Making a real connection with people can be hard work—especially when they’re strangers on the Internet!
As a business, that can often prove to be one of your biggest challenges. Have you ever felt that, despite your marketing efforts, you’re not reaching anyone? What about when you are reaching people, but no one is buying?
If you find yourself in either of those positions, you’re not alone. Many businesses are out there trying all sorts of tactics, jumping from one thing to the next, often unsure of what to work on next.
What will finally be the “golden ticket” to connect with people and actually get them buying?
A key thing to understand before diving into any new strategy is the position of your customer. Where exactly are they on their journey to discover and get to know you? This position should determine the types of messaging you are sending them.
Mapping out your customer journey is another important task to complete early in your marketing plan. Doing so allows you to map the journey to specific marketing activities and assets, and prioritize how you work on your marketing plan.
This is part 2 in our 90-Day Marketing Plan. Download the entire eBook here. Or dive into specific sections:
- How to Define Buyer Personas For Your Marketing Plan
- Mapping Out Your Customer Journey
- Your Marketing Website’s Optimization Checklist
- Content Marketing Strategy: From Planning Through Execution
- 5 Systems to Increase Organic Website Traffic
The customer journey stages
The customer journey can be described as the series of interactions a customer has with your company, product or service that lead them down the path to purchase and beyond.
Once upon a time, a core part of that journey would have involved interaction with a salesperson, but Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2017 report reveals that is no longer the case. Just 19% of respondents rely on a salesperson when making B2B purchases. You can see the trusted sources in the graph below:
These days, the customer journey is often heavily reliant on marketing methods outside of talking with a salesperson, but the methods used and when to use them effectively vary according to the customer’s stage of the journey. If I’ve just discovered your product or service and clicked on your website, I’m unlikely to take you up on a coupon offer immediately.
We look at six core segments to a customer journey, each with various activities associated with them. Let’s look at those in some detail:
Stage #1. Candidate
At this stage, the potential customer doesn’t even know you but hopefully you have identified them using your buyer personas. They will be exhibiting behaviors that you have determined may make them a prospect.
For example, “candidate” for our product, Ops Calendar, may be consuming content about marketing, attending business or marketing conferences and networking in business or marketing communities.
Stage #2. Problem awareness
You could look at awareness as two distinct parts. First of all, the customer is a complete stranger to your company. They become aware that they have a problem but they are not yet aware that you exist with a potential solution for them. This is problem awareness.
Alternatively, perhaps they are not really aware of their problem until they come across a piece of content, video or advertisement of yours that explains it clearly to them. Either way, they’re getting to that stage of problem awareness.
If we look at an Ops Calendar customer as an example, they might discover they have a problem like, “my content marketing is falling flat or lacks consistency.” That problem either prompts them to look for a solution or your marketing happens to find them at the right time.
Stage #3. Solution awareness
The second stage of awareness (and third stage overall) is solution awareness. “Aha, so I have a problem and there are potential solutions available.” The candidate is now consuming content that highlights solutions and looking for customer case studies as proof.
Stage #4. Solution comparison
Now that the customer is aware of the problem and that there are solutions available, they’re going to move onto consideration. This means they will research, compare solutions and try to find information that will lead them toward a decision.
Remember that as buyers research, they will usually start to form a fair idea of which criteria do and do not meet their needs. They will probably have questions that they prioritize according to what they see as their greatest needs. They will use this information to narrow their focus and eliminate some of the possibilities that their research turned up.
Stage #5. Free Trial (or Lead)
Once the customer has a shortlist of possible vendors, they’re ready to make the decision to select one for purchase. They’re going to be thinking about how easy the solution is to implement, how helpful customer support is and how the solution addresses their overall needs.
This is the point where they officially become a “Lead”. That could be a free trial signup, or a consultation request, or some other action they took to intentionally enter your sales process.
Keep in mind, you don’t have them just yet. It’s possible they’ve compared one or two other products as part of their decision process – where you can really hang on to the customer is in the next stage.
Stage #6. Customer Success
Many depictions of the customer journey end at the decision stage with “buy the product” as the ultimate goal. If you look at the journey from the perspective of the customer though, this final stage, customer success is important.
