Why Understanding The Relationship-Building Life Cycle For Your Business Is Worth Its Weight In Gold

Regardless of the number of employees, revenue, operational structure, or future growth forecasting, most companies funnel all of their relationship-building efforts through a contact relationship management tech platform, or commonly referred to as a CRM.

If your business fits into the “Corporate America” world or has a number of platforms in your tech stack that cater to an enterprise-sized company, then you’re likely more familiar with what’s hip, chic, and cutting-edge than a small “mom and pop” or independently-owned business.

Case in point? Over 80% of the companies that Bravo Business Media works with to enhance their business development endeavors do not have a centralized location to manage the sales pipeline. In an attempt to bring our industry up to speed, we wanted to explain the various stages a contact goes through in the relationship-building life cycle.

The 7 Stages Of The Relationship-Building Process You Should Know

Rather than analyzing all of the tech platforms available these days and breaking down what is or is not a best practice regarding rams, roms, bits, and bytes, we wanted to use this opportunity to discuss the various stages of the relationship-building process for a business like yours.

Stage #1: A Suspect

All that is known about a contact at this stage is if this person could be an ideal candidate to work with and benefit from what your company brings to market.

Suspects can include the following analytics:

  • Data related to geographic location (i.e. zip codes, proximity from your business in miles)
  • Conversations that have been of interest with a friend, co-worker, person in the community or family member about your business
  • “Likes” or interests in pages on social media, or similar to what you sell

At this stage, we don’t know if the contact has an adequate budget for what you sell, if they prefer this or that, or if they are currently working with another provider. In short, building your “suspect list” can be considered the “ground zero” of strengthening the possibilities of who could eventually become an ideal buyer in your sales and marketing pipeline.

Stage #2: A Prospect

A prospect is a B2B or B2C contact who may already be buying similar goods and services from you or a competitor, involved in various networking groups, or a member of various online communities, such as parenting groups, MeetUp groups, church groups, women in business networks, chambers of commerce, industry associations, and so on.

On the B2C side, a prospect may be consumers who have reviewed businesses that serve a similar client profile as yours or a high impact person in business in your local area. From a B2B vantage point, a prospect may be a member of a buying group that you’re a vetted vendor for or seek you out because you’re able to sell your lines to them directly. As you know, the supply chain in just about every industry can be quirky at times – especially in today’s economy.

At the prospect level, the key to mining “the gold” is to implement filtering so that you can adequately move people through the process and gain confidence in their interest regarding your business, service or products. Asking somebody influential (who perhaps has worked with this person previously) to connect you is a strategy that works well at the prospect stage of the relationship development process.

Stage #3: A Lead

A lead is a contact who has essentially raised his or her hand and said, “Tell me more about what you do and how I can benefit?” One of the best ways to fast-track a contact who began as a “suspect,” moved into “prospect,” and then identified as a “lead,” is to effectively create filters and modifiers. These filters and modifiers can advance contacts further with a deep understanding that the words in your marketing message on your website, social media channels, email copy, and all the content you create are a match. This is one of Showroom Marketing team’s most competent skills and value-adds when working with clients.

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The Director of Conversions for our Showroom Marketing Team and former “30 Under 30” for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Austin Pike frequently shares data-driven insights about which keywords generate website clicks, phone calls, form fill-outs, live chat bots and wish list submissions, along with appointments that are booked on calendar softwares, or direction clicks that lead to walk-ins, from a business’s Google My Business page, and/or eCommerce sales. Austin has created a grid of top buying terms and phrases which your ideal browsers use that he incorporates into his process for blanketing the first page of Google – which is where 92% of the inquiries we tracked in Q3 and Q4 of 2021 came from, for a business like yours.

Our Showroom Marketing Team has developed a two-tier information-dispensing process that shows you, in advance, where most of your high-probability buyers will likely be coming from on the web like and it’s like nothing else in our industry!

Step #1 is to have our team study & analyze how many monthly targeted web searchers in your area take to Google and begin by typing in, “bath or kitchen showroom near me,” product categories such as “bathroom vanities,” “farmhouse sinks,” or “soaking tubs,” and specific brands such as Toto, California Faucets, Waterstone, and more, and then put that information into a comprehensive deliverable termed, A Market Analysis Report.

Step #2 involves Austin filming, an Analytics Intelligence Video which involves interpreting your company’s Google Analytics information, making a few suggestions about how to turn more browsers into buyers by improving your website design, as well as “auditing” many of the top metrics that matter most in your Google Ad campaign (if your company has an Ad Account).

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Our clients often share results-reporting deliverables that provide more clarity about the effectiveness and profitability of their current marketing campaigns than they realize.

