The Relationship-First Engagement Model, Part II

The Relationship-First Engagement Model, Part II

July 21, 2022

The traditional sales and marketing funnel has run its course.

Today’s relationship-first, trust-mediated world demands that we adopt a new framework for establishing and maintaining customer, community, and ecosystem partner relationships. The new framework must be customer-centric vs company-centric, relationship-based vs transaction-oriented, and ecosystem-aligned vs direct-driven.

In last week’s column, we introduced the design principles that drive the new approach. We now want to dig into the elements of the Relationship-First Customer and Ecosystem Engagement Model that will replace the old funnel. Our hope is that going forward we can leverage these principles, working together, to refine and make the new approach practical and actionable.

The Relationship-First Customer and Ecosystem Engagement Model

The new model is focused on building relationships based on immediate shared value and a pull, rather than a push motivation for joint commitment. The model assumes very little traditional “bear hunter” sales activity and instead, as outlined in one of our posts last week, emphasizes a “giving first” reciprocity principle.

It assumes that there is engagement long before someone becomes a traditional “prospect” and long after there is a “close”. And that a relationship is perpetual, sustainable, and continuously renewing, just like any good friendship.

The new model incorporates two continuous and recurring dimensions – or what we call “continuums”. The first, the vertical axis in the diagram above, is focused on the customers, communities, and partners with whom we want to create committed relationships – with the goal of driving adoption, creating shared value and supporting advocacy. The second, the horizontal axis in the diagram above, is focused on ecosystem and company created relationship influence.

The Customer, Community, and Partner Continuum

Outreach and engagement with customers, communities, and partners should emphasize shared value to drive engagement – focusing on giving before we expect to get something in return. The goal is to gain a commitment – which might take form through a commercial agreement, a contract, a transaction, building joint IP, etc.

Every company will need to define what that commitment is and when a prospect goes from engaging to becoming a community member, a partner, or a customer.  Commitment is the equivalent of a “close” in the old funnel. We use the term commitment because it signals the beginning of something, rather than “close” which says just that…“shut the door”. With commitment we move into the most important part of a relationship, including ongoing nurture, value creation, and advocacy.

The Ecosystem and Company-Created Influence Continuum

Today, influence is the primary and most powerful driver of relationships.  Investing in influence, and related content, tools, and best practices, drives value creation across customers, communities, and partners, creating demand pull rather than push and bringing a prospect to the company rather than forcing the company upon them. Without investment in Influence companies, more often than not, default to a transactions-push approach.

Companies that GoToEcosystem leveraging influence and adding value to customer, community, and partner relationships ‘in front of the old funnel’ will see lower CAC, more accelerated and sustained growth, and improved business models. When we give a lot, we get a lot, especially if we lead with customer, community, and partner prospect care, rather than with transaction calculators.