Customer journeys have evolved in the last several years, particularly because of the impact of social media and technology. A well-mapped customer journey can be one of your best tools when examining the stages and touch points where your customers will engage with your brand.
Influencers can drive and support your customers along their journey. Influencers can include people (such as members of your customers’ networks) or collateral (such as articles, blog posts, and reviews). Note that you don’t get to dictate who or what influences your customers. But by understanding who and what those influences are, you can have an early opportunity to observe how customers interact with one another.
So let’s talk about the customer journey. At Metia we break the journey into seven stages:
Stage 1: Awareness
At this stage, customers understand that they have a need and are gathering information about brands that can meet it. Customers take advantage of websites, social channels, and input from family, friends and colleagues, and absorb all types of content, both actively and passively.
Stage 2: Consideration
Now that customers are aware of a brand that can address their need, they will consider the pros and cons of the products or services that they unearthed during the Awareness stage. They will look at your brand strength as well as that of your competitors. They may request additional information or ask questions via Twitter and LinkedIn groups. The consideration stage is your strongest opportunity to present a value proposition, demonstrate an understanding of the customers’ need, and to differentiate your brand from your competition.
Stage 3: Evaluation
During the Evaluation stage, customers narrow the possible contenders, and they measure the pros and cons of each brand against their need, business requirements, and constraints. Customers may evaluate product trials and demos or check references.
Stage 4: Purchase
At this stage, the customer has decided to make a purchase (hopefully from you!). Often this is the customer’s emotional peak on their journey, which can make this an ideal time to take advantage of the customer’s positive feelings and request references within their network (helping them to shift roles—from customer to advocate).
Closing a sale feels like a victory, and some marketers may be tempted to ease off the gas. However, this is the point in the journey that you should actually apply more effort. Encourage your new customer to share their news and provide a way for them to do it. Start gaining insight from the customer about their experiences throughout the stages of their journey so that you can apply that new insight to your strategy.
Stage 5: Experience
The purchase has been made, so the journey is over, right? Wrong. This is where customers actually start using your product or service. They assess their actual experience against their anticipated experience and begin to measure outcomes. Disappointments and the desired “ah ha!” moments are discovered now. One sure way to destroy this opportunity is to ignore your customer. They are still on their journey, and you should be there with them. At this point your priority should be to turn the customer into a repeat customer.
Stage 6: Loyalty
The biggest driver of customer loyalty is often the relationship between the customer and the sales team and/or service staff. It costs as much as 60% less to close business with an existing customer than it does to acquire a new one. Loyal customers are satisfied customers. You can read a great post from B2B International about customer loyalty here. The article includes three important steps to achieving devotion from your customers: 1) Get the basics right. 2) Work on softer issues. 3) Measure and control.
Stage 7: Advocacy
This is the glory stage where loyal customers become active advocates. Customers have gone beyond “this is a good brand” to “I love this brand, you should really consider them.” Cultivating advocates is a hands-on process, and you need to empower customer advocates with the opportunity and information to sing your brand’s praises. Your customer can be your brand’s hero, and you can help them to be that.
What about technology?
So how do technology and marketing impact the customer journey? Customers interact with brands in a multitude of ways, through multiple channels, and with a variety of devices.
Be aware of which channels and devices your customers have embraced at each stage of the journey. For instance, customers may become aware of a brand when looking at their LinkedIn group while on their phone, and when they start looking for more information on your blog they may switch to their desktop computer.
Customers are savvy with technology evolution, and their expectations are high. As you interact with customers throughout the stages of their customer journey, inconsistencies in mobile, social, and web strategies are exposed. A unified message, tone, and purpose will ensure the best and most effective customer experience.
As marketers, we need to ensure that we understand where customers spend their time and are the most receptive to information about your brand. Don’t abandon your customers at any point along their journey, lest you risk the ability to foster brand advocates, which in turn, generates more customers.