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Profitable customer relationships are the lifeblood of any business.

A customer relationship management system (CRM) can help you keep track of your customers from day to day.

But this is only half the battle of growing your bottom line. If you want to run a profitable business, you need to plan your customer journey with care and intention.

This is where the business model canvas (BMC) is a great boon to your business. By building off of the customer segments and channels portion of your BMC, you can map out consistent customer relationships that lead to a thriving, profitable business.

Mapping Your Customer Journey

How will your customers learn about your product, be convinced to buy it, and then continue to purchase from your company in the future?

The answers to those questions dictate your customer journey: How your business will get and keep each customer, and then grow the relationship with the customer to the next level, e.g., purchasing a more expensive product or becoming a brand super fan.

 

Customer Relationship

The stages of the customer journey will look different for different businesses. It’s important that you map out the best path for your business, based on your industry, your value proposition, your audience, and your resources.

Let’s walk through each stage of the customer relationship so you know what’s important to consider when setting up your systems.

Get

Acquiring customers is one of the hardest and the most expensive parts of getting a business started. Taking the time to get clear on your customer segments and channels is the best first step. When you know very clearly who your customers are, you can thoughtfully design the systems you use to reach them, thus maximizing your marketing dollars.

Questions to Ask:

  • Where are your customers most likely to look for a solution to their needs, i.e., products or services like yours? 
  • How do your customer segments learn about your products and services? 
  • How will they evaluate your products or services to make a decision?

Keep

Once customers make a purchase, they need to be reminded about how it’s improving their lives so they make repeat purchases. If you sell a service or a consumable product, reinforce your value proposition by staying in contact with the customer. Support is a big part of maintaining a relationship. If a customer is satisfied with the assistance they receive, they will most likely be back.

Questions to Ask:

  • How can you reach customers to remind them about your products and services? Where do your customers spend their time?
  • How frequently will customers need a refill/update/new booking for your products or services?
  • How can you make it easy and convenient for customers to repurchase your products or services?
  • How can you provide customers with the next level of service to make your company memorable?

Grow

Once customers have a satisfying relationship with a company, they are more likely to be repeat buyers, be interested in a higher level of service, or be interested in buying additional products or services. This is because researching another company can be time consuming. Satisfied customers also tend to recommend products. Thus, satisfied customers reduce the company’s cost for getting new customers in two important ways.

Questions to Ask:

  • Which channels are best for reaching your customer segments? (For example, phone, email, survey by mail.)
  • How can you upsell customers to an additional or higher-priced product or service?
  • How can you make it easy for satisfied customers to review or recommend your products or services?

Channels for Customer Relationships

To get, keep, and grow customer relationships, you need to present your value proposition in the best way for your specific customer segments.

Below are some common channels used by businesses to nurture customers through the sale and beyond.

As you read through the list, consider which channels might work best for your business, based on your customer segments.

Personal Assistant

For some products, customers want a face-to-face interaction, telephone discussion, or online chat with a knowledgeable person who can assist with their evaluation, purchase, and support. These interactions can foster valuable long-term relationships.

Dedicated Personal Assistant

For more complex, configurable, or luxury items, a dedicated person or team may be assigned to the customer to assist with whatever they may need. For example, business software tends to have a long evaluation period, may require customization for the customer’s use, and may be sold with a support contract. 

Self Service

Many customers prefer the shopping convenience of 24/7 self-service from the comfort of their homes to research, read reviews, and purchase products. Self service works well for products that have fewer questions associated with the purchase and may be a one-time transaction. Self service can be provided through a website, such as Amazon, Etsy, or Zappos. Support is also available online through FAQs, email support, and a clearly-stated return policy.

Automated Services

A more personalized self-service experience allows the customer to share preferences or information that is used to provide a customized experience. For example, food subscription boxes allow customers to choose among options such as vegan, dairy-free, Paleo, or Keto to match their dietary needs. The service is still automated, making delivery easy for the company. Yet the customer experiences greater choice and customization, leading to a high level of satisfaction.

Co-creation

A customer and a company may work together to design and produce a product or service. The company may be in software, construction, architecture, or any number of specialties. A software company may provide a way for customers to provide product enhancement requests or to build their own app to plug into the software.

Example Customer Relationship Channels

Let’s look at what the customer relationships might look like for a specific business. We’ll imagine this business provides software for booking studio time. The customer segments of this business might have the following priorities for the software:

  • Easy to integrate with an existing website
  • Provides an easy experience for their customers
  • Online forum/support for questions or issues

Based on those considerations, the customer relationship channels should include:

  • Download sites like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play
  • A “buy now” button on the company website
  • Support forum the company website
  • Live chat on the company website
  • Email support
  • Phone support

Selecting from the options above, self-service with some personal assistance for marketing, support, and customization would appeal to the customer segments

Customer Relationship

Determine the Right Customer Relationships for Your Business

Based on your value proposition, customer segment expectations, and your channels, describe how you envision the customer relationship. You may want to use different relationships for each customer segment.

Remember that for most businesses, 80% of sales will come from repeat customers. It costs less to keep a customer than to get a new one. That means spending time and energy planning these relationships now will pay off in the future.

Need support to create a business model canvas for your business? SCORE mentors are here to help. Talk to a SCORE mentor today and get started on the road to a profitable business.

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About the Author(s)

Melissa Traynor

After graduating from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Melissa Traynor worked for 25 years in the Silicon Valley for well-established Hewlett Packard and startup MontaVista Software.  Melissa gained experience in the operations of a medium to large company doing a wide variety of support related, technical jobs.

Building Profitable Customer Relationships