In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that every sale is the same! I wanted to go into a bit more detail and show you how you could map out your customer’s journey through the sales and marketing funnel and guide your customer from early stage of awareness to referral and loyalty. There are 3 stages to a customer’s journey with your business: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. Businesses that fail, fail because either they can’t generate enough leads, or can’t close the leads they have, or simply because they don’t follow up with the leads they have and so don’t have them coming back.
Every business is different but the customer’s journey is the same. My goal is to show you how you could map your customer’s journey and to walk you through each stage of the customer journey so could design a Marketing and Sales funnel that is bulletproof. Now, before we jump into each stage, let’s look at the Marketing and Sales Funnel:
The pre-purchase phase includes awareness, consideration, and preference. In this stage, the customer is not necessarily aware of your product and brand. They will slowly demonstrate an interest in you by conducting product research and examine competitors’ solutions as they inch toward a final buying decision.
As the customer reaches their final decision negotiation begins and they move to the second stage of their journey with their purchase. But your work is not done just yet. In fact, you need to make sure that the ordering, billing, and shipping is done smoothly because the next stage depends on this process if you are looking to have a return customer and even better a new customer through referral.
In the post-purchase stage of the customer’s journey, you need to ensure your customer’s experience with you is so good that they want to come back for more. Think of it this way, a customer is like a jealous lover, if you don’t pay attention to them or provide them with the best experience they have had, they will find someone else to bed with! Now that you have that mental image, let’s move to the last step in the post-purchase stage, getting the customer to talk about you with their friends and your potential new customers; in other words, they become an advocate.
Doesn’t sound so complicated now that you know what each stage require you to do, right? Let’s design your funnel!
MAPPING A CUSTOMER’S JOURNEY
So what do I mean by customer journey? To be clear, the customer journey is a map of what happens to your customer from when they become aware of your product, through the sales and early life experience, ongoing service and ultimately to re-purchase and advocacy. It helps you evolve your products and services to deliver a great experience and allows you to use the data gathered to predict likely customer behaviours in relation to changes you make to your product.
To develop a customer journey map I like to use design thinking tools. Design thinking is a systematic approach to handling problems and generating new opportunities. The concept is pertinent to any field and purpose. The design-thinking framework follows an overall flow of 1) understand, 2) explore, and 3) materialize and within these larger buckets fall the 6 phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement.
Journey mapping (or experience mapping) using design thinking pays special attention to emotional highs and lows of the customer’s interaction with your business. Experience mapping is used with the objective of identifying needs that customers are often unable to articulate. You need to lay out a hypothetical view of what a certain customer persona journey looks like, even the part that doesn’t include your business.
Key points to take into consideration when mapping out the customer journey:
- Understand and control the user’s experience of your product/service – a consistent experiences keep customers coming back and a well-documented customer journey is a way to show what should be happening to your customer and where you can improve on it,
- Map it simply and engage the execs – simple things are easy to understand and encourage habit formation. Underneath the simple flows, you will have more complexity, showing how the values reflect your personality, progress against improvements and critical moments in your customer journey,
- Get the core customer-facing stakeholders to champion each stage – this way, you write the experience from the customer perspective, and ensure that those closest to the customer uphold the journey your business agreed to deliver,
- Make it visual – you can appeal to everyone in your business if it’s quick and easy to understand, and
- Drive constant improvement through measurement – standing still = going backward, and without the numbers to support your customer journey, you won’t know how well you are doing, or how your customer rates each stage.
Once the customer journey is mapped, and you’re sharing not just the journey, but how you are scoring against it with your whole company, you can really start to feel the excitement as your colleagues make it personal and deliver against your promise. It helps if you are an evangelist who is passionate about customers too, of course.
One last thing to note about the journey map is that not all customers will have a linear journey and also customers may start at different points on your map. And that’s OK as long as you are able to provide them with the information and service they need.
When you are creating your own customer journey map and thinking about touchpoints with your customer, ask yourself:
- What specific things are we doing at each touchpoint?
- Are the touchpoints addressing customers’ motivations, and answering their questions or allaying concerns? Are they working for your target customers, and for novices and experts alike?
- Are the touchpoints addressing your customers’ unmet/underlying/latent needs? Are there needs going unstated that neither you nor competitors are solving?
- Are all the touchpoints speaking with the same tone, the same message, even the same words? Is your brand being communicated effectively and clearly?
