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Why Understanding Your Customer Journey Is More Important Than Ever Right Now

J. Ugi
November 11th, 2020 - 2:00PM

Think about this: 80% of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products. It’s true—customer expectations have become a top challenge for businesses to manage. And when it’s your business, sometimes you’re just too close to the inside, making it difficult to understand what your customers expect from you.

To put yourself in their shoes, start by asking three simple questions:

  • What is one of your favorite brands and why?
  • Why did you buy the last product or service that you did?
  • As a customer, what do you expect from a company?

There’s a reason particular companies were popping into your brain as you answered. And it’s because those companies appealed to you somewhere along your customer journey—if not at every stage.

A customer journey is the process a person goes through as they purchase a product. Now, you’re not a mind reader. How do you know what each and every customer is thinking and feeling before they choose to buy from you?

The good news is, it’s not about reading minds. It’s about knowing each buyer stage and creating strategies to appeal to customers along their individual journeys.

The end goal?

To generate more revenue for your business by creating incredible experiences.

The 5 Phases of the Customer Journey

The customer journey is familiar to anyone who has ever made a purchase. First, something triggered you to want a product or service of some kind. Then, you did a little reading up on what the best option was. Maybe you asked some peers their opinion. With that information at hand, you made a purchase.

But why did you choose that particular product and service over its competitors? And more importantly, how can your business’ product or service become the one that people ultimately choose over your competition?

You’ll need to understand the five phases of the customer journey and the particular tactics within each.

Phase 1: Awareness

The first phase is creating awareness. Think of this as your potential customer’s discovery phase. They know they have a need or problem, and they’re on the hunt for a solution.

To reach your audience at this stage, they first need to know you exist. This is where marketing practices such as branding, SEO, and advertising come into play.

Branding
This is the customer’s first impression of you, and the truth is, people want to do business with people and brands they like. So, if the copy on your website, the content on your blog, and the images on your social channels aren’t connecting with them, they’ll do business with a different company.

  • Pro Tip: Don’t try to be like your competitors. If you want to work with your ideal customers, you need to connect with them authentically. If your personality shines through the brand, you’ll get better results. Period.

SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is what helps your website show up when people ask a question through Google or Bing. SEO can be activated through PR initiatives, the content you develop, and the credibility ranking of your website.

  • Pro Tip: SEO is complex, and it’s also constantly changing. If you don’t know much about it, invest in a company that does. Throwing things at the wall to see what sticks isn’t the best approach here.

Advertising
There are numerous types of advertising—retargeting, social media, and print are just a few. Before spending your budget, it’s crucial you do research about your target audience and know where they’re looking. Are they on Facebook? You should be, too. Are they watching Hulu every night? Be there! When they come to your website, do you have retargeting ads? If not, that’s a major opportunity lost. You need to get your brand in front of them to build familiarity.

  • Pro Tip: Advertising isn’t the cheapest way to gain awareness. Before investing, make sure you know what metrics to measure so you can determine the ROI of your campaigns.

If you dedicate a holistic strategy to each of these channels, you’ll help potential customers become aware that you exist, and you’ll make a great first impression along the way.

Phase 2: Consideration

The second phase of the customer journey is the consideration phase. This is the stage where your potential prospects have narrowed down their search to a few options. They’re doing extensive research about those options to see how they compare within the market.

Your audience will have questions. Some they’ll want to find answers to on their own, and others they’ll want to ask you directly. This is where marketing tactics such as reviews, landing pages, chatbots, and website forms come in handy.

Reviews

72% of customers won’t take action until they read reviews. Keep in mind that the customer journey is an endless loop in which each phase feeds off the other. In other words, if you can’t get customers to advocate for you, then you’re going to have a hard time building awareness. Encourage current customers to leave reviews on Google, social channels, and relevant industry specific review platforms.

Landing pages

If your audience is really doing their research, they’re going to want more than a pretty website. Make sure you have specific landing pages dedicated to proving the value of your solution. You can demonstrate it through case studies, support documents, product demos, or a portfolio page. While your company might talk the talk, customers in the consideration phase are going to make sure you walk the walk.

  • Pro Tip: No matter how you choose to display your work, avoid making yourself the hero. Instead, make your customer central to each of your case studies.

