Business Insights

Business Insights

What Are Customer Journeys & How Should I Implement Them?

Google ‘customer journey’ and you’ll encounter over 27 million definitions, discussions, guidelines and graphics on the subject. It’s an important concept, but it’s overused and often misunderstood. The customer journey is the process a customer goes through while they’re deciding to buy something, and the steps after they’ve bought it.

Each stage of the customer journey includes one or more points of contact with a business, and each point of contact should smoothly and subtly guide the prospective customer toward the next stage. The ideal outcome is more than just a sale - it’s an engaged, loyal, repeat customer. Let’s tackle some of the key customer journey questions.  

Why does the customer journey matter?

For two main reasons. The first is lifetime value (LTV). Acquiring customers costs money, be it marketing, admin, logistics, sales, or all of the above. You should aim to get your money’s worth so developing a customer beyond the sale is key. Understanding and implementing the right customer journey builds a relationship, encouraging a customer into a long term engagement with the business, increasing LTV.

Not only does this encourage loyalty, but it also has the knock-on effect of turning customers into advocates - one who will recommend a product or service to others. Get enough advocates, and they will generate referral business under their own steam.

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The second reason customer journeys matter is their effect on cost per acquisition (CPA). Creating a repeatable, scalable customer journey allows a business to pour leads into the top of the marketing funnel, safe in the knowledge that every touchpoint is covered, and the lead is likely to turn into a customer, and beyond. If this process works, the journey itself will create, nurture and close leads. 

What are the common misunderstandings regarding customer journey?

Too many businesses focus on the practical, systematic concerns customers have, instead of their emotional pain points. It’s true that any product or service offering needs to solve the customer’s problems, but the customer’s problem isn’t a purely logical affair.

Customers make 95% of their purchasing decisions based on how they feel about their situation, and about the brand which is offering them a solution. While many elements of the customer journey can be automated, the power of good old-fashioned human interaction in the process should not be overlooked!

If a business understands what its customers are feeling at each point of contact on the customer journey it can offer them experiences and communications which shift their emotional state toward the way it wants them to feel. In the early stages of the journey, customers might be frustrated at the situation they’re in, or skeptical given past experiences of a product or service they now need to replace. Later in the journey, they need validation of their decision to investigate further and to buy.

For this reason, it’s essential to continue the customer journey beyond the sale to increase your chances of a second purchase.

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Throughout, the customer journey is about managing and balancing emotions. Think about the process of buying a new home - it’s often a long time between selecting your plot of land and moving day. There are the emotional drains of paperwork, the tension of surveys and mortgage applications, the highs of actually getting hold of the keys and the lows of having so much to do before you’re ready to move in.

Buyers have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by these highs and lows; the housebuilder needs to maintain their enthusiasm and momentum by focusing them on each particular step of the purchase, like choosing the kitchen and worktops. Even if these things aren’t directly profitable for the housebuilder’s business, thinking about them induces the desired emotional state and leads the customer forward in their journey – and reduces the risk of a lost sale.

For this reason, neglecting to map and align with the customer journey is a key mistake. Sales teams often ‘skip’ points along the journey, pushing prospects too quickly when negotiating a sale. The result? Sales pipelines which are never fulfilled. Pipelines should be closely aligned to the customer journey for the product or service. If a sales team regularly forecasts high numbers but fails to hit them, the relationship between the two factors needs to be revisited. An effective pipeline will be 80% accurate. Anything lower suggests an underlying sales/marketing problem.  

What does an effective customer journey look like?

Think about each of the contact points in the customer journey - the reviews, the direct mail, the website and so on. Establish what a customer is likely to be feeling at each point. Record every interaction with a customer, note the emotions they’re displaying, and cross-reference them to find the most common feelings at the point of entry. Work out what each of those customers should be feeling at the next stage of the journey. Build a communications and customer experience strategy around techniques and systems that are proven to make those emotional changes.

Don’t rely on a digital Customer Management System to handle all communications. Aim for a mix of mediums. Working directly with emotions generally responds well to a human touch, and printed brochures can be highly valuable in nurturing an emotional change. Most important of all: continue your customer journey beyond the point of purchase. A new buyer will have feelings and concerns about your brand, product and service. Ignoring these risks damaging the long-term relationship with the customer. Responding to them means increasing their potential lifetime value (LTV).  

Achieving predictable results

Ultimately, the customer journey is an emotional rollercoaster; it's your job to manage the highs and lows and ensure predictable buyer behaviour. This, in turn, generates predictable results; something all businesses could benefit from.  

How well are you leading your customers along their journey? Find out with The Marketing Centre’s Marketing 360 Healthcheck.  

 

 

Image via Unsplash

Written by Rob Croxall

Rob Croxall is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has over 30 years’ experience working in the media, engineering and charity sectors, focussing on UK as well as global markets.

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