Healthcare Brand Growth Blog


 October 17, 2013

Touchpoints Through the Purchase Process – What Are You Missing?

Touchpoints-What-Are-You-Missing-300x239At what precise point does a customer consider your Brand and think: Yes, this is the right decision for me? Is it a pre-purchase touchpoint, when he sees your logo and thinks about a recent interaction with a sales associate (I can really trust their expertise, I should give them a call)? Or is it a post-purchase touchpoint, when she receives a gratuitous follow-up call from an attentive nurse (I feel genuinely cared for here, I'll make them my primary care provider)?

There's unlikely to be a single “golden” touchpoint, or Brand contact, that seals the deal for every customer – the needs and triggers of each person are too diverse. And, while touchpoints are different in business-to-business and consumer Brand marketing, they have more in common than one would think. That's why it's so important to evaluate every existing and potential touchpoint along the sales experience: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. For some companies, the sales environment includes both B2B and B2C touchpoints. It's not a single experience, but a combination of experiences that turns each contact into a customer and each customer into a repeat customer or better yet a Brand evangelist.

The challenge of identifying and optimizing touchpoints is so foundational for dramatic marketing results that we can't cover it all in one post. So buckle in for a journey down the sales channel, as we evaluate how your Brand interacts with customers at each step: pre-purchase, purchase, post-purchase and influencer touchpoints.

Pre-Purchase: The Great Unknown
The fact that the pre-purchase touchpoint is typically the most widespread and least understood makes it a natural first step in touchpoint analysis.

Consider, for instance, the process of purchasing a new computer:

    • 4 months before purchase: You see a commercial displaying the latest model of a computer. Seeing the new features makes you think about your current computer, which is approaching 4 years old and has substantially fewer features.
    • 2 months before purchase: You decide, after having a few more problems with your current computer, that a new computer is on the horizon. You consider your experience with your current Brand, recall the computer you saw in the commercial, and decide to start asking your friends' opinions. Now you really start to pay closer attention to advertisements for computers.
    • 1 month before purchase: You research consumer ratings and reviews both online and in industry magazines. Comparing the features, prices, and reviews of the various options, you narrow down one or two Brands. You notice that a local store comes up in search results while you research those Brands.
    • 2 weeks before purchase: You visit the local store to see the computers in person and ask the sales staff questions. They have the Brands you're considering, and their sales staff help you narrow down a few different models. You go home and browse industry forums and compare various retailers. You keep your eyes open for a sale.
    • Purchase: You learn that the retail store has slightly higher pricing than online options, but offers better customer support. You get a piece of direct mail for the same store offering free warranty upgrades, which is enough motivation to finally pull the trigger.
With mid-priced items like computers, the pre-purchase process involves more conscious planning than, say, choosing a Brand of toothpaste. But even seemingly spontaneous decisions often result from seeds planted over months of smart marketing and years of Brand experiences. For really big-ticket items, say like business machinery or technology, the process can take years and the touchpoints can really be quite complex.

 

Purchase: The Brand Experience
Your goal isn't just to reel customers into a purchase; you want to hook them into your Brand. Whereas traditional marketing focuses almost entirely on attracting customers, Brand-driven marketing recognizes that loyal customers who believe what you believe are far more likely to sing the praises of your Brand and are far more valuable than a one-off purchase. That means identifying how customers interact with your Brand during the purchase process. What touchpoints are they in contact with, and how do those touchpoints reflect on the Brand? Purchase touchpoints are all about delivery – not only of the product or service, but also of a Brand promise that you've made in pre-purchase touchpoints. Always remember Brand = Promise + Performance. It’s just the way it works. When Brand Promise and Brand Performance don’t add up or worse yet are a disconnect, Brand Perception is what suffers.

Brand Perception - How does the brand experience match the Brand Promise?


Post-Purchase: The Invitation to Loyalty
Brand experts Scott M. Davis and Michael Dunn, in their book Building the Brand-Driven Business, describe the post-purchase experience as “...one of the most underleveraged yet potentially powerful ways to drive sustainable, profitable, and long-term value back to the company.” That time following a purchase or commitment – concluding when the product or service is no longer being used – is a valuable time to seek out and utilize touchpoints. The ultimate return? Brand loyalty.

Are you leveraging your most promising pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase touchpoints? Beginning next week, we'll start to take a look at each one in detail. Stay tuned! 

Get a professional touchpoint analysis from a Certified Brand Strategist, contact Jim Flynn at jflynn@hultmarketing.com or 309-673-8191.

 

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