Client Engagement Lifecycle
Mapping a client’s journey, from identifying a need for services to purchasing a solution and beyond, is nothing new. It’s fairly common in consumer marketing, but few CPA firms have adopted it, despite the tremendous benefits. A client’s path to purchase and ultimately utilize products and services is increasingly complicated. Too often, businesses give very little consideration to today’s complex and sophisticated buyer. As a result, expectations are often set using outdated sales methodologies, trying to fit customers in a predetermined sales funnel. We can avoid this misunderstanding of client/buyer behavior by using a logically crafted client engagement lifecycle.
Client engagement lifecycle is a term used to describe the progression of steps a client goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to your product or service. We break the client lifecycle down into the following four distinct steps.
First, it’s imperative to consider who your current client/buyers are and the kind of clients your firm wishes to attract. Once you’ve identified your target client, think about how you can make the most of every interaction they have with your firm by adding value. You can start by understanding their needs, issues, and challenges. Then determine the type of engagement that will be most valuable.
Engagement begins the moment a potential client sees your name mentioned on social media or hears about your firm from a peer. Clients may discover your firm actively or passively, so your client engagement lifecycle should account for both methods of discovery. For example, they may actively learn about your firm by performing a google search, or passively find out about it by seeing a friend like a post on Facebook. Your potential clients are listening to what your current and former clients say. Do you know what they are hearing?
To ensure they hear the right messages, you need your current clients to be advocates. Today, 84% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers start the purchasing process with a referral. A carefully crafted client engagement lifecycle will turn potential clients into clients and ultimately into advocates.
After discovering a firm, the prospective client will perform research evaluating a firm and its competitor. The consideration stage is critical because at this stage the potential client has discovered several options, and are weighing the pros and cons of each. During this stage, your client engagement lifecycle should provide them with a consistent cross-channel exploring experience. The modes by which a prospective client receives information regarding your firm has changed significantly since the pre-social media ere. They are increasingly savvy in evaluating the plethora of option available to them. There is no longer a linear approach to product and service evaluations.
Crafting and understanding your unique selling proposition will outline what distinguishes your firm from your competitors. Your marketing message should be linked with strong and ebullient references from your most satisfied and knowledgeable existing clients. Through engaging your most satisfied clients you can create an extension of your marketing team by leverage those established client relationships. Keeping a prospective client's attention throughout the consideration stage should employ various tactics geared towards marketing driving your sales. Keep in mind that people are increasingly relying primarily (sometimes even solely) on mobile devices, so ensure that your marketing is geared towards an evolving client base is of paramount importance.
Decision Making and Purchase
When your potential client reaches this point, your advocates have already likely influenced their decision to buy from you. However, they will want to meet with someone from the firm to discuss their needs and how the firm can assist them. Your potential clients are now contemplating the commitment to invest in your solution.
This contemplation then leads to them soliciting the advice of some of your current clients pertaining to their exeriences with your firm. They may ask to be connected with existing clients in their particular industry or role for additional recommendations. Peer recommendations influence 90% of all B2B buying decisions, so it’s crucial to have client advocates at this step in the engagement lifecycle.
After a client utilizes your services, engagement continues long-term through their preferred channels. Successfully keeping clients engaged will increase client retention and help with upselling of services.
Happy and engaged clients also turn into advocates. But don’t just ask them to join an advocacy group. Take some time to identify ones who have a story to tell and offer them ways to share their story. They may make testimonial videos to share on your website, social media pages, or YouTube channel, write a blog, post reviews on social media, or participate in a case study.
By focusing on engaging clients throughout the client engagement lifecycle, you create future advocates for your firm. But how do you keep them engaged after the initial “sale?”
Be engaged on social media, sharing intellectual capital and other information your clients will find valuable.
Host free webinars or in-person seminars to showcase your expertise, share best practices, highlight industry trends and answer questions from clients and potential clients.
Be responsive to issues, whether they come via social media, comment cards, or any other form of feedback. A quick and genuine response lets clients know they are being heard.
Provide an easy way to encourage client referrals. This is the foundation of advocate marketing.
Analyzing and optimizing the client journey will improve your clients’ experience and make them want to continue working with your firm. The first step is to find out what they want and how you should engage them to optimize their individual experience. Showing that you have a direct interest in their needs and delivering extraordinary service is the foundation of building relationships and building advocates.
Jermaine Christie, Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting, Inc., brings a wealth of experience in business development, account management and strategic partnerships. His primary focus is on building the firm’s consulting services, including Strategic Planning, Client Advisory Services Roadmap, Flowtivity Process, Technology Consulting, Firm Summit and Team Building Workshops.