John McDougle

Marketing Consultant to Small Business Owners


So, what is the purpose of branding for a small business? 

 Faded Coca-Cola Sign
Isn’t it just for big corporations? If branding is seen, as it is by most people, as the logo and maybe the colour, then the answer has to be yes.

They spend billions of pounds pushing and associating their name with good stuff, knowing that when you are in the shop, you will remember the positive association and may choose their brand over the competitors.

But a brand is much more that that. You could say a brand is the same as reputation.

The origins of brands is in the 19th century, when adulterated food was common and entrepreneurs like Cadbury, McDougalls, Courage, etc wanted to tell people that their chocolate, flour and beer were unadulterated. So they created brands to let people know that this product could be trusted.

The best definition of a brand that I have heard is that it is ‘the collection of thoughts, feelings and associations that people have about a name’. It can apply to people and businesses and charities and any organisation or group.

Therefore, a brand does not exist outside of people’s heads but it can be created intentionally or accidentally. This is called branding.

It is created by every experience people have with your company or you or anything they see, hear or read about it.

The purpose of branding is to differentiate you from every else out there. Finding a unique space inside your client’s heads is the goal.

People form an impression of what your brand is about very quickly but those initial impressions can be reinforced or modified over time.

Like people,  a brand has personality, a story, a visual and auditory identity and relationships of give and take with other people.

The mistake that many small businesses make is to believe that what matters is to appear much larger than they are, so that potential customers believe them to be substantial enough to do the work.

I think this is a mistake for two reasons.

One, customers aren’t stupid and know any small business is indivisible from the owner and their reputation.

Secondly, one of the most important things for a small business to do to survive is to differentiate themselves from all the other broadly similar service providers.

For me, those two things can be dealt with together by creating a brand based on the business owner. You are unique. The brand you create needs to be a bridge between you, your values and the people you serve.

What does a good service business do?

It does two things: it does good work and it does what it says it is going to do. If you do that, your business will thrive, your reputation will grow and a strong brand will be created.

The key to branding is consistency.

You can perhaps tell from this that I see colours, typefaces, tag lines, etc. as less important.

They are just there to identify the brand.

It does not matter as much as people think what colour or typeface you use. What matters is your reputation and then people will associate that reputation with whatever logo you happen to have.

Which is not to say that they are unimportant. They speak volumes about you and your values.

Pick the right ones and they will create a good first impression, just like the choice of clothes you wear for business. If you meet someone networking who is providing a service and they are dressed scruffily, do you doubt their attention to detail? I am afraid I do.

So some key points:

• Small business branding is about the owner, your brand is therefore the same as your reputation

• Branding is to differentiate you from every one else in people’s mind. This is called positioning.

• Branding occurs inside people’s mind, therefore get inside people’s mind and see the world and your business from there.

• Bring yourself and your values and feelings into the business. It is the best differentiation you can have.

• Combine all the ways you are different together to form a unique identity. Be true to yourself.

• A good service business must do 2 things: do good work and do what you say you’re going to do

• As much as possible distill your marketing message to communicate over and over, the one main thing you will do for the client

• Colours, typefaces, tag lines, business names are less important. What is important is consistent repetition of your main message.

• Control the impression you give at every point where somebody comes into contact with you and your business. It’s all in the detail.

I hope you have found this article interesting. If you want to make a comment or contact me, I would welcome it.


Track Your Customer Flow With This Simple Tool

Customer Flow

If you have any kind of customer list, I suggest creating a simple ‘Customer/Client Flow Budget” in a similar format to your Cash Flow Budget as a tool to record your month by month success in attracting and retaining customers.

It can also let you monitor trends and be able to take action to improve things, just as you would if you could see a declining cash flow number.


Here’s how to build it.

The first two sections allow you to monitor your marketing and selling efforts:

Set out the first series of rows as follows:
Gained – new customers/clients acquired this month
Defecting – customers/clients that have not bought recently who need some marketing effort
Lost – those who have not bought in specific time period and have not responded to marketing
Regained – those who have responded to marketing and have bought recently

Then add a Net Customers/Clients Gained row to total the monthly columns.

