Stages of Customer Intimacy


Stages of Customer Intimacy

The stages of customer intimacy might sound like an odd topic for a business coaching and consulting enterprise, but it isn’t when you really think about it. Desmond Morris, a clinical researcher and psychiatrist from the 1960s outlined what makes relationships last and survive in the long term. In order to do so, there were 12 steps of progress that any relationship needed to go through to build sustainable intimacy.

There’s that word we hear about in business time and time again — sustainable.

In other words, this mindset can be applied with our business brains on to establish long term relationships that are sustainable as business and client. And why not?

And This Relates to Business How?

As you may have guessed, most business/client relationships will stop at a fairly early point as opposed to reaching the twelfth and final stage. That would be inappropriate for customer intimacy!!!

But they are relevant for business owners and SMEs to understand and realise the stages that are highly applicable to a successful customer or client relationship.

In the same way that prospective partners look for love in their personal life, it’s unlikely that jumping straight to stage 12 will result in a lifetime of commitment. Going from 0 – 100 mph rarely ends well and can usually be chalked up to a one night stand.

From a business perspective, to develop a long-term relationship with customers and clients you need authenticity. To allow time for trust in the relationship to develop, and provide information as needed without asking for a sale.

Quick transactions often do not pan out into long-term custom. The goal is to have a business that is relationship-based. Not transaction-based. Michael Drew crafted Twelve Steps of Intimacy in Marketing and Selling for better relationships with your clientele.

If the research that applies for personal relationships is anything to go by only 5% of couples who bypass stages in the 12 steps end up in a long term relationship to write home about. 

So, it pays to do your homework. Build trust, respect, and allow time for business relationships to develop too.

What Steps Apply to Business?

Building relationships in business is an investment. An investment of your time, energy, and effort.

When both business and client can give equally into the relationship, that relationship will have legs. Whereas in Desmond Morris’ model for personal relationships step 12 is sex, in business it’s the ultimate service that you offer. 

The Original Model

Let’s go back to the start in the original model. In the beginning, it’s Eye-to-Body, you see your ideal partner, but they don’t see you.

Then step 2 is Eye-to-Eye, you see each other and flirting might ensue.

Next, Step 3 is Voice-to-Voice and you have a conversation.

Step 4 is Hand-to-Hand, you make contact.

And then Step 5 is Hand-to-Shoulder, Step 6 is Hand-to-Waist, Step 7 is Hand-to-Face.

Step 8 is kissing, Step 9 is Hand-to-Body.

Finally, Step 10 is Mouth-to-Body, Step 11 is full nakedness, and Step 12 is sex.

For business, the first four steps are as far as they should go! It’s about being seen and heard. If you can discover that your values align and are on the same level then there is a connection that can be built upon. Without that, the conversation has disconnect and both parties are likely to move on.

Why Skipping Steps Means Marketing Fails

Just like a personal relationship, skipping steps when marketing your business will result in some heavy fails.

More importantly, the job isn’t over once someone becomes a customer. If your customer gets passed on after a ‘close’ for hot new leads they are likely to feel dissatisfied with the experience and move on.

Ideally, you want to follow these steps in business (The Value Journey Canvas) for successful customer and client recruitment.

The Value Journey Canvas

Awareness: something triggers them to search for you and find you. They do and you now exist in their mindset. 

Engagement: the potential customer engages with you through media channels like social posting, blogs, online videos etc.

Subscribe: when your values align and they want to know more ongoing they will provide personal details in order to do so. 

Convert: time commitment such as participating in a webinar, free consultation, or small fee indicates that the engagement is growing.

Excite: if they enjoyed the material that they converted on the follow up is important to check in and develop further. If they didn’t enjoy the conversion they may stall and fall back to an earlier stage.

Ascend: your potential client sees value and wants to work with/see more from you.

Advocate: happy customers will share, so testimonials and positive feedback are key. But never stop delighting your existing customer base with complacency!

Promote: the ultimate goal is to have customers promote your brand with referrals, affiliations, and continue to do so without active nurturing.

Final Thoughts on the Stages of Customer Intimacy

When you make the customer or client journey a priority, it is essential to put their needs, values and loyalty first.

Without real customer intimacy, this just won’t evolve into a meaningful long-term relationship.

It’s worth investing time and energy in looking at your customer journey to see where there might be room for improvement. 

Are you looking for a pushy one-night stand relationship or are you in it for the long haul?

The evidence speaks for itself.