The Non-Linear Customer - How They Find and Use Your Business

The Non-Linear Customer: How They Find and Use Your Business

There is a perspective amongst small business owners that customers move in one direction. This is a linear perspective, from when they first engage with the business to the point of sale. 

linear_perspectiveThis perspective can be detrimental to a businesses success. It leaves out all the other paths a customer takes when engaging with your business. The business assumes that the website alone, along with a sales team, is enough to drive new business.

It’s not enough to have a website today. A customer needs more to grasp to gain trust in your brand.

A business will spend time and money to hire an agency to create a beautifully designed website. But then they do nothing to drive traffic to the site. If they do, it’s the bare minimum. A few social media posts and a blog post a month. SEO gets looked at during the development stage, but then is never looked at again. Businesses don’t make adjustments and wonder why that initial jump in new traffic has dissipated.  

I’d like to propose a different perspective. A perspective that takes in the complexity of customer engagement online. A perspective that can help you to understand how to to engage those customers in a more relevant way.

The Network Perspective

The network perspective focuses on your customer being complex and dynamic. They enter and exit your business channels (website, social media, sales) at different points. They make a purchase once they trust your brand experience.

network_perspectiveIt’s easier to think of our customers as linear. We want to lump them all into one single equation for success that we can focus on. But we wouldn’t want anyone to think of ourselves in that way.

The network perspective is more than just a path a customer takes to buy something. The network perspective looks at every customer as unique, complex individuals with different motivations. This is scary for a business. Businesses want to sell to a demographic because it costs less and it spreads a wide net.

The network perspective may seem too complex for businesses to tackle at first. A business owner may say “If a customer is entering and leaving my site at random points, there is nothing I can grasp on to that allows me to show them the benefits of my product”.  

However, I would propose that this network perspective actually provides a clearer path to learning more about your customer’s goals and motivations. Each node of the network can be separated. Each entry and exit point within the network can also be a point for a business to take action.

For example, within the network, customers may interact with your brand through social media. A business uses Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to post messages about their product or service. If we focus in on Twitter alone, you can see that it has it’s own subnetwork.

A Twitter Example

A customer has many options when interacting with your business on twitter. They can tweet about you, retweet one of your posts, follow you and direct message you. Your business has these same options to reach out to customers as well. A customer follows you. They receive a direct message from your business thanking them for the follow. They then see a post of yours, retweet it and click through to your blog. This customer has now exited the social media sub-network and entered into the larger network of content. From here, you can decide how your business interacts with them on the blog.

Here is a diagram of how this may work:

twitter_networkAt any point throughout the network, the business can define how they want to interact with the customer. These can easily be laid out into use cases:

  • A customer follows us on twitter, we then direct message the customer thanking them and send them a link to a relevant article.
  • A customer retweets a blog post, we like the retweet and then follow and relevant followers they have as well.
  • A customer clicks through from a twitter post to the blog article, we present them with an opportunity to subscribe to our newsletter.
  • A customer opens the newsletter and clicks through to a product page, we offer them a discount on the product.

The network perspective may look complex at first. But, you can see that it provides organization for how your business can guide and interact with the customer at every point in your business network.

You can share the Network Perspective with your audience online. Click here for the full infographic.

Author: Brent Hoffmann

Brent has a diverse background in graphic design, software development, and business strategy. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, he helps clients find solutions to technology problems, develop their content strategy and find ways to help them grow.

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