- Are there hiccups in the flow from one stage to the next that may cause potential customers to drop off, or cause dissatisfaction for current customers (and perhaps costly product returns or help-line calls)?
- Are the touchpoints differentiating you from competitors and helping retain the customer?
Since I’m currently a one-man show, my touchpoints will all be done by me. But in larger organizations, the obvious outcome of taking an integrated approach at touchpoints is that it requires multiple parts of a company, and often outside partners, to work together to improve the experience. The web team needs to be in sync with product development, which needs to coordinate with marketing and sales, who need to align messages with the third-party call-center … and so on. This is not easy to do, and it’s why so many touchpoints and customer journeys are more reflective of the company org chart than they are of an ideal experience. But if you can accomplish a measure of integration, you will be rewarded with a customer experience that has a surprising amount of competitive durability and customer enthusiasm and loyalty.
If you are a Product Manager and would like to look at your customer’s journey map from a Product Manager’s lens, check out Laurie Harvey’s article on Toptal.
There are a lot of distractions in today’s world and to get someone’s attention could be time-consuming and not to mention expensive. But I have some good news for you: attention on social media is underpriced! .. You still have to put in the work and spend time engaging and attracting the customer’s attention. This is the start of a relationship so first impressions count.
Pro Tip#1: To be successful with your social media strategy, you need to unmonetize and quadruple on the audience while it’s cheap. Create content that is for the audience rather than monetizing. The audience is smart and will know if you’re doing it for them or for you and the money. You need to focus on bringing value from the get and the money to follow.
In today’s digital age companies need to act like a media company. It’s just access. Never before have brands and consumers had the ability to create and consume content at scale. Whether you like it or not, every person is now a media company. The tools are easy, free, and everywhere. More importantly, producing content is now the baseline for all brands and companies. It literally doesn’t matter what business you are in, you need to produce content that brings value to your customers and is high quality.
Creating content should not be the responsibility of one department in the company. It should be the responsibility and duty of every employee in the organization. By producing content, employees are building their personal brand as well as helping the company’s brand.
This stage of your relationship with the customer has 3 phases: awareness, consideration, and preference. I will be going into more detail on each phase and walk you through what you need to do to build a solid foundation for your relationship.
A customer’s time spent in this phase can be a lot or a little. Whoever has spotted your product/service has become aware that they have an issue, need or something has come to their attention. But the question is: how can potential customers find you? Well, it can be done in several ways, here are a few:
- Brand story
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Cold calling
- Events (trade shows, consumer shows, etc.)
It all comes down to whatever it is you are selling. Remember to think creatively. One of my favorite techniques is using the brand’s story. Use video to show who you are, what you do, who your employees are, and what you stand for. Make it entertaining to grab attention. This will be extremely helpful if you are trying to attract the right talent too.
In this phase, the pros and cons are being weighed. Depending on what you do, you can try any of these techniques:
- Free samples
- A success story/Testimonial
- Videos (YouTube and Vimeo)
- Tip sheets/FAQs
Pro Tip#2: Think like a car salesman, an important part of the consideration is the test drive.
Change is tough, you need to guide the customer and hold their hand and provide them with the information they need. One of the best techniques is to provide free samples. Nothing beats touching the product or if you have SaaS product, provide free trials.
Pro Tip#3: Don’t hesitate to collect the potential customer’s contact info so you could follow up with them and see how your product or service worked out for them.
One thing that can definitely make this stage easier for the potential customer are reviews and testimonials. Testimonials create an emotional appeal for your branding and help convey your overall brand message. People trust ratings and what others have to say about a product. It can eliminate any doubts potential customers may have.
Pro Tip#4: If you don’t have reviews or testimonials just yet, consider giving out free samples/trails in exchange of reviews. You can run social media campaigns and contests to find consumers that would like to try out your product and provide feedback and testimonials. Or use testimonial services such as trustpilot (www.trustpilot.com) to get reviews.
Pro Tip#5: Video testimonials have better conversions compared to text as they come across as more authentic and real.
Any sort of distraction can cause a lost opportunity. Ensure that your website, blog, etc. doesn’t distract your visitors. Easy navigation to find what they want fast is necessary too.
Faced with a plethora of choices and communications, consumers tend to fall back on the limited set of brands that have made it through the wilderness of messages. And that’s why brand awareness matters: brands in the initial-consideration set are more likely to be purchased eventually than brands that aren’t in it.
