One-size-fits-all marketing is a thing of the past. We know that people consume information in different ways which is why we need to create several channels for our marketing, and make sure that the content we create in our marketing efforts is varied as well, based on different learning styles. If your small business has mastered a more diverse marketing approach, congratulations! Ready to take your efforts a step further?  Embrace the concept of the customer journey. Understanding the customer journey will give you better results from your marketing. Keep reading to learn how…

What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer. It’s a roadmap detailing how a customer becomes aware of your brand, their interactions with your brand–and beyond. In other words, it’s the path a customer takes from the time they first hear about your brand until they buy. In sales speak, it’s an outline of how clients get from above the sales funnel into, through and out as they finally become a client.

Why is understanding the customer journey so important?

Many marketers make the mistake of creating content solely to attract and support new customers, forgetting about the rest of the customer journey. Instead of focusing on the different stages their customers will go through on their buying journey, they direct all their attention to a new audience, meaning they are missing a huge part of their existing readership. What about existing clients?  Past clients?  Prospects that never became clients but could? Even if you have a diverse marketing strategy, if you’re not overlaying that strategy with an understanding of the customer journey, then you are missing out big time.

How can you understand your customer’s journey?

journeySince you’re likely not psychic, chances are you’re going to have to figure out another way to understand the journey of your customers. Pretty much you need to walk in their shoes, trying to understand how they move from brand awareness to customer. Marketing professionals break this down is a few different ways; here’s Search Engine Journal’s five steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Purchase
  4. Post-purchase
  5. Dormancy

In other words, get their attention, get them interested, turn them into clients, engage them as clients, keep them from becoming ex-clients! Vertical Measures has a slightly different model which we advocate:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision
  4. Advocacy

They became aware of your company, the considered your product or service, they bought (wohoo!) and then they became a brand advocate.

If you look at the four (or five) steps above, you can see how, depending on what stage of the journey your customer is in, you need to be marketing to them differently. In the awareness stage, for example, now is not the time to bombard them with complex case studies. They’re still sniffing around so to speak. What you want to ask yourself is what kinds of problems do they have and how can your company solve them? How can your company answer the questions these people are asking at this stage?  Where are they looking to get this information? How can your marketing be helpful enough to entice them to consider you as a potential vendor for them?

Once you get them more engaged and they are considering your brand, the marketing shifts and becomes more direct. How does your product or service stack up to others?  What makes you so different (this is a good time to dust off your unique value proposition and see if it still applies). Get a good understanding for how your customers make their decision. Referrals? Facts? Lowest price? More choices?

partnersLet’s say they’ve made their decision and your company wins. Congratulations! However, there is still work to do. You should find out why they chose your company. What enticed them to buy from you? What expectations do they have?  Do they align with what you can deliver?  Understanding these will help you keep your customer, making you true partners in the business relationship, and will help you know how to continue communicating (marketing) to them.

Just because they’re client doesn’t mean you stop marketing to them. Why? Because they could buy more, refer you to others or they could leave if they’re not happy. Their journey isn’t over, and neither is yours.   Now is the time to nurture them to stay onboard with you and advocate your brand to others.

Where to take your customer journey going forward

Understanding how customers find you, engage with you, buy from you, stay with you, and even promote your brand to others will make a huge impact on how your marketing is done. Drilling deep into your customer’s journey would be hugely helpful, but even understanding the basics to start makes a difference. Understanding the customer journey will give you better results from your marketing. Want to learn more about the customer journey?  Here are a few great resources:

The Customer Journey: How an Owned Audience Can Transform Your Business

Customer Journey Maps – Walking a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes

You Have the Customer Journey All Wrong

Patty Hughes
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