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Building Your Business

Any successful business knows the goals of a customer pipeline include creating awareness, generating leads, converting leads to sales, boosting transaction value through upwelling and cross-selling and increasing frequency through reorders and repeat sales.  You should begin by mapping out the sequences that best align with your ideal target market profile and the products/services you would most like to begin or continue offering them.

“The low-hanging fruit is often your lower-price offerings in the early stages, and that’s a good place to start. But you should begin thinking about what you can offer at higher price points that might eventually provide a greater return on your investment.”

The pipeline creation process should include measuring performance in each stage of the process, setting benchmarks against existing performance and establishing the potential for improvement. The pipeline must provide you with accurate metrics so that over time your understanding of the process and your ability to measure and boost performance will improve, it is important to break down the process into phases so that you can measure each one. You can only improve it when you are able to measure it.

Gathering, analyzing and leveraging customer information are critical activities, to any business development effort and I believe one should break this exercise down into seven stages.  Those stages are as follows:

  1. Stage one is prospects who respond to a free offer, indicating a willingness to learn more about you and your business.
  2. A subgroup of these people who express interest in a low-risk offer emerges in stage two
  3. Stage three identifies those who complete that transaction from stage two
  4. From the prospects in the first three stages, you should be able to identify those likely to be interested in your mid-price offerings
  5. The ones who complete that transaction become stage five customers
  6. The final two stages are the high-price-point interest group;
  7.  And the high-price-point customer group, typically representing about 20 percent of your customer base but up to 80 percent of your profits

It is important to note the nature of the customer information that is most valuable in an effective pipeline.  For the most part, general demographic information provides little value; it is customer contact data, information requests and purchase patterns that are most useful. This crucial information can be leveraged through a segmentation process, as well as through customer relationship management (CRM) and direct marketing. With CRM, employees answering incoming calls can know exactly who the customer is. The same data can be used to do a better job of targeting direct marketing efforts, regardless of media channel.

Finally, building a culture of performance, learning and continuous improvement is essential to wringing maximum value from your customer pipeline. Metrics and performance benchmarks are part of that effort, but incentives, morale-building and fostering an enthusiastic atmosphere that is conducive to your business goals are important.”

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