No one in business ever profited by change for change’s sake. However, no one ever stayed in business long without responding to market changes and evolving customer demand. We live in a world of change. The methods, strategies and ideas that resonated in the past just don’t work well enough any longer. We are pushed by market and business forces on all sides to adapt our marketing to a new era. Which means that the entire marketing organization needs to respond and adapt to a new way of interacting with our important audiences.
Customers want richer experiences that they control, and they want us to recognize them throughout their journey. They will stay interested as long as we (and our content and in-person interactions) are interesting. The product/service experience has to align with and strengthen the branded content experiences we create. Amazon has set a high bar of expectation for personalization and customer ease, and made it impossible for any company not to embrace the digital opportunity. Simply, customers demand it of every business and of every interaction—both online and offline
The old model of a linear customer experience just doesn’t work today. Customers are stimulated (either by your marketing, or by an outside force or by other customers) and have those precious “Zero Moments of Truth” popularized by Google. Those ZMOTs are happening all over the marketplace and the customer journey as they lead people toward a brand experience—and one man’s second or third ZMOT becomes another man’s initial ZMOT.
To help define the typical customer journey with your brand and products, here are four questions to ask yourself:
- How do customers initially discover us and continue to see/hear about our brand?
- How do customers research, evaluate and prefer our brand vs. competitors?
- How do customers become loyal advocates and share their brand experiences with others?
- How do customers decide to buy from us and contact us?
Today, as customers move from awareness to consideration to purchase, automation technology lets marketers interact with dozens or even hundreds of thousands of them in the same instant. That requires a new way of thinking about brand interactions and content—and the sales cycle.
It’s time to look at the sales funnel in a new way—and I suggest we do so from inside the top, looking down. This creates a sort of flowing spiral, where people float around, jump between and skip ahead (or leap back) to different touchpoints.
This kind of customer-driven, personalized, erratic engagement map is frankly just a bit all over the place. The difference is that we don’t create one or a few decision journeys. We provide all the elements for a completely customized experience, and then watch for the clues in the data that customers give us to assist them, upsell them, engage them, delight them … throughout each of their personalized journeys.
You can see why this could not be done manually—you must take advantage of the automation technology embedded in several (hopefully integrated) marketing technologies—programmatic media/search buying, anonymous website visitor recognition, loyalty programs, campaign management and messaging deployment and data analytics. If all this is not connected today, use strategic dashboards to bring results and experience data up to a blended level so that you can make better decisions in (near) real-time.
The best companies understand their customers at a granular level—who they are, their behaviors and what messages and content interest them. At every stage of the customer journey, we need to understand what the most interesting, engaging and relevant behavior is—from that particular customer’s view—not the brand view.
For example, a bank looking to sell mortgages would start further upstream, understanding the home-buying process, the emotions, the life changes that necessitate a move. The bank would make it easier to find information about schools, taxes, neighborhoods, services—and make that part of the journey with the bank, not something separate. Of course the bank would also provide calculators and information on financing so that customers can understand what they can afford and how that commitment will carry forward in their enjoyment of the new home.
It’s the “total view” of the customer that makes the biggest difference. It’s the power of being the brand that shapes the digital experience instead of just “doing some digital.”
Happy, engaged and profitable customers do not appear by accident. They are cultivated through a series of intentional marketing, sales and service processes. At TopRight, we call this the Customer BuyWay—a comprehensive analysis of the infinitely more complex, multichannel purchase process that customers face today and changing the brand’s customer processes to be intentional about connecting with customers at their own pace and need.
Consider how your customer experience morphs and changes by individual. Start with the collection of experiences and touchpoints that matter to your most valuable customers. Make that collection of experiences available, prominent and trustworthy. Then, see how you can improve this collection of experiences. That may help you get the budget and support you need to look at other audience sets.
We often find that the set of experiences that appeal to the high-value customers is a strong starting point for what appeals to a large swath of customers—although each individual may have a different set of experiences. As in all things digital, the long tail of individual customers who interact uniquely may also provide significant revenue to your business.