As discussed in “Consumerism – The Death of the Salesman”, understanding your consumers is a key component of any branding, marketing, or business development strategy. Though this is a common practice that most businesses recognize, understanding the customer journey is what ultimately leads to higher business conversions, and that is the focus of this article.
The customer journey is a deep understanding of a consumer’s behaviors, thoughts, and feelings as they interact with a brand across all digital and analog touch-points. We will discuss the stages that make up the customer journey, however, you must first realize that the customer journey does not begin at the point of sale, it begins the very first time a consumer is made aware of the brand.
A customer journey can be mapped out just like a timeline. Each point of interaction that a consumer has with a brand must be identifiable and have an action plan associated. Let’s face it, if you cannot determine the steps that a consumer takes to become a customer, how is the consumer ever supposed to make it through the sales funnel.
Touch-points are not some mythical creature, these are simply the various tangible and non-tangible events that a consumer experiences over time while interacting with your brand. A consumer may hear a radio ad, see a billboard, search on Google, or be referred by a friend. Any of these can and should lead the consumer into the first stage of the customer journey. So why does this matter? This is the first time a consumer is made aware of your brand, and if your brand message and call to action are not clearly defined and easily actionable, how can you expect the consumer to move onto the next stage of their journey.
To identify the customer journey touch-points, you need to physically map out all of the different methods of marketing that you have in place, as well as the steps a consumer goes through before, during, and after the sale. You should be able to compartmentalize each touch-point and see a next step for the consumer. If there is no next step, then there is no action, and if there is no action, there is no sale.
There are five stages of the customer journey; awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy.
The awareness stage is the first point of engagement when the consumer becomes aware of your brand through marketing and word-of-mouth.
When a consumer makes the connection that they have a need, and you have a product or service that may meet that need, they move onto stage two, the consideration stage, and the research begins. At this stage, a consumer is interested and wants to see if you actually have what they need, and the key is to provide educational content to the consumer that shows how your product or service satisfies that need. Be ready though, consumers will assess and compare you with your competition so be sure to have your material in-line with your brand identity, message, value proposition, and differentiation.
Stage three, the purchase stage, is the pivotal moment when the consumer transitions into a customer and makes a purchase. Remember, the reason they are making the purchase is that their perceived value of your product or service satisfies their need more so than the competition. So don’t let them down, an unhappy customer will be much more vocal to their friends and family than a happy customer.
Once you have a customer, you have to keep them, so we move onto the retention stage. Depending on your product or service, this is when you want to reach out to your new customer. Ensure that they are happy with their purchase, offer assistance to help them get started, and try your best to instill a level of brand loyalty. For repeat purchases or renewals, remember that this journey is cyclical and the customer may go back to stage two at the point of renewal, so you must know your product-sales lifecycle.
The last stage is advocacy. This is when your customer spreads the word about their experience with your brand, your product, and your organization. As stated earlier, an unhappy customer will be much more vocal than a happy customer. So having an advocacy strategy in place is critical to deal with criticism and showcase praise.
Identifying your customers’ journey, and understanding your customers’ behaviors, thoughts, and feelings across all digital and analog touch-points is ultimately what leads to higher business conversions. Ensuring that each stage is actionable allows you to analyze the data uncovered, and stakeholders can then make value-driven decisions in branding, marketing, and business development investments. Without data, you are only assuming, and we all know what happens when you (ASS*U*ME).
There is no doubt that Consumerism plays a major role in today’s marketplace. Though Consumerism has several definitions, the focus of this article is on the concept that consumers are now more “informed” decision makers; and how Consumerism impacts your brand, your marketing efforts, and ultimately your sales model.
In the eyes of the consumer, your brand distinguishes your organization, your product, and your service from your rivals. So the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” should have been done away with years ago, because that is exactly what consumers do. Today’s consumer does their research, they compare you to your rivals in as many ways possible. So to say that your brand is just a name, slogan, or symbol is far from true. Your brand is not who you are to you, it is who you are to your consumers.
What this means is that you must first understand the needs and wants of your consumers before you can truly define your brand. And if your consumer profile varies, you need to have a process in place to optimize your brand and alter how it is perceived in the marketplace. That is why building a brand strategy that respects and adapts to the behaviors of your consumers is vital to success in today’s marketplace. This can only be achieved by integrating your brand strategies throughout every touchpoint along the customer journey.
Marketing 101; build your brand, differentiate with value propositions, and know your customer. Sound familiar? So what has changed? As a constantly connected society, the marketplace ecosystem has evolved. The social dynamics of today’s buyer impacts consumer loyalty, and since there is an infinite number of companies battling for the consumers’ business, today’s buyer-decisions are made on more than just price.
Let’s keep it simple, there are 4 main types of consumer buying decisions; routine purchases, low-decision purchases, high-decision purchases, and impulse purchases. Understanding how consumers make these purchasing decisions and studying buyer behavior should directly impact your marketing strategy. This is known as an Adaptive Marketing. Rather than utilizing a Standardization or Universal Needs marketing strategy, an Adaptive marketing strategy appeals to the wants, needs, and behaviors of consumers. The downside of this strategy is that it can be costly due to executing multiple marketing campaigns in a given market, time-consuming to develop each unique marketing campaign, and slower to execute because you have to track success and be ready to make changes as needed based on the data you receive. The upside is that your conversion rates and customer acquisitions will increase because you are speaking to the consumer in a manner that they want to be spoken to, and your marketing message will resonate with them on a personal level.
When it comes to sales, a product or service only has true value if that value is perceived as helpful or necessary to a consumer. So when a salesperson simply educates a consumer on the features and benefits of a product or service, they are taking the position that they know more than the consumer. A salesperson must first take the time to learn from a consumer before they attempt to educate them. When a salesperson understands what is important to a consumer, they can tailor their sales pitch to directly address the consumer’s wants and needs, and ultimately guide the consumer through the customer journey and into the purchase funnel.
With Consumerism changing the way consumers interact with brands, changing the way organizations market their products and services, it is only logical to infer that the sales model must adapt to these market changes and a more conversational data-driven approach is essential to succeed in today’s marketplace. In some ways, you can say that Consumerism is leading to the death of the salesman because consumers may be 75% sure of their buying-decision before ever engaging with a salesperson. So it is the sales persons obligation to recognize this behavioral change and adapt their sales strategy or face the consequences.
After 8 months of building our brand and client base, we are officially open for business!
We kicked off the company launch with a great team building event, we represented Go To Market Solutions at the Savage Race.
For those that have not participated in the Savage Race before, there is nothing like a little mud and some bruises to prove to yourself that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.