Marketing & Marriage: date before you propose

This month, my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.   As I reflect back across the years and how our relationship came to fruition, I see a lot of parallels to a sales conversion funnel.  (Hmmmm…something tells me I need a life!)  Like marriage, most B2B purchases are a big decision—and even bigger commitment.  Marketers that recognize and respect the relationship building process will be the ones getting the ultimate “I do” in the end.   Allow me to illustrate my point.

Start with Courtship

When our relationship was in its infancy stages, my husband courted me.  A lot.  He wanted my attention, so he’d leave me notes at work.  Nothing major, no commitment required, just little notes he was thinking of me, small tidbits of information he knew I’d be interested in…things that made me smile and notice him as well.  And when he saw the interest was mutual, he mustered the courage to ask me out.

Spend time dating and getting to know one another

Our first date was small, a lunch date one Saturday afternoon.  But it was nice and we (obviously) wanted to know more about each other.  So we continued to spend time with each other.  And over the course of many months, we started talking more seriously: our life dreams and ambitions, places we’d like to live, children….the heavy stuff.  We eventually began talking marriage.

Commit to one another

The time finally came.  One summer evening shortly after I graduated from college, my husband asked me out, but this time it felt different.  He was unusually quiet as was I.  Instead of sharing a pizza, he took me to his favorite fancy restaurant on the beach.  After dinner, we sat on the sand and watched the fishing boats return to the harbor and the sun majestically set over the ocean.  It was the perfect moment.  My husband asked me to close my eyes, I heard the tiny creak of a box and there he was, on his knees with a ring, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.  And the rest….is history.

Applying the principles

As marketers, there’s much we can learn from life relationships.  Too often, we are so focused on the call to action—getting to the “I do” moment that we skip over the activities that lead up to the commitment.  Think about your own personal relationship—would you be with your mate if he/she proposed marriage on your first date?  I wouldn’t.  I probably would have run away–and fast!  Maybe our prospective customers are feeling the same way.

Marketing Sherpa / MECLABS is infamous for preaching the value of incorporating micro yeses throughout your customer conversion funnel–get smaller buy ins before you ask for the sale.  Align your call to action with the customer’s stage in your conversion process.  In other words, if you ask for too deep of a commitment too soon, your customers will likely bolt.  Sounds frightening parallel to “popping the question” before your relationship has had a chance to mature.  Just what are the conversion stages? As defined by MECLABS:

  • Stage 1: Appeal.  Establishing: “I want it/you”
  • Stage 2: Exclusivity: “I can’t get this elsewhere”
  • Stage 3: Clarity: “I understand it/you”
  • Stage 4: Credibility: “I believe in it/you”

Marketing is a process of developing deep customer relationships.  You need those periods of courtship and dating or you’ll never get to the ultimate “Yes.  I do.”  So take a look at your marketing plan.  Do you have campaigns that allow your customers to get to know you or are you always proposing?    Otherwise, you might be scaring off someone who could become your lifetime partner.