Healthy human intimacy and prosperous B2C relationships share some overlap.

According to the researcher, Desmond Morris, there are twelve stages of intimacy for human-to-human interaction. And for a long-lasting relationship they must be followed in the correct sequence and at the correct pace.

In his book, Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, He codified the stages in the following order:

  1. Eye to body
  2. Eye to eye
  3. Voice to voice
  4. Hand to hand
  5. Hand to shoulder
  6. Hand to waist
  7. Mouth to mouth/ Face to face
  8. Hand to head
  9. Hand to body
  10. Mouth to body
  11. Hand to your no-no square. (I paraphrased)
  12. Adult expressions of love (paraphrased again)

While that list makes sense, there are two particularly interesting things Mr. Morris found in his research.

The first is this. At whichever stage you’re currently on in a relationship, if you want to move up the sequence smoothly, you can get away with skipping one stage. But you must never skip more than one. Leapfrogging over two puts you in the realm of uncomfortable weirdo.

Skipping three stages is assault.

Go ahead. Imagine meeting someone for the first time. You could go from stage 2, right to stage 4 without too much friction. But going from 2 straight to 5 is uncomfortable. And jumping from stage 8 to 12 will land you in jail for a very long time.

The second interesting find is this. Rushing stages is as bad as skipping them. Couples who spend time at each stage before moving to the next developed a deeper bond. Couples who rushed through stages didn’t have as strong a bond and were more likely to divorce.

What does this have to do with advertising and business?

Getting a customer for life has its own stages of intimacy. If we were to compare it to the above table, and we could be so bold as to consider a lifetime customer stage 12 of the relationship, then the progression would look like this:

Your advertising is where your prospective customer first meets you. This takes you up to stage 3 at best.

Stage 4 begins when they first come in contact with your company. Usually by visiting your website, calling you, or walking into your store.

Stage 6 is an initial purchase. A small commitment has been made.

Anything after stage 6 is larger or more frequent purchases. As long as both parties are happy in the relationship it’ll continue to grow from there.

This leaves us with two powerful takeaways.

First, if you’d never put your hand on someone’s waist immediately after making eye contact for the first time, then why would you ask for the sale in your advertising?

And the answer is, you wouldn’t.

It’s not advertising’s job to make the sale. It is its job to make the introduction and ascend the relationship. If you recognize and accept advertising’s role in the stages of customer intimacy, then you will wield it effectively and prosper.

Second, don’t rush the customer. To court loyal, lasting customers we must be comfortable delaying sales gratification. Allow time to let customers climb through the stages of intimacy at the pace that suits them.

This is perhaps not what you wanted to hear but it is the truth I needed to tell you. It is a lot of work to woo a lifelong customer.

It’s also exceedingly profitable.

If you will be patient, and gentle, and allow them to love you in their own time; you will be the business that thrives.

Latest posts by Zac Smith (see all)