For example, one of our clients recently shared a reporting dashboard demonstrating their various leads. However, when we dug deeper, there was no name, contact information, or message related to what it is their “leads” were specifically looking for. #NotGood

Therefore, this information is incomplete, and these types of insights—or lack thereof—don’t provide enough “meat on the bone” to confidently forecast and scale a successful marketing campaign.

If you’ve ever spent time searching for an email related to the status of a lead, having your Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) organized in your sales pipeline is extremely important. Thus, the top priority at the lead stage is to get interested parties to become high-probability buyers.

Stage #4: A High-Probability Buyer

A High Probability Buyer is a business contact or homeowner who has not only expressed interest in meeting and getting acquainted with your team but who has also done their homework about their preferences. As a salesperson, the most prepared consumers are oftentimes the most fun to work with.

As you advance the information related to a particular contact in your relationship management tool, the goal is to make working with you as effortless as possible, as you continue to maintain their information.

According to Austin Pike, “many times the roles and goals of personnel at a company can change in our industry, and we have seen firsthand dozens of times how much revenue can be lost when adequate information about a customer’s journey with your company is not maintained on the regular.”

Filling your sales pipeline with high-probability buyers is the pivot point for marketing effectiveness turning to predictable revenue generation. In short, the more data-driven, disciplined and thorough your information gathering system is, the easier it will be to turn insights into income at your company.

Stage #5: A Satisfied Client

At this stage with A Satisfied Client, the transaction has been “inked” and you are under the belief that all went well but you aren’t 100% sure of that yet. In the showroom sector of business, a prospect has become a lead by getting a quote, which then turns into a proposal. Using a digital proposal creation software like Spexbuilder that can track the contact’s or recipient’s activity, such as when the document is opened, which pages were viewed, and for how long, tells your sales team which follow-up action to take.

Up until this stage in the customer journey, a true intent to buy or what the lifetime value of a client or trade account can be worth to you is not fully known yet.

In other words, be careful not to treat your B2C clients and B2C accounts like a transaction along their journey because it could cost you in many ways in the long run. They say your reputation in business takes a lifetime to build and seconds to destroy. Choose your efforts and actions wisely.

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Stage #6: A Raving Fan And Referral Source

The next step is to turn your satisfied customer into a Raving Fan and Referral Source! This means that after the sale, there must be processes in place to ask for a referral, in an efficient and high-touch manner. One of the biggest no-no’s is to love your leads and customers up along the journey until they transact, and then ask them for a review or referral in a stone-cold way. No one wants to be treated like a transaction. However, there are simple things you can do to prevent this.

Many of our clients lean on our Money Making Webpage System™ to gather reviews for their company. Here is a 1-to-1 page Monique’s Bath Showroom uses to say, “Thank you for working with our team on your project – Can you please leave us a review?!

We suggest that you have client reviews visible on every page of your website, and, if possible, use screenshots of their review with their picture because web browsers love to know what they look like and relate to your current customers. Here is how ProSource Supply showcases their 5-Star reviews on their website.

Stage #7: Repeat Buyer

It is proven that satisfied customers return to purchase multiple times from a business when they have a satisfactory experience. This creates your Repeat Buyer. Therefore, do not discount your existing book of business but do reach out to them often.

One of our South Florida-based clients recently told us that the uncertain economic times in America these days has led many people with second homes to transition those homes into their primary residences. This equates to a “gold rush” for design and build businesses, like the many we serve at ShowroomMarketing.com. #PayAttentionToTheTrends

As for folks who work in the trades, and the specifiers who work in the design community in your market, it is imperative that you do everything in your power to allow them the opportunity to have you quote their next project. With a simple high-touch digital deliverable, we have had many clients generate repeat business from top builders and designers in their market simply because they asked for the opportunity to quote their next project.

Here is a page that H2O Supply in Lewisville, TX used to secure one of the biggest builder accounts on their books. Jay, the owner, joked with John of our team years ago about how he had tried for 20 years – with no success. However, after sending what we call a “digital invitation” that is part of our Outbound Marketing System, securing this new account happened seamlessly.

In summary, saying that you offer white-glove and top-shelf customer service simply isn’t enough anymore. If you’d like the Showroom Marketing Team at Bravo to analyze the way your company is keeping track of your customers’ journey through a relationship management platform or how they’re getting into your marketing and sales pipeline in the first place, we’d be more than happy to help.

At the end of the day, your business is increasing the number of inquiries and sales happening and controlling more market share in your service areas or one of your competitors is… You know what the responsible thing to do is + reaching out to us couldn’t be easier.