Below that create analysis rows for the sales channels that customers/clients arrived at:
In Premises
Direct Sales
Mail Order

The second two sections of the spreadsheet help you drill down into your existing customers/clients behaviour so they don’t go missing in action. As you know, it takes anywhere from 6 times the cost to gain a new customer as to retain one and these numbers are going to help you with that:

Set out rows for the number of people who bought within certain time periods.
This is called Recency. The actual time periods will depend on your own business but for example:
< 1 month
< 3 months
< 6 months
< 1 year

Recency has been shown to be the best number to confirm if someone is actually a customer or not and predict  if they are likely to buy.  (Not everyone on your database is really a customer) This is the data to help you predict sales numbers, which is so crucial to your planning.

If you can access this data from your customer/client records, it is also a fantastic way to monitor groups of customers/clients and contact them before you lose them for good.

The next part helps you monitor people as they move through their Customer/Client Lifecycle.
Set out the following rows:
Good- multiple purchases and last purchase recently
New – single purchase made recently
Missing Good – multiple purchases, last one some time ago
Poor – single purchase made some time ago

Recency and Frequency (number of purchases made) are combined to give you these numbers. For example, New clients would be 1 purchase within the last month, Good customers might be 3 purchases and last bought within 3 months. You need to work out the criteria for your business that make sense.

There are two ways to use this data:
Firstly, as someone moves from being a New customer/client,  they move on into either the Good or Poor customer groups. Watch as the numbers change to see the effects of your marketing and sales efforts over time. If you have a successful campaign, you’ll see a bulge that moves through the numbers.

Secondly, regaining customers/clients is much harder than retaining them. Research done by a famous hotelier showed that 67% of customers leave because they think a  business doesn’t care.

Look for the group of people who are at the verge of moving from Good to Missing Good customers. it is the best way to predict when your good customers/clients are likely to defect and so need extra marketing effort to encourage them to stay.

For more on this subject, I would recommend reading the comprehensive information on Jim Novo’s blog.

I hope you find this little idea helpful. Please contact me if you have any questions about it.


Build a Better Brand in Three Steps

Cartoon of Brand BuildingIt’s a common belief among business owners that brand building is for large businesses only. That’s only reasonable for a practical person that has to go out and get customers every day and doesn’t have time for intellectualising about their business.

So, I thought I’d write about why actively building a brand is relevant to your business.

What is brand building?
Everything people experience of your company builds your brand. Every sight or sound or smell or person they come in contact with.

So you are always building your brand. It’s your reputation. It’s what your customer think of you. It’s how you are perceived in your community.

It is happening automatically.

Wouldn’t it be better if you took some control over the process?

Brand building is deliberately creating positive experiences and perceptions through all points of contact you have with customers and prospects.

Branding adds value by changing our perception of a product rather than changing the product itself. It should be focused and deep and part of all advertising, aiming to build long term relationships.

A good brand leaves people with positive experiences. Clients and customers look forward to repeating the experience.

A great brand has a great story and core principles that never change.  The result is that ‘Great brands don’t chase customers, customers chase great brands’  Gary Friedman CEO of Restoration Hardware

‘The most talked about brands take common customer touchpoints and make them uncommonly talkable.’ Brand Autopsy

Is brand building relevant to my business?
If there is one quote that explains why it is relevant, it is this one. ‘Branding is the way to create sustainable value and wealth.’ Interbrand

When it comes to increasing the value of the business and your wealth, having a strong brand based on valuable assets will do more than anything else.

How do I apply this to my business?
If you do nothing else than this, then you will succeed: ‘If you build a business that makes money, makes customer’s happy and makes employees happy… the result is a strong brand.’ John Moore (Tough Love screenplay)

The basic rule is ‘deliver on the promise of the brand’. Make the brand experience match the perception your advertising stimulates. Make your marketing an expression of who you are, what you value and what you do for people.

What you need to do is to combine your Value Proposition with a clear Brand Identity.

Michael Masterson: ‘Small businesses should build a brand by consistently promoting their Unique Value Proposition in all touch points. Combine this type of branding with direct marketing for maximum effect in short and long term sales. They should avoid general/brand/image advertising.’