Chatbots In Dave Gerhardt and David Cancel famous book Conversational Marketing, they strongly advocate for adding a chatbot to your website. Here’s an example they use to explain why.

Imagine you walk into a grocery store, collect all your items, and head to the checkout counter. When you approach the counter, there’s no attendant to be found. Instead, there’s a piece of paper that says, “Please leave your name, phone number, and comments, and we will get back to you soon so that you can finish making this purchase.

Can you imagine how frustrating that would be? This is why it’s important to think of your website as your store. Adding a chatbot is a real opportunity to provide excellent service and put you in touch with your customers much faster than you would if they filled out a form. If you don’t want to prolong the sale and risk losing it all together, this might be a good option for you. 

  • Pro Tip: This is not a good option for your business if you don’t have someone overseeing it. Your chatbot is useless if no one has the time to manage it. Make sure you have the bandwidth before making the investment.

Forms Forms serve as an excellent way for your potential customer to interact with you and for you to gather more information. A chatbot might be better for a quicker response, ultimately fast-tracking the buyer journey. But if you don’t have the means for that, forms are your second best option.

  • Pro Tip: You’re 100x more likely to connect with a potential customer and 21x more likely to qualify them if you call them within five minutes of filling out a form. The longer you wait, the quicker those statistics deteriorate. Make sure you or your team are notified every time someone fills out a form on your website so sales can quickly give the potential customer a call.

Phase 3: Purchase

Next up is the purchase stage. In this stage, your prospect is ready to take the plunge. They’ve decided on a vendor they like and want to give them a shot (hopefully, that vendor is you!). But your job doesn’t end there. Depending on your product or service, they may want to date before getting married, so to speak. In the decision stage, a few effective offerings include:

  • Free consultations
  • Demos
  • Trials or downloads
  • Coupons

This allows you not only to incentivize them with a great offer, but also sit down with them and show them your product or service. This helps to build a more personable relationship with your audience. And once they know you, like you, and trust you, there’s a strong chance they’ll buy from you.

Phase 4: Retention

The fourth stage of the customer journey is retention. Now that you have the customer, you need to keep them. But it’s a lot more work than you might think.

32% of all customers say they’d stop doing business with a brand after one bad experience. With a number like that, you literally can’t afford to stop providing excellent service after a purchase is made.

So, how do you uphold excellent service after the point of purchase? Collect feedback and acknowledge loyalty.

Collect Feedback

We’ve all been there. You call your electric company because something is wrong with your bill. The automated menu options don’t relate to your question, so you hit zero 100 times in a desperate attempt to talk to a human. But you don’t get a human. You go through an endless automated feedback loop until you end the call. The worst part is, you can’t complain about it anywhere, because the company makes it impossible to reach someone. This is a great way to lose your customers.

That’s why collecting customer feedback, and more importantly, actually taking it into consideration and adjusting your customer service model appropriately is so important.

A few good ways to collect customer feedback is through testimonial requests, surveys, and support centers. And depending on your audience, sometimes just picking up the telephone and making a call goes a long way.

Acknowledge Your Customers

A couple of ways you can do this is by sending nurture emails with coupon codes, posting testimonials and user-generated content on your social platforms (don’t forget to tag them!), and offering exclusive offers. All of these are a way to say “we appreciate you and we thank you for doing business with us.”

While collecting customer feedback and giving acknowledgement is great from a customer service perspective, it also has benefits for the business leaders. These strategies allow you to hear an outsider’s perspective, find new ways to improve your product, and learn the language of your audience so you can better position your brand and begin to understand your buyer personas.

All in all? These tactics are a win-win for everyone.

Phase 5: Referral

Lastly, we have the referral stage. The referral stage is when you really start to build your following—that is, the group of people who actively interact with and promote your brand.

But getting people to become advocates is no easy task. Your brand must:

  • Go above and beyond to meet customer expectations.
  • Create share-worthy experiences.
  • Keep existing customers engaged.

If you ultimately achieve these things, you will have no problems generating customers from word of mouth.

Conclusion: Don’t Neglect the Customer Journey

There are many ways to reach your current and potential customers at each stage of the buyer journey. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to find the bandwidth to execute all these action items. And if you’re running into this issue, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice offering the best buyer journey experience because of limited resources.

From awareness and acquisition to retention and customer service, OSG’s full suite of marketing solutions will help you appeal to customers. Reach out today.

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