Key Process Stages

Whatever anyone says, Marketing is merely a process.  It is not a dark art, and anyone pretending that there is a “secret marketing formula” for success, is talking cobblers.  Marketing is actually a very logical process.  You are simply creating a defined product and service for a defined audience and then putting the mechanisms in place to stimulate demand, facilitate the purchase and subsequent ongoing customer support, so that they always come back to you and will positively promote you.

You may well be currently wasting time and money on marketing activity, unless it is underpinned by robust processes.  Yes, you may still be reasonably happy as you are getting a positive return on your marketing budget.  But if you had rock solid processes in place, instead of generating 200% ROI it could be potentially generating you nearer to 800%, or even more.  

What is a Process?

A process, by definition is “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end”

Graphic showing myriad of business processes

So, let’s take a look at some of the key areas within your customer marketing lifecycle (listed below) and consider whether you have a solid, documented process that is followed.  If you do, score yourself 3 points for each of the areas.  For those who do but it is not being stringently followed, then score yourself a 2.  If you do sort of have one, but it is not official and documented, then score yourself 1.  Have nothing at all and you are winging it, then it’s a zero.

  1. Marketing prospect process (lead generation)
  2. Enquiry tracking process
  3. Sales process (from enquiry to quote and to sales conversion)
  4. Customer on-boarding process
  5. Feedback process
  6. Referral process
  7. Customer repurchase process
  8. Dormant customer process  

OK, so if you scored a perfect 24 points, there is little point reading on.  You are either at the top of your game, or in denial.  In either circumstance, for different reasons, this blog isn’t really going to be of much benefit to you.

We would anticipate, however, that you probably scored around 10-14 points, or in some cases perhaps even lower.  Don’t beat yourself up! The good thing is that there are loads of improvements you can make to add value to your bottom line.

Why is a Process so important?

Egg timer showing time money efficiency

By investing time in mapping out clearly defined processes throughout the prospect and customer lifecycle and, thus, becoming a process driven business, you will:

  1. Save thousands of hours
  2. Save thousands of pounds (in both increased efficiency, and customer retention)
  3. Maintain continuity and consistency (both in levels of activity and customer experience)
  4. Become less reliant on key individuals (anyone can be trained in the process)
  5. Improve conversion rates

So back to those key areas in a customer’s marketing lifecycle.  Let’s take a look at them in more detail.

1 – Marketing Prospect Process

Cogs showing different elements of marketing process

The Marketing prospect process could also be described as a lead generation process, or even part of the sales process.  We have separated it out though as we feel it needs standalone consideration.  Why a process is important at this stage is that, although it could be a series of different activity processes, it continuously maintains activity.

For example, if you are using social media to attract and engage with new prospects you may have a process around how many “reach out connections” are going to be made on a weekly or daily basis, what the content of these messages are, and what the follow up response is going to be, depending on how they have engaged with you (with some parameters around timescales).

Similarly, if you have IP tracking software on your website, such as Lead Forensics, Leadfeeder, or Canddi then you may have a couple of different processes if:

  1. You identify a new prospect who was on the site for over 3 minutes and expressed an interest in specific pages.
  2. You identify a returning customer who has not purchased for 24 months.

An e-commerce website may have set up an automated process to email clients who placed items in their basket but never completed to check out.  It may also set up an automated remarketing campaign to ensure your keep your brand in the forefront of these prospective customers.

Basically, whatever marketing techniques you are using to get leads into your sales pipeline, you should have a clear process behind it, to move these leads along the pipeline.

2 – Enquiry Tracking Process

So, if you have a marketing prospect process, surely by default you must have an enquiry tracking process?  Well, actually no.  Many clients we start working with may well have set up marketing activities with some clear routine processes behind them, but when they activity starts to generate an official enquiry, the wheels come off.

Enquiry tracking is important because unless we track all enquiries into the business, and their source of origin, how can we measure which activities are being most effective?  This not only applies to effectiveness in terms of lead generation, but also in terms of conversion rates, sales value and return on investment.

CRM systems are a great way to capture all incoming enquiries.  However, some printed enquiry sheets for telephone staff to complete and a central enquiry log spreadsheet can be sufficient for smaller companies with smaller budgets.  Saying that, so many cloud based CRM systems have a “Lite” or “Free” version which you should quite easily be able to configure to suit your business at little or no cost.    

3 – Sales Process

Customers entering the sales funnel

Now for most businesses the classic “sales process” will start once an enquiry or lead is in the pipeline.  Traditionally this is the point where the “sales team” take over from marketing and start the ongoing dialogue.  Although the boundaries between the two disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred, the generation of the lead is only the start of the process.

It is quite possible that you may have a number of alternative sales processes depending upon the nature of the enquiry.  However, you want to ensure that everyone in the business is aware of…

  • What the next stage in the process is;
  • Who is responsible for it happening;
  • Within what timescales it needs to happen (your internal KPI)

Again, a CRM system can provide the clarity for everyone to view the lead and see what stage of the sales process it is at.  A typical sales process may well include:

  • Initial communication to qualify lead (phone or email)
  • Initial fact-find (or potentially a site visit) to identify/scope out needs
  • Quote creation and submission
  • Follow up quote communication
  • Clarity on decision timescales etc
  • “Close” meeting or call

Obviously, there can be as many or as few stages in the process which will largely depend on the complexity of the purchase and the typical sales timeline.

