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March 4, 2014 Marc Williams

The Mobius: An Ear-y Tale of the path to purchase

In our last blog post, we looked at a case study, an actual instance of the Mobius Cycle at work, the real-life path to purchase for a pair of real-life consumers.  We’ll do that again today but, in today’s example, we’ll be looking at a case where the purchase is not optional (no matter how badly Mike and Nicole wanted that RV, they didn’t truly need it, though a successful marketer might make them feel that way) and the cycle, while it still falls under the heading of considered purchase, has a good bit more (ahem) urgency to it.

Ray: An Ear-y Tale

Ray suffers from ear infections and has since childhood.   The severity of these infections ranges from annoying to excruciating.  Lately, they’ve tended more toward the excruciating.  Lately, also, they’ve also increased in frequency, as Ray’s small children bring home colds and coughs, which Ray, like any good parent, sympathetically catches.  These petty illnesses morph, almost every time, into ear infections.  Ray’s Primary Care Physician initially prescribed both pain meds and antibiotics and these things worked.  After two or three times, however, the PCP saw fit to refer Ray to an Ear Nose & Throat specialist.  The ENT prescribes pain meds and antibiotics as well, though stronger versions, and, after examining Ray, has said that surgery is not the best option; it is as risky as any other surgery and not certain to solve the problem.  She advises Ray to wait it out, stick with the pain meds and antibiotics, and hang on until the kids get older and quit bringing home so many colds.  By now, Ray knows the signs of an oncoming infection (ticklish, slightly itchy ear and a profound energy drain) and, wanting always to avoid excruciating pain, he is alert to these signs.  “Go ahead and schedule an appointment when you feel one coming on”, the ENT tells him.  His PCP has told him the same.  He’s never visited the emergency room for one of his infections, though he knows that’s an option as well, one he might consider in desperate circumstances.

Driving home from work, Ray sees a sign on a familiar construction site.  An Urgent Care facility is being built there.  It’s near his home and, though it’s summer now, and his kids haven’t brought home any illnesses lately and shouldn’t do so in the immediate future, Ray can’t help but think of his ear (and it can’t help but itch a bit as he thinks of it).  He files the information away.  A new product has entered into his orbit, to use the Mobius terminology.  He’s always in consideration: he’s been purchasing health care for his ear regularly for a while now and is always alert to new options.

Next time he drives past, Ray sees construction is nearly complete.  His wife is with him.  She notices the new facility and, thinking both of Ray’s ear as well as the myriad possibilities regarding injury and illness of their three children, mentions that, in addition to this Urgent Care facility, there’s another one, run by a different company, in a strip mall near their home.  Neither Ray nor his wife has ever visited an Urgent Care facility.  They have influences coming from both facilities.  The one on the way home from work is affiliated with a local hospital and their impressions of the Urgent Care facility are tied to their influences of the hospital.  For the strip mall facility, their influences stem from what they’ve seen of it—signage, location, general overall superficial influence.  They’ve even seen a newspaper insert and direct mail piece. Of course, they also have influences from the other products (the PCP, the ENT) Ray has used, and are in the post-purchase phase of Mobius with those.

The conception moment arrives: Ray is tired and his ear is ticklish.  He’s had a runny nose and slight cough for a few days.  He doesn’t want to seek care for his ear unnecessarily but neither does he want to suffer excruciating pain.  He considers his options.  He could book with either the ENT or the PCP.  The ENT would be easier—and quicker—to get into and is more knowledgeable and prescribes stronger meds.  But booking now, before he’s absolutely sure he has an infection, is not something Ray really wants to do, though it might be better than suffering through a night and half-a-day waiting to see the ENT, if the pain comes on at night, which for some reason it typically does.  He remembers the Urgent Care facilities.  With his ear itching, Ray uses some down time and his smart phone to check out not just the facility on the way home from work but also the one in the strip mall.  He looks over their web sites, reads customer reviews.  There aren’t many for the one on the way home from work so he looks up the hospital with which it’s affiliated and reads reviews on that.  He calls home and asks his wife if anybody she knows has actually used either of these facilities.  While he waits for her to call back, he searches ‘Urgent Care’ in his and neighboring zip codes and finds a few more options, ones he didn’t know were there and, while they are not as close or convenient as either of the ones he was originally considering, they are still close enough.  He reads review for those as well.

Ray has, in a very short time, dramatically increased the number of influences he has.  He’s also increased the number of products  under his consideration.  Technology, in this modern, multi-media world, has given his consideration both a speed and a scope which consumers have never had before, never even approached before.  This is great, for consumers.  And it can be great for marketers, too, the ones who carefully manage their product and the influences customers experience, marketers who are aware of the Mobius Cycle, in other words, and have a strategy for dealing with it.

When Ray’s wife calls back, she has more influences to share with him.  Friends and colleagues have used both the facility on the way home from work and one of the ones that Ray has just become aware of.  She shares those friends’ and colleagues’ experiences (they are in post-purchase  and contributing to the influence of others) with Ray.

When, 36 hours later, symptoms proclaim infection inevitable, Ray is armed, as all modern consumers are armed, with more information than any generation of consumers in history, to make a decision.  He ends up, in the purchase phase, enabled by technology, choosing one of the slightly more distant Urgent Care facilities.  That is, he chose, out of a category he’d not previously used, a product of which he had, until very recently, been entirely unaware.

Ray’s case is different from Mike’s and Nicole’s, in both its necessity and, ultimately, its urgency.  It also differs in that, for Ray, price did not factor into the decision.  It differs still further in that Ray was unable to test-drive the product and didn’t preview it in any way.  He went, very strongly, on  influence.  To earn his business—possibly not just in this instance but in future instances of ear infection and, possibly, illness or injury to Ray’s children or wife, the facility will have to do well with Ray—product  is, as always, the first, last, and most important concern.  They will have to do well in the post-purchase phase as well, continuing to manage influences (influence, you’ll recall, never sleeps) but they have, already, through thorough and judicious strategy, managed their influences well enough to win this purchase, this round, that is, of the never-ending Mobius Cycle.

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About the Author

Marc Williams
Marc Williams Marc Williams is the president and sole owner of Seattle’s oldest independent advertising agency, Williams Helde Marketing Communications. Marc has extensive experience in branding, marketing and advertising, serving as creative director and now as agency principal. Williams Helde is currently ranked among the top 15 agencies in the Pacific Northwest by revenue according to the Puget Sound Business Journal and focuses on national and global clients. Marc has taught courses at Seattle University within their MBA program and served as Chairman of the Board for the Northwest Entrepreneur Network. As a graduate of Western Washington University, Marc brings a powerful combination of creative insight, brand strategy and design aesthetic to everything he creates.

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