Image ads are suitable only for big budget companies who want to ‘increase awareness’ and ‘get their name out’.

Customer service is as much a part of branding as advertising. Roy Williams ‘ The best and cheapest marketing you can do is: take care of your customers’

What should I do next?
So, here are the steps you should take

1. Think through the essence of your brand:

  • What are your values? What do you stand for? What’s important to you?
  • What is your business’s purpose? Why are you in business?
  • What are your standards? What won’t you do?

2. Is your company promoting one core message based on a strong identity and a clear value proposition, fuelled by your brand essence?

3. Go through all the ways that your customers and prospects experience your company and its products and services. That is, through the marketing mix:

  • People (your) – their personality, behaviour, training, manners, dress
  • Products and Services – how you develop, make, display, package, sell your products and services
  • Physical (experience) – the colours, logo, typeface, personality, lighting, sounds, smells, touch, cleanliness,
  • Process – your efficiency, speed, delivery
  • Perceptual  – how you answer the phone, how responsive you are to questions, how efficient you are, how you react when there’s a problem
  • Positioning – are you up or down market, high or low price? quality and style
  • Place – where you distribute, who you deal with, which shops you sell to
  • Pricing – do you have value pricing, low price, exclusive?
  • Promotion – your marketing messages, advertising, copywriting
  • Publicity – what are you known for? Look at your publicity stunts or gimmicks, the personality of the spokesperson and press releases

Are they consistent with your brand essence? What can you change, stop doing, do more of or start doing to make your brand stronger and more consistent.

Sometimes doing less but doing it stronger is the best way.

In conclusion, I would strongly recommend that you include conscious brand building as part of your marketing effort because the long term value of your business is dependent on your brand.

I hope you found this helpful. If you would like to contact me for more information, please email me.


What Is A Brand And Why Should I Care?

What Is A Brand









I was prompted to write this post by a conversation I had with a client.

They couldn’t see any point to spending time on thinking about their brand and weren’t even sure they knew what a brand was.

So this post is intended to clear up the confusion.

What is a brand?
It’s reasonable to think that it’s just your name and the colour of your logo, given that the origin of the word is just as you see in cowboy films, a hot metal logo stamped into a young cows flank.

In reality a brand is best described as everything people experience, feel, think and say about your product, service and company.

A brand is therefore not a single thing, because different people have different experiences, beliefs, attitudes, etc and so, brands are, to an extent, unique to individuals.

For example, some people like Mars bars and some don’t but everyone who knows the name has individual associations with it. They might remember where and when they ate one for the first time, what was going on in their lives at the time, who was there. All these impressions add up to influence the brand.

The brand is called the personality of the company. I say that a brand has a personality. It’s like going out with someone. Your impressions of them are multiple: What they smell like, what they believe about children, how they behave towards other people, what your friends think, etc

What are the parts of a brand?
Ben Hunt says that a brand is both a statement and a promise ‘This is who we are and this is what we will do for you.’

And Robert Craven says that a brand is a combination of the symbols you are known by and remembered for, a bundle of explicit and implicit promises, a reflection of personality and a statement of your position.

For me, there are two parts to a brand: The brand perception and the brand experience:

Brand Perception
This is all the feelings, expectations, information, associations, thoughts, perceptions, images, attitudes people have when they think of the company’s name, products or services.

Brand Experience
This, on the other hand,is all the points of contact people have with the brand (in marketing jargon called touchpoints). From when they first hear about the brand, to when they buy, to when they have a problem.

Sometimes the two parts align well, sometimes not.

It doesn’t matter how many times you show adverts on the television of happy smiling customers, if you make people wait for ages on the phone, don’t turn up for appointments on time and do poor work when you do.

The point is brands are created jointly by the company and the customer. And they are emotional things. People feel strongly about brands.

What’s at the root of a brand?
At the root of your brand is your ‘brand essence’.  A mix of your core principles/standards, the story of your brand, your values, your purpose, etc. It is what you are about in business.

