you build the three factors of knowing, liking, and trusting your company. These three factors should be the foundation upon which all of your marketing tactics are based, so you can nurture your prospects through the buying process and make them come back for more.
In my business, I teach and use a seven-step process called the Marketing Hourglass. The hourglass represents the entire customer experience, from the time a prospect becomes aware of your business to the time they refer your business. This process resonates with people because it finally becomes clear as to why their marketing isn’t working. You see that it’s not enough to have people know you. You have to intentionally create the content, tools, and experiences that guide them towards liking, trusting, and eventually buying from your company.
The Seven Steps of the Marketing Hourglass
1) Know: This tends to be the place where most business owners spend the bulk of their marketing efforts and dollars. It’s all about awareness and getting the word out about your business. But this is just the first step—yet it is the step that costs the most.
Marketing activities that build awareness: Advertising, direct mail, door- hanger flyers, trade shows, networking introductions, referrals, Pay Per Click advertising, online search results, online listings in directories and/or review sites, and public relations.
"It’s not enough that people know your company exists—effective marketing leads people to like, trust, and eventually buy from your company."
2) Like: Once prospects have been introduced to your business, it’s your job to keep them interested. It’s great if people find your website because of high search rankings, but if they don’t like what they see, they won’t stay on or engage with your site for very long—and where’s the value in that?
Marketing activities that increase likeability: Blog content or articles that answer customer questions and frustrations, “how-to” videos, newsletter sign-ups, social media “likes” or “follows,” repeat direct mail that gets saved, QR codes that get scanned, local sponsorships, participation in community events such as benefits and/or fundraisers.
3) Trust: Trust goes deeper than “like.” When a prospect likes what they’ve seen so far, they’re willing to dig a little deeper. For example, if they trust your company, they’ll be wiling to give up their email address in order to receive valuable content or special offers that you can provide.
Marketing activities that build trust: SEO (people have more trust in the companies found on first page search results), ebooks or white paper downloads, reading your newsletters, ongoing networking, social media engagement, positive review site comments, public speaking, testimonials, and case studies,.
4) Try: Do you have a no-cost or low-cost way to let people try what you have to offer? Typically, the more expensive the product or service, the more risk involved in making the purchase. So letting them try your service first simply makee it easier for them to make the decision.
Marketing activities that allow prospects to “try” your services: Workshops or seminars, evaluations, audits, demos, DIY Training, starter offer, switch offer, open house, free consultation, discount coupons, a strong guarantee that removes risk.
5) Buy: When a prospect makes the decision to buy your cleaning service, make it a great experience for them. It has to be more than just a transaction. Don’t let them get through the first 4 steps of the Hourglass and then have a hiccup or frustration as you onboard them.
Marketing activities that create a better buying experience: Educate your service team on the process for onboarding customers and how to treat them, create a new client kit, offer a seamless billing experience, or give an unexpected gift with their purchase.
6) Repeat: We all want repeat customers—it’s the lifeblood of any successful business. That said, there are a few specific things you can do to keep clients coming back again and again.
Marketing activities that encourage repeat business: Survey clients after the first couple months of service to fix any inconsistencies, upsell additional services, customer-only offers, customer loyalty programs, customer-specific events.
7) Refer: Don’t just be grateful when you receive a referral— create a plan to ensure that you receive referrals consistently. The more referrals you receive, the less you have to spend on the “know” portion of your Marketing Hourglass.
Marketing activities that provide a steady stream of referrals: Have a process for getting client referrals at the time they make positive comments about your business, form strategic partnerships with businesses that have the same target market as you, offer incentives for referrals, find a way to give extra rewards to your referral champions.
Marketing can be a daunting task, but it’s absolutely critical to your business success. Here is my challenge to you: On a sheet of paper, list the seven steps of the Marketing Hourglass (Know, Like Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, Refer). Next to each one, write down all the marketing tactics you currently use for each step. Chances are, you will discover a few gaps, where you could be doing more. From there, figure out which marketing activities make the most sense for your own business and try them out. Start filling the gaps of your marketing program with these activities, and before you know it, your marketing momentum will pick up steam—and ultimately increase your company’s overall success.
Jean Hanson is a long-time entrepreneur, co-founding two commercial cleaning companies, and in 2005, launching TheJanitorialStore.com, a business portal for commercial cleaning business owners.