Most digital marketing and advertising is geared around the ultimate goal of creating new conversions for a business. There’s just one problem: conversions aren’t always what customers are interested in. Even as we’ve retrofitted the customer journey to speak to specific pain points and needs the customer may be looking to solve, we still overemphasize conversions as the solution those customers need.

In our most recent Ask the Experts webinar, John Jantsch thoroughly covers this concept and provides the foundation for the information below. Click here to view the webinar recording.

In reality, your customers aren’t as transaction-focused as you might assume. Research shows that 92 percent of customers make their first visit to a brand website for reasons other than making a purchase. Eighty-six percent of buyers are willing to spend more in exchange for a better customer experience. And 87 percent of potential customers won’t consider businesses with low online ratings.

Your customers are seeking relationships, not transactions. They value credibility and reputation over value. And they want a purchase experience that goes beyond the conversion itself, delivering an experience that itself offers value. These evolving consumer trends all lead to the realization that customer-centric, conversion-focused customer journeys aren’t sufficient for planning your brand marketing strategy.

A new approach is required. Adopting a membership mindset for your advertising strategy doesn’t require a change to your business model. Instead, all it demands is a shift in how you position your business and deliver value to your customers—not just now, but over the course of that brand relationship.

When and Where Consumers Choose to Become Customers

Every advertising and marketing professional knows that the customer path to purchase is no longer straightforward. Customers are interacting with brands across a wide range of channels. The digital marketing ecosystem is all about creating opportunities to engage prospects and keep your brand top-of-mind as those customers move forward at their own pace.

Now more than ever, customers are influenced by other customers when it comes to choosing where to spend their money. From online reviews to referral marketing programs to traditional word-of-mouth, brands that invest in a strong reputation and loyal customer relationships can reap the benefits of cost-effective customer acquisition that leverages existing relationships to foster new connections.

This is how membership-focused marketing generates value for your business. By strengthening existing customer relationships and using those connections to attract new prospects, your customer base functions more and more like a membership base. Those members don’t only want to maintain a relationship with your business—they want to keep their fellow members active within a thriving, satisfied community.

Shift from Just Generating Demand—Start ‘Organizing Behavior’

Instead of only focusing on moving prospects down the traditional sales funnel, your business may have success through a process known as “organizing behavior.” This approach structures your marketing strategy through the following three-stage journey to creating successful customer relationships:

  • Know: This stage involves the use of awareness-level marketing campaigns to build brand recognition among your target consumers. Ideal marketing channels include search marketing, social media, sales outreach, and advertising, among others.
  • Like: In this stage, prospects develop an affinity for your business and may start actively following or engaging with it. Channels for achieving this can include social media, branded content, specific advertising messaging, and your overall brand experience.
  • Trust: Once consumers are familiar with your brand and are attracted to its experience and/or offerings, those consumers will gradually develop a sense of trust. Online user reviews and social content are examples of how this trust can be cultivated.

Once these stages of marketing are complete, businesses can then enter the sales phase of closing conversions, and ultimately enter into the service phase of customer acquisition and retention.

In this final phase, a membership experience is cultivated and reinforced through repeat sales from existing customers, as well as the referrals of new customers—which can help even local businesses scale their operations.

Treating Your Customers as ‘Members’

The difference between a customer mindset and a membership mindset is as simple as the difference between a transaction and a transformation. Transactions are one-off events that businesses hope will repeat. Transformations reflect a far more fundamental change—and this change often implicates the business as an essential resource or partner for the customer undergoing this transformation.

While customer-centric marketing is preoccupied with driving transactions and purchases, membership-centric strategies shift focus toward audience engagement, investment in the brand experience, and incentives for brand evangelization. This motivational, value-added approach offers a template for improving sales and marketing, but it also has the potential to transform everything from hiring to training to customer service.

Whether brands like it or not, the customer journey is evolving—and customers are the ones charting the path forward. Need help connecting with prospects and growing a dedicated customer base? Contact Cox Media today to see how we can help.