If you consider some famous brands, underneath the messages they put out is a clear set of values and a strong story. Think of:

  • Nike and their competitiveness and ‘Just Do It’.
  • Apple and the idea of ‘simplicity of use’ and creativity and starting in a garage.
  • Innocent smoothies and the natural, wholesome, pure values they promote.
  • Lady Gaga. Underneath she is a talented but plain girl who decided she wanted to be famous and knew she had to get noticed to do so. That’s the brand story.

Your brand essence fuels your brand’s identity and your company’s entire value proposition.

It should be behind your core marketing message and all your communications.

For example, Virgin’s brand has an core message of slight rebellion against ‘the man’, freedom and youthfulness. That essence is what makes their communications consistent across completely different sectors.

So, here is my distilled version of all of the above:

Your brand is what people feel about you when they think of your name.

These feelings directly affect your sales, which is why you need to define your brand essence and work hard to improve your customer’s experience and perceptions of you.

Thanks for readings this post. If you would like more information about this, please contact me.


Warning! The Information Age Just Ended

Guest post by John Forde at Copywriter’s Roundtable

E=MC2 image

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

– Albert Einstein



If you’re finally looking to the promise of the “Information Age” as a whole new world of wealth and opportunity… it just might be too late.

Anyway, I’m reading a book that makes that case.

It’s called “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out.

Says Pink, it’s not so much that the “Information Age” is dead. But that it’s evolved into something that’s well beyond what a lot of people imagined it would be.

No longer do we live to know. Instead, we aim to understand. That’s an ironically cryptic statement, so let me explain.

The “Information Age” and the wave of e-book sellers, online marketers, e-letter writers, blog authors, and e-service providers that have spilled out of your computer monitor these last dozen years or so all got their start by giving you, well, information.

Today, we’re drowning in it.

So much that we no longer crave more data. It’s just not rare enough to be crave-worthy (think about it… is there ANYTHING you couldn’t find, right now, with Google and a few savvy keywords?).

What we now crave instead, says Pink, is context. We want to know not so much “what” but “why.” In short, we want someone to come along who can shut down the noise, exclude the extraneous, and tell us what it all means.

That person, possibly, is you.

By the way, says Pink, this is about a lot more than just the selling of information products. It’s about the selling of everything. And the careers we choose… or should no longer choose… to follow.

Let me explain it this way: How did you do on your SATs? If you’re outside the U.S., you might not know what I’m talking about — the SATs are standardized tests Americans have to take to get into college.

We also have the LSATs for law school, the MCATS for medical school, the GREs for other kinds of graduate school, plus a whole lot more I’m sure I’m forgetting. In other countries, they certainly have something similar.

Frankly, I did pretty well on the SATs.

But, says a study cited by Pink, guess how much high standardized scores like these alone predict your college or career success these days.

Would you believe just 4 to 6%?

The problem is that the tests only reveal high levels of what you and I usually know as “left-brain” thinking. This is the analytical, detail-gathering type of stuff that used to make you a superstar doctor, lawyer, or person-who-really-likes-to-analyze things.

That’s all good stuff.

But, says Pink, we’re moving into a world where you’ll get a lot more mileage out of more developed “right-brain” skills. Things like being able to conceptualize the big picture and come up with creative new solutions to conventional problems.

Is this really something brand new for poor, slobbering working stiffs to learn… or just an old skill that we’ll need to dust off for use in the next new world?

It’s yours to say.

But Pink makes the case that big changes are gonna come, if they haven’t already, due to at least three big, new things.

FIRST, says Pink, you’ve got the problem of abundance. It might not feel like it right now, in the wake of the worldwide economic bust. But fact is, millions more people have access to lots more stuff than they have at any other time in history.

There’s a great quote from the book:

“The paradox of prosperity is that while living standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal and family life satisfaction haven’t budged. That’s why more people, liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it, are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning.”

In other words, for awhile there, you could soothe itch inside your mind and that salivating center of your soul by buying a new flatscreen TV or splurging on the leather seats for your new car.

But no longer.

Says Pink, “In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical, and functional needs is woefully insufficient… if things are not also pleasing to the eye or compelling to the soul, few will buy them. There are too many other options. Mastery of design, empathy, play and other seemingly soft aptitudes are now the main way for individuals and firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace.”

SECOND, he says, is Asia.