The more you understand your customer the easier it is to make sure you are addressing their preferences in their customer journey. Think about things like:
- Is your offer clear?
- What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
- Can customers see clearly the value of your offer?
In this phase, your previous actions should have put you in a position where the customer finds you more attractive than your competitors.
NO. 2: PURCHASE & DELIVERY
In this stage, your customer is convinced. He or she has bought your story and the journey has got their credit card out of their wallet and they are ready to spend their hard earned money with you. It is at this stage that the customer shows their commitment and your relationship with the customer take a new turn. The next 100 days of your relationship with a customer at this stage are pivotal. It is very important for you to have designed a seamless ordering, billing and shipping process. There are many ways to design a process but one that uses empathy will be most successful as it will base the process of understanding the end user (i.e. the customer).
If you are selling your product via your website you want to make sure your customer is able to sign up and create a profile with your system. Connecting the customer to your CRM will help your team in following up with the customer and just keeps everything related to the customer organized.
In the B2C world, Amazon has set the standard when it comes to shipping. In the B2B world shipping may not be as fast if you are manufacturing or private labeling for your customers. But you can take steps to make sure the customer is informed of the status of their order and the ETA for the order to reach them. Mapping out the process and keeping the customer in the loop will help your customer plan better on their end and reduce any anxiety that comes from not knowing.
You may have it easier if you have a SaaS product/service, getting the customer up and running should be fast and easy. You still have to provide the customer with proper training and hold their hands to make sure they are happy with their purchase and don’t feel left alone.
THE FIRST 100 DAYS
One of the biggest mistakes companies make is handing off new clients from the always-eager-to-please sales department to more jaded account managers, who rarely make a fuss over new customers. Companies focus too much effort on the sale when they should be looking at satisfaction and loyalty just as much. If you can get the first 100 days after purchase right, the fact is you can have a customer for life.
Here are 3 steps to finding out what your customers want and building more lasting relationships:
- Learn more about your customers. Try to ask the customer to provide you with as much information as possible. The key is to investigate in a way that you find bonds to your customers.
- Personalize your interaction with customers. If your company can convey a more personal, fun, caring attitude in its communications, is it fair to say that they would stop thinking of you as a cold, undead organization?
- Surprise your customers. Create opportunities to astonish and amaze them. Build in moments of delight, whether it’s through little gifts, samples, favours or information. Do two or three in the first 100 days. How customers experience your business, is your company’s “make or break” activity.
You don’t need to communicate with your customer every day of the 100 days but you do need to plan and map it out and know what you will be doing for them.
A customer experience that treats the sale as the endpoint is an unclosed circle. All the brand equity, sentiment, and trust you nurtured to encourage the sale, are liable to leak out through this gap. Selling to existing customers is easier than converting new ones. With this said, here is how you create loyalty and advocacy.
Ever heard of the expression “you gotta give to get”? Well, now that you have a new customer you need to be their number #1 fan before they become your number #1 fan. So how do you do this? You need to ensure they are successful. Support them and make sure they know how to use your product or service, show them you care and perhaps do a blog on them. Help them get their word out. If you do this as a surprise it’s even better. Some techniques you could use to win your customer’s loyalty in this phase include:
- Feature them on your social media accounts
- Do a video on them and what they do for their customers
- Send them valuable information (market research, etc.)
First, customers will never give you referrals if they don’t love your brand. The closer they feel to you, the happier they’ll be to share contact info.
That’s why consistently engaging with customers by giving them valuable content and opportunities can create a better connection, and keep your brand top of mind.
You need to build trust before customers will share contact info with you. That means you need to be transparent with the details of your referral campaign. You should clearly explain to customers:
- How the information they submitted will be used
- Who will be reaching out to the referee and when
- How the referral process will work
- When they can expect updates on the state of their referral
Pro Tip#6: Make referrals rewarding. I’m not just talking about monetary rewards. While sending a gift card can work, many customers want something money can’t buy. By giving them rewards for participating in your B2B referral program, they’re more likely to keep coming back.
Aside from asking for referrals, you need to be asking for review and testimonials as well. As mentioned in previous sections, your new customers will be looking for them so now is the time to ask your customers to help you out!
That’s it! Hope this has helped you map out your customer’s journey as it relates to your sales and marketing funnel. Comment below and let me know what you think. Always happy to have a conversation with you!