The 3 Stages of a Relationship & How it Applies to Marketing

How do we not waste money on marketing if we really do need to sell something? In our book review of Don Miller & JJ Peterson’s newest book Marketing Made Simple they address this question beautifully by looking at how genuine relationships are built.

A mini review of Don Miller & JJ Peterson’s new book “Marketing Made Simple”

The words sales and marketing make everyday people who aren’t in the industry shudder.

Unfortunately being on the wrong side of a manipulating sales person or an overly gimmicky marketing campaign makes most people sensitive to anyone who gives off even a hint of insincerity.  “Please don’t sell to me!”

This leaves many small businesses feeling stuck because they don’t know how to sell or advertise without sounding fake. They hover between being irrelevant and incredibly cheesy (yeah we’ve all seen the super bowl ad when they give the local guy a TV spot).   🤦

So how do we not waste money on marketing if we really do need to sell something?

In Don Miller & JJ Peterson’s newest book Marketing Made Simple they address this question beautifully by looking at how genuine relationships are built.

By following the flow of how real human relationships work, a person can win at marketing and sales without losing their soul!

So what are the 3 steps to a successful relationship?

They are: 1. Curiosity 2. Enlightenment & 3. Commitment

Think of any relationship, whether you are starting a friendship or romantically interested in a person, looking to apply to a school or a job, or purchasing from a store or brand--these are all relationships that follow the flow of curiosity, enlightenment, and commitment.

That girl caught my attention (curiosity) so I discovered more about her (enlightenment) and then took a step towards commitment by asking her friend to ask her if she liked me (come on it takes baby steps!).

Making a buying decision is a relational decision.

Businesses who fail to realize this are the ones who begin to fall into the car salesman who wears a plaid jacket category.

So how do we nail these 3 relational steps in our marketing?

Curiosity - Catch customers attention

This is the hard part right? Especially in an information saturated age.

However it may not be as hard as you think. Customers pay attention to things that solve their problems. The Facebook Ad that a customer pauses at on their feed is  one that somehow targets the real pain a customer is facing.

Last week we shared One Golden Question that will help you identify your customers' problems. Asking that question will help you identify quickly what your customers care about.  

The problem is that most people try to capture attention by talking about themselves. “Wow our brand is so good at stuff. You should buy from us.”

Talking all about you doesn’t work in dating nor in advertising.

Talk about them!

And talk about their problems SIMPLY and CLEARLY.

Remember, limited attention span ... Thousands of images and messages a day … Winning messages are ones that quickly recognize the problems your customers face everyday and then state that in clear language.

In Miller’s book he says “Customers are not curious about you, they are curious about how you can solve their problems.”

With BigBigStory we help businesses craft a 15 second sales pitch or elevator pitch, one they can repeat over and over and over again across all areas of their company. We look for memorable and catchy sound bites that their audience will remember.

We also work hard to craft headers and subheadings that communicate quickly, clearly, and effectively. There should be zero confusion on what you do.

Every business should know their effective pitch and have a list of memorable headers to insert into any piece of sales copy.

Getting these sound bites right is the first step in building a successful relationship with your customers.

Enlightenment - Prove you are the one

Simply making someone curious won’t work, enlightenment is super important if you hope to have someone commit.

Sure that person who caught your eye at the party made you curious, but then you talked to them and there was no substance. That’s when you excuse yourself to go talk to someone else who might have an actual plan for their life!

So how’s enlightenment work for your business?

Enlightenment is a trust building exercise. It shows that you actually have the expertise and a plan to solve your customers problems.

At BigBigStory we help you create a list of possible customer objections and then systematically try to overcome those objections throughout your website copy. This builds tremendous trust with your customers.

Are you the one who anticipated their barriers and provided real answers to those questions? If so, you’ll  be the one they call!

Another way to build trust is to give things of value away for free. Provide a lead generator they get in exchange for giving you an email. Create a How to Guide, share tips on social media, share videos of your process, create a case study documenting the before and after, give away templates and tips. The more you share, the more trust you build.

The last way we build trust with customers is through  showing a clear plan of action. Make it clear how you intend to solve their problems.

In his book Miller says “Customers will not move into a fog."

Commitment - Know when to ask

The last part of building a relationship with someone is knowing when to ask for a commitment. If you ask too soon then you scare them off, if you don’t ask at all then you just stay in the friendzone forever. You don’t want either of these if you are a business!

If you are a fan of StoryBrand, and have done any research on BigBigStory you will see a call to action button all over the websites we build. It’s unavoidable that “Scheduling a Call” is the next step on this website!

So is this pushy?

No. It’s just being clear what the intention is for the relationship. It’s like the girl I liked in college who became my good friend and dated someone else because I never had the guts to tell her my true intentions!  

As a business you gotta make your intentions clear. When businesses are unclear on what they hope the customers to do, then that customer just hops on their website and browses around for good information and then leaves. What were you hoping they would do? Make that super clear.


Don’t be pushy.

You need to give your customers a chance to get to know you. This often takes up to 8 touchpoints with a customer before they decide to l buy from you. This is what we call nurturing a relationship.

Your social media, lead generator, and email campaign are all meant to add value over time. You need to nurture that relationship!

Gary Vaynerchuck in the book Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook says we should aim to give a ton of well timed “jabs” before we ever “right hook” or push for a sale.

A right hook’s content aims to sell and self-promote and a jab’s content aims to engage and trigger an emotional response.

Basically we need less right hooks and more jabs as a business.

In his book Miller says “To create a good relationship you must keep in touch.”

Too many businesses are worried about people unsubscribing from their list because of sending too many emails or too much content. So they hardly ever send out content.

Two things to this thought: First, if all you do is sell in your emails without adding value, then sure they will unsubscribe.

Second, unsubscribes aren’t always bad. You are whittling your list down to your true fans or the ones who are actually interested in buying from you! It’s better to have 100 loyal subscribers than 1000 who don’t really care.

Russell Brunson of Dot Com Secrets went from sending an email once a month to sending emails to his list everyday. He said sure he lost some people, but everytime he upped the number of emails he sent he grew his business and the depth of relationship with his fans.  

To get commitment from your audience you need to continue to nurture a relationship with them!

So should you buy Donald Miller’s Book Marketing Made Simple?

If you want to know how to walk customers through these 3 stages of relationship then  absolutely.

The whole book is full of practical and easy steps to build a sales funnel for your business that nurtures these three relationships.

A good sales funnel controls the pace of the relationship with your customers, and even better an automated sales funnel grows your business while you sleep!

For sure that’s something worth investing in.

How does StoryBrand impact a website? Dig deeper into how we use StoryBrand to write clear and compelling website copy that attracts more of your ideal customers.


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