Think about this: For about $15,000 a year, you can hire a top-notch software programmer in India. That’s not even a starvation wage here, but about 20 times what the average Indian makes.

In the U.S., it used to cost about $75,000 annually to get the same kind of software talent. Now, more than half the Fortune 500 companies farm that work overseas. Meanwhile, India alone graduates another 350,000 software programmers per year.

And it’s not just software.

Accountants in the Philippines do U.S. audits for Ernst & Young. Russian engineers design chips for Intel and Cisco. Architects in Hungary draw up basic blueprints for firms in California.

Even Wall Street is hiring overseas number crunchers and, yes, writers to cover markets and create financial reports on the U.S. market.

The “Information Age” that replaced our “Manufacturing Age” is literally going the same route, to cheaper workers overseas. And yes, all THEY need is an online connection and a laptop to make it happen. The dream exists the way it was promised, but for someone else.

THIRD, says Pink, is automation.

Used to be that you had to pay thousands of dollars to an accountant if you needed anything beyond a simple tax filing. Today, you can pay about $39 and get fancy financial footwork out of a software program.

Lawyers are seeing it too. People used to pay billable hours for lawyers to hunt down legal forms — now you can do that online, free, and pay only a fraction of the original cost to get help filling it out.

Even doctors aren’t immune (did you see what I did there, with the word play?. A lot of a doctor’s job has been ticking off a checklist of symptoms and narrowing down on a possible diagnosis.

But computers can do that. And sometimes, a lot more efficiently. Doctors don’t like it when you look up your own symptoms on the Internet. But I haven’t been to one once in the last 15 years who didn’t eventually come around to agreeing with what I’d already found online.

Point being, with all these huge shifts, you’ll see a lot less in the “knowledge” jobs that seemed to matter so much in the last era… and a lot more opportunity in what might seem like more soft, right-brained fields.

That is, if you’re the type who can figure out what other people care about… if you’re good at seeing the big picture… and if you’re good at explaining it in simple, interesting terms… you’re in luck.

Because that’s where we’re headed.

Pink didn’t say this, but you have to wonder, is this need for that aura of meaning a possible explanation for the new opinion-saturated spin of news networks these days? Is it the reason Apple has a near-religious following for their products or why millions of mainstream Americans have taken up yoga?

I’m guessing yes.

And if this keeps going, it’s going to revolutionize — among other things — selling. In a lot of ways maybe it already has.

Good selling today already tries to connect on a higher level than features alone. It is why, for instance, emotional pitches connect best.

But like everything else, it’s looking more clear that we’ll all have to up the ante. You’ll have to find that persuasive deeper meaning in everything you write copy for, be it a life-changing program or a packet of crackers. In a word, sell transcendence.

Or risk getting left behind.


If left-brained thinking alone is “out” and “right-brained” or “whole-brained” thinking is “in,” how do you know who has what it takes?

David Ogilvy used to say that an insatiable sense of curiosity was the single best thing to look for when hiring copywriters.

Per another study mentioned in Pink’s book, you might want to add something else to the short list: a sense of humor.

In the study (I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment, so I don’t have the name)… a researcher created a test where subjects had to spot or create the “funny” in different situations.

For instance, he showed them five New Yorker cartoons without the captions then told them to come up with captions of their own.

Now, how you measure success seems pretty subjective to me. Not everyone agrees on what’s funny, which is why humor in actual copy is so risky.

But maybe there’s something to this, still.

Just doing mental inventory, I can’t think of a single copywriter worth any salt that doesn’t know how to make people laugh.

It just seems to go with the territory. Along with, in a lot of cases, guitar playing or drawing ability.

I’ve often thought that can’t be an accident. And according to the study, there’s a good chance it isn’t. Humor, like musical or artistic ability, lights up scans on the right side of the brain.

And if Pink is right (see today’s first article), brainpower on the right is the extra edge you need when it comes to skills like creativity, empathy, and other key traits of a great copywriter.

Hmm.  So did you hear the one about… now how does that joke go?

This post was authored by John Forde of Copywriter’s Roundtable. Sign up to get $78 worth of free gifts.