4 – Customer on-boarding process

Customer on-boarding graphic

Now you have won the new client (happy days) you want to make sure a solid foundation is built with them so that they do not experience “buyer’s remorse”.  An onboarding process would look to smoothly embed them as a customer with your organisation and ensure that you have enough customer information from them to ensure that you can offer them a first-class service.  Things to consider include:

  • What contact information is required (GDPR compliant)
  • Do I need any specific information from them?
  • Payments structure (invoice, direct debit, credit card etc).
  • Who will be their main internal point of contact?
  • What information are they likely to need from us (FAQs)?
  • Do they have all of our necessary contact information?
  • Do we need to schedule in some specific customer “touchpoints”?

What the above questions will actually be will largely depend on the type of business you are.  For example, a lot of this onboarding may take place pre-sale for some businesses, whilst in others you need a commitment and a deposit before the on-boarding process can take part.

5 – Feedback Process

Graphic highlighting process to generate customer reviews

We all know customer feedback is imperative to continuous improvement.  Whether you have to carry out customer feedback survey’s as part of your Quality Management System, or you carry out Net Promoter Score surveys, or simply request a Google review or Truspilot rating, unless it is built into your system as part of the process, it will get overlooked.

Customer satisfaction surveys are great for identifying potential problems and enabling you to rectify issues before they become a major issue, and potentially lead to losing a customer.  Even if something isn’t right, if it has been dealt with efficiently and effectively it can position your company in a positive light.

The feedback loop process also serves as an opportunity to gather client testimonials and introduce a referral process.

6 – Referral Process

We would say 90% of companies we work with do win clients from positive word of mouth, but less than 10% have any sort of system or process for encouraging customers to refer them on.  Could your business benefit from introducing a referral process?

Years ago, I was taught the concept of REHASH (Remember Everyone Has Another Sale Hidden), and it definitely opened up additional sales opportunities which would have otherwise been missed.  Sometimes it can be as obvious as adding a simple step in your process after a successful sales meeting, where you ask, “Do you know anyone else who would be interested in xxxx”?

Referral schemes with specific rewards could be used for certain businesses, such as a customer rebate, online vouchers, or upgrading the level of service that they currently get.

7 – Customer repurchase Process

Scheduled calendar follow up graphic

One area where a lot of businesses miss out on opportunities, mainly due to a lack of CRM or diarisation, is on re-approaching lost sales within the right timescales.  For example, if an enquiry arrives in May for a typical annual purchase and you fail to convert the sale, you need to diarise a call for next April.  Similarly, if you sell a product which has a typical shelf life of 3 years (like a mobile phone), then you want to be speaking to them after 30 months (get in ahead of the competition), irrespective of whether you closed the initial sale or not.

You can never assume your clients are just going to come back to you.  If you are not keen to maintain their business for a future purchase (whether a repeat purchase or an added value bolt-on or upgrade), then you can be sure that your competitors will be.

Also consider when you are launching a new product or service about which of your existing client base may be interested, and build a process around introducing it to them and building some customer engagement.

8 – Dormant Customer Process

Many companies will have a huge client database in their business that is sitting there doing nothing.  Past clients who have stopped spending with you will be still in the system, but are just considered “lost”.  Consider whether there is anything you can do to win them back again?  OK, there may be some that have gone out of business or were so painful to service you don’t want them back.  However, there will be some good clients in that list where either a competitor undercut you, or you messed up and made a mistake, or your contact within the business changed.  None of these issues are insurmountable.  You don’t even know whether they are happy with your competitor?

Are you actively trying to breath live into customers who already know you, or is all of your efforts focussed on the more expensive act of attracting new customers into the business?

Becoming a Process Driven Marketing Beast

The key to process driven marketing is a continual evaluation.  One thing a clear process brings is measurable KPIs.  You can measure how many prospects or clients got to a certain point in the process.  This enables you to measure where customers “fall-out” of the process and your conversion rates at each stage.

This sort of evaluation is crucial to reviewing your processes and identifying where improvements can be made.  Improvements could be made in the system used, the staff involved, the response times, the communications or indeed, in the process itself.

Wheel jigsaw demonstrating CRM component parts

At the start of this blog we asked you to give yourself a score.  In order to score maximum points you have probably realised by now that you would need to have a CRM system embedded with the business which is actively used across a number of departments.  It is also likely that you would need to be embracing some form of marketing automation at some level and have a dedicated sales function within the business.

However, it is not about scoring maximum points, it is about improving the marketing effectiveness of your business.  Hopefully this article has given you a little food for thought in potential areas of your own marketing processes, where things could be tightened up a little.  Also bear in mind, one added benefit of this is the more process driven your organisation is, the easier it will be to potentially sell and extract maximum value from (or successfully pass on to the next generation).

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.