Value exchange

Three critical value exchanges that build a long-term customer relationship

29th Apr 2016

Many businesses are focused on financial return on investment (ROI) as the key metric on which to judge the success of marketing. It’s a good yardstick, but it does need to be balanced. This is especially true if you are looking to form long-term relationships with your customers.

In my earlier column, I looked at metrics across a buying decision. Today, I want to focus in on the three I think you should be focused on measuring your marketing against. I believe that there are three critical value exchanges across a considered buying decision, and that there is a proper sequence to them if the relationship is going to last.

Customers have three ways to pay…

I’m not talking cash, card or bank transfer here, I’m talking about three things you can see them giving you if they believe you are giving them value in return.

They are:

  1. Time: Are they actively choosing to spend time looking at and digesting your materials?
  2. Data: Are they actively choosing to give you contact data and other information about themselves?
  3. Money / contractual arrangement: Are they actively choosing to pay you?

In the natural order of relationship building, these build one on the next as the connection and trust increases. If we use the metaphor of a personal relationship, we can see how this builds…

  1. You meet someone at a bar and get chatting (time).
  2. You like them so you give them your number (data), you start dating (more time) and tell them more and more about yourself (data).
  3. You move in together (more time), co-signing the rental agreement (more data), and set up a joint bank account (money).

Value exchange


Change the order and you change the dynamic…

There is an important power piece in this. For the relationship to feel right, the customer needs to feel that they are in charge. If you start doing this in any other order, the power is in the wrong place, and trust is undermined.

Let’s take the personal relationship metaphor again. Imagine that someone calls you out of the blue asking you out, or turns up on your doorstep, having got your data from someone you know or researched it some other way. This would feel more than a bit wrong. It would feel creepy! (Before you share your stories of rock solid marriages that started like this, I accept that there are exceptions to this scenario. But they are unusual.)

In fact, if we look at the teenage trend for connecting (data) with people on social media before actually getting to know them (time), we see that this is when they get into sticky situations. It’s the wrong order of play.

This is exactly why we feel so annoyed by phone calls about PPI insurance, or spam email. If we did not actively give people our data, it feels wrong that they should have it.

This is why I’m not the biggest fan of bought data, or list sharing. It can form part of a tactical plan, but more effective marketing puts the power in the hands of the buyer, and the opportunities for them to use it in their path.

How can your marketing facilitate these value exchanges?

The key to building more trusting (profitable & sustainable) relationships with your customers, therefore, is to provide opportunities for them to build up the value exchanges with you.

Earning time:

To earn the right to someone’s time, create materials that ask nothing more of them than time, and point them in the direction of more. For example:

  • An interesting tweet that links to a short blog post.
  • A 3-minute blog post that points to a five minute video.

From time to data:

If what you’ve given people for their time has given them value, they will be more likely to give you more of their time, and some of their data. For example:

  • A five-minute video that points to an interesting download for which they provide an email address.
  • A download that is followed up with an invitation to a one-hour online event on a related topic, for which they provide more information about themselves.

From time and data, into money:

If you have continued to provide value for time, and used their data to provide even more value, your chances of a small purchase increase. For example:

  • A useful bonus offered to event attendees who purchase your diagnostic product within a given timeframe.
  • A powerful report provided from the diagnostic they purchased with details of a service you provide to fix the issues identified… and so on.

By splitting out the elements in this way, and focusing on the sequence of value exchanges, you allow your buyers to make proactive choices to incrementally build up their trust in you. It also gives you excellent metrics to track progress through the buying decision, and serve up the next relevant step.

© Bryony Thomas.

Bryony Thomas is a professional speaker on marketing, the multi-award winning author of ‘Watertight Marketing’, and the founder of the UK’s only directory of quality-assured independent marketing consultants,

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