The Growth Of Inbound Marketing Online

If you have been wondering whether marketing is changing then take a look at this infographic on the growth of online marketing.

































This graphic came courtesy of MDG Advertising


Why Should I Buy Your Product, Anyway?

Value Proposition

Your customer value proposition is the collection of reasons why your target clients should buy from you. It is the foundation of persuasion. ‘Selling is the communication of your total value proposition’ Flint McGlauglin

It is communicated through everything you do and say – your advertising, your brand, your staff, your premises.

It should speak to the buyer in the language of the buyer about things that matter to them in a way that differentiates you from anyone else.

And just remember ‘It doesn’t matter what you think you are selling, it only matters what the client thinks they’re buying.’ Sean McPheat

A clear, well supported value proposition joins the conversation already going on in the prospects mind. Ask yourself ‘Why should my ideal customer do business with you rather than everybody else? Why should my ideal prospects care?’

Paul Lemberg said ‘Customers buy because you have given them sufficient reason to, over the alternatives: Doing nothing, doing it themselves, buying your competitor’s offering.’

Buyers need to know three things. Can you do it? Will you do it? Why you?

Your value proposition has three parts:

1. Relevance of your offering to the person you are reaching out to (Your target client). What problem does it solve? Who’s it for? What will it do for me? Will it satisfy my dominant felt need, my want, desire, problem, aspiration, urgent issue, strong urge? Will it make me feel good about myself? (emotional end benefit).

2. Credibility
of you and your company in their eyes. All their fears and objections. How do I know you will fulfill your promises? Can I trust you? Will you give me the emotional benefit I seek? Will you really solve my problem? Can I believe what you say? Are you qualified? Have you the right experience? What proof do you have? Do you have the capacity to do the job? Are you competent? Will my investment be safe? Can I trust you?

3. Difference between you and all your competitors. What is your unique sales proposition, your USP? What makes you unique? What do you do especially well? Your target, your specialism, your differentiation eg your unique way of solving the specific problem of your ideal customer. What makes your product/service superior to your competition?

What is your advantage? Is what you do different, better, faster, cheaper, nicer, cooler, funnier, more human, more efficient, higher, longer, tastier, more local, more global, more responsive, etc?

What if you don’t have a unique value position?

If you are struggling with this, ask: Are you selling a product/service that solves a problem your target customer feels is vital, urgent or desperate right now and is therefore at the forefront of their mind?

If not, can you reposition it to do so? Ask yourself: What do we do best? To what market is it best suited? Who is our best target audience? What is their most pressing problem? How can we fix that problem for them using what we do best?

The recipe

Define the particular recipe for your market using the value components such as quality, service, speed, price, innovation, personality, features, design, status, etc. Judge each in importance to your customers and how well you and your competitors provide them.

Dan Kennedy said: ‘A product offer should have three aspects; genuine need, finest quality and highest value.’

And make sure you create value by educating prospects, giving as many reasons why they buy as you can.

Remember the buying process

Don’t forget that a customer’s view of what constitutes value changes as they move through the buying process. Their decisions are affected by the value that is delivered at each stage:

  • Recognising needs
  • Identifying options
  • Studying options
  • Making choices
  • Deciding what to do
  • Putting decision into action

Look at the buying stage and present the value proposition in the way they are seeing it.

Finally, I can summarise this whole post in one sentence. Answer your prospect’s question:
‘Why should I do business with you rather than your competitors?’

Thanks for reading. If you would like more information, then please contact me.


How Advertising Is Moving Into The New Media Era

This infographic looks at how advertising is changing its terms as it moves into the new media era, where marketing communications moves from broadcasting to conversation.














































This graphic came courtesy of MDG Advertising

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The Emotional Journey of Your Customer

Beach Footsteps

A Client Goes Through An Emotional Journey

Making the decision to buy is a journey that starts in the deep, dark forest of the unconscious and ends in the sunlit uplands of feeling good about what they’ve bought.

At least, as someone selling products and services to people, you hope so.

I’m going to take you on that emotional journey today with the firm intention of showing you how, even the most rational, orderly accountant has to move through a range of feelings on the way to buying your product.