At this stage, it is about ensuring that the customer has all that they need to get a successful outcome from your product or service. Lincoln Murphy puts it like this:
“Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company.”
“Desired outcome” is a function of the customer achieving what they need to while having an appropriate experience in doing so. This brings in all touch points that might be involved – product, sales, marketing, customer support and anyone else they might have contact with. The desired outcome may look slightly different for any given customer, but you can look to your buyer personas and make some fair assumptions.
Applying this logic to the customer journey with a SaaS is a good example. Most will offer a free trial and then get the customer on some kind of membership basis. The thing with a membership is that it’s easy to cancel if the customer feels they’re not achieving what they need with the software, so that’s why it’s important that you give just as much attention to this stage of the journey. It’s a key part of the overall customer lifecycle.Customer success is a key part of the journey - how will you ensure they are delighted? Click To Tweet
Mapping your customer journey to your sales funnel
How does the customer journey fit in with your sales funnel? First of all, let’s define the different segments of the funnel, shown below in a diagram from Digital Brains. This is a common depiction of a sales cycle:
Not just a vegetarian dish, TOFU here means “top of funnel” and covers the period where a buyer is trying to solve a problem and is typically looking for information to figure out the best solution.
When you look at the shape of the funnel, TOFU is at the widest point. This also illustrates the fact that you may get a large number of leads here, but not all will continue with you through the journey. This is a period of qualifying leads to move onto the next stage – usually they will disqualify themselves.
Types of TOFU Activities: Content that addresses key problems and solutions, social media, SEO and keyword research.
MOFU or “middle of funnel” is where prospects might become genuine leads. Whereas TOFU aims to educate buyers about how they can solve their problems, MOFU aims to show them why your product or service should be their first choice.
Typically, you would be following strategies to capture their information, such as by getting them to sign up for additional content or using landing pages. By the end of this stage, you should have a fair idea of whether they are ready to buy.
Types of MOFU activities: Opt-in content (lead magnets), landing pages, forms, lead nurturing emails.
The customer is ready to buy, but who from? At this “bottom of funnel” stage, they can more easily be guided toward making a buying decision. You will see strategies such as free trials, coupon offers or free assessments.
At this stage, the prospect may even be willing to speak with a salesperson, although this isn’t always their preference. BOFU offers tend to be an invitation to be sold to (such as those coupons or assessments).
Types of BOFU activities: Coupon offers, consultations, demonstrations, calls to action, free trials.
Where the customer journey and the sales funnel fit
Each stage of the customer journey can be mapped to a corresponding section of the sales funnel as shown in the diagram below. You can then use this to plan activities that best target customers at different stages.
Using your customer journey in your marketing plan
You can probably infer from the different stages of the customer journey that, as the customer has different needs and expectations at each stage, you will need to meet those with different marketing strategies.
We like to create a customer journey map and integrate our marketing plan. For each stage of the journey we would follow these steps:
- Determine your goals.
For example, at the “problem awareness” stage a goal might be to educate the customer that solutions exist to their problem.
- Decide on the activities that help those goals.
Following on from the example of educating the customer, an activity might be writing articles targeting specific pain points.
- Create measurable marketing objectives.
For example, you might tie a goal to the number of visits to your article.
- Create to-dos and prioritize.
What tasks do you need to get done to make these activities happen?
We created a template pack to help you map out your customer journey to help guide your marketing work. It includes our actual customer journey spreadsheet we used for marketing our product, plus a worksheet to guide you through creating one for your marketing plan.
Start mapping your customer journey
If you’ve found that potential customers just don’t seem to be getting the message, there’s a chance that they’re seeing the wrong message at the wrong time. Depending on where they are in their journey, they have different needs and expectations, which is why it’s important to create marketing messages that cater to different parts of the funnel.
Your aim should be to make a real connection with people, meeting them at their own stage, before guiding them through the rest of the journey.
Start mapping out your customer journey today and consider how you can engage each stage.
Put some serious momentum into your 90-Day Marketing Plan by mapping out your customer journey. Once you’ve done that, head on over to the next stage of the plan, Your Marketing Website’s Optimization Checklist.