In case you think I’m talking out of my hat, there is good research to show that, far from getting in the way of making good, practical decisions, emotions are central to them.

Economic theory says that people behave rationally and assess the costs and benefits of any decision.

But this idea doesn’t stack up when faced with the lives of people who have had damage to the front part of their brains, the pre-frontal cortex. They find it difficult to experience and express emotions and they struggle to make good decisions.

It’s believed that we associate past emotions with the past situation we experienced and what happened. Then, as we come to make a new decision, we re-experience the emotion  of a similar situation to help us get it right.

So, let’s begin with a potential buyer of your product or service at the start of their journey towards becoming your customer.

My view is that there are five phases in the emotional journey of a buyer before they become a customer.

And it doesn’t matter whether that’s buying ‘fashion forward evening wear’ or looking for a lawyer or preparing to replace your email servers.

Phase 1: Recognition
The conscious or unconscious recognition of needs
• Developing an interest, want or need
• Decision to do something about it
• An itch, a desire
• Dissatisfaction, frustration or worry
• Maybe passively accepting status quo
• Maybe disinterested in doing anything about it
• Perhaps feeling powerless to do anything
In sales terms
• Suspect
• Chance of buying your product right now? – maybe 1%

Phase 2: Identify Options
Learning what’s possible
• Coming across some information about this ‘thing’
• The stage of ‘What’s that?’ when seeing or hearing about it
• Hear about your product along with all the others on the market
• Locate possible suppliers of this type of product or service
• Coincidentally find out about your service or about you
• See a marketing message of yours
• Look for facts and research the range of possible solutions
• Ask their network for ideas
• Online and offline search
• Consciously evaluating what they’re finding out
• Feeling alert, curious
• In hunting mode – intense, focused, searching for clues like a Swedish detective
• Feeling anxious at having to make change or responsibility to get it right
In sales terms
• Prospect
• Chance of buying? – maybe 5%

Phase 3: Studying Options
Seriously looking into what’s been found out
• Studying information
• Going deeper into details
• Visiting shop or display or trade show
• Going deeper on websites, social media
• Talking to salespeople
• Getting samples, catalogues
• Asking for estimates and proposals
• Lots of conversations about the options
• Feeling skeptical, doubtful
• Hopeful, excited at the prospect of success
• Intrigued, interested
In sales terms
• Lead
• Chance of buying? – maybe 10%

Phase 4: Making Choices
Going further with the shortlist
• Having meetings with colleagues
• Meetings with certain possible vendors
• Talking to people who know suppliers or brands
• Getting more information on them
• Reading reviews online
• Selecting which supplier is best
• Exploring the whole area more to make sure nothing has been missed
• Going away and thinking about it
• Imagining owning and using the product or service
• Visualising buying it and results and ramifications
• Anticipating any problems
• Thinking of rational benefits of buying
• Feeling the potential emotional benefits of buying
• Excited, anticipating feeling good
• Feeling good about themselves
• Disappointed by certain suppliers
In sales terms
• Conversion
• Chance of buying? – 25-33% depending on size of shortlist

Phase 5: Decision Time
Deciding what to do
• Final conversations and meetings to affirm decision
• Make a commitment of some kind, even if internally
• Negotiate with final choice
• Go or no go?
• Act or do nothing?
• Do something now or postpone decision?
• Take some decisive action
• Excited
• Anxious about getting it right
• Certain
• Confident
• Feeling good about themselves
In sales terms
• Call to action, the close
• Chance of buying? – 50:50

So the buyer has reached the end of their journey, they’ve taken action, they’re now a customer of yours. Well done.

My point in this post is that, when you design your sales process, you have to recognise that, for the buyer at least, ‘it’s been emotional’.

Related Blogs


How To Write Stories With Ease Using Graphs

When you want to write copy that sings out to the emotions and dreams of your clients, then telling stories is one of the principle ways to do it. We have been telling stories and jokes to each other since language was invented.

Here is a video that may help you in the quest to write good ones.

Kurt Vonnegut was a consummate crafter of stories. In this video he gives a very funny speech on storytelling. He shows the basic plots in all stories that can be drawn as graphs.

Pick your graph and away you go with a story structure that has always worked.



I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I did.