The process of buying looks completely different today than what it was a decade ago.
Smartphone, online reviews, one-click ordering, social commerce, easy to use CRM technology, and the democratization of the internet- all these have over the course of time revolutionized how modern consumers research, discover, purchase and use products and services of all types nowadays.
Now, as a result of all the factors and more mentioned-above in the last few years companies across B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) markets have been investing time and resources on defining ad understanding their customer’s interactions in the context of a journey with their brands over time.
How do we define a “customer journey”?
How has it evolved over the last few years?
How does customer journey accentuate and impact our business growth?
Hence, to answer these critical questions let us take a closer look.
Defining The Customer Journey
At face value, as the term suggests “Customer Journey” seems like a catchphrase that can have more than a dozen potential meaning.
However according to Forrester Research a ‘Customer Journey’ is illustrated as:
“The series of interactions between a customer and a company that occur as the customer pursues a specific goal.”
Now customer journey is not as easy and simple as it sounds like it has been explained above.
This is because; given the plethora of information that is available online nowadays, most B2C purchasers do not just walk in into a brick-and-mortar business establishment and write a check on their very first visit.
Identically, B2B buyers do not issue purchase orders without conducting a reasonable amount of research before buying their needs.
This is because, all modern buyers irrespective of whether they are B2B or B2C purchasers know that this age of information has provided them with an upper hand, which is the precise reason as to why businesses need to join their customer’s in their journey with their company- rather than trying to circumvent it as it was in the past.
Understanding The Customer Journey: Goals And Personas
Therefore how can your brand and business begin to adopt a customer journey oriented mentality?
Now before making any drastic changes to your marketing and sales workflows, it is critical to primarily gain a fresh perspective of your customers to find out and evaluate their common goals.
Moreover, it must be also remembered over here that inconsistent and silo data repositories can lead to costly misconceptions about buyer’s behaviors with brands across all industries, as when you are incapable of apprehending who your customers are or what they need, it is practically impossible to completely understand their interactions in the context of a journey with your brand or company.
It is therefore important for marketing and sales leaders to align on two essential concepts “Buyer Goals and Personas” to understand customer journey with your company.
Not all interactions with your customers involve the exchange of money.
In fact, it is very much possible that most interactions with your customers will be non-transactional by its nature.
For example, with a cloud-based small business CRM software company like ConvergeHub at the highest level customers use this all-in-one easy to use CRM software to achieve their primary goal of tracking and managing their leads, customers, and projects under one roof.
Hence the customer’s journey from primary awareness to purchase and thereafter adoption and use of the CRM consists of countless other non-transactional goals, which are bound to develop, such as:
In other words, the behavior of the customer is largely dictated by their motivation or until the point of flexion- when a customer enters a company’s realm by providing information or completing a transaction, after which the company has more opportunities to maneuver customers through the desired journey.
Therefore, businesses and brands that understand the “why” which lies behind the interactions of the customers at each point are well on their way in perceiving the customer’s journey and hence create a consistent world-class customer experience.
It is also a fact that no business can understand their customer’s goals without defining who the customer is.
Hence, personas (which are in reality fictitious characters but nevertheless based on actual data) can be highly useful for understanding your customer and their journey.
Now if you are unaware as to how you can develop accurate and detailed personas for your brand, as your frontline sales and support staffs a variety of open-ended questions to foster an in-depth conversation about:
Moreover incorporating quantitative data from your easy to use CRM is another vital step for supplementing the accuracy of your buyer personas. For this, there are several cloud based CRM platforms that even offer built-in business intelligence dashboards, which can accelerate your persona creation process.
Customer Journey Mapping
Now once you have researched and developed a solid understanding of your brand’s typical personas and goals, it is time to begin customer journey mapping process.
Well, it must be noted over here that mapping the customer’s journey can be a tedious and complex task, especially for businesses that have established lifelong relationships with their buyers.
This is because; just like with any other personal relationships, long term business relationships also expands over time, making it difficult to understand how to start the mapping process.
Since it is but natural to get confused once you have to ‘map’ something that involves hundreds of relationships and an untold number of interactions.
Therefore start your mapping process by asking yourself these questions:
(Discovery, Pre-sales, Sale, Post-sale, support, and others)
(Marketing websites, Review sites, Support portal, Social media, and others)
(EBook downloads, Website visits, Trial requests, Blog comments, Social media comments, Support tickets, and others)
(Easy to use CRM, Website analytics platforms, Data warehouses, and others)
Now as you begin to ask these questions you will soon realize that your idea of finding your brand’s “ideal” customer journey is a farfetched idea that is miles away from reality.
This can be for a number of reasons, like:
Perhaps your digital marketing teams are slow to respond to unsolicited lead inquires. Or your support team is more responsive to customers who are especially vocal, resulting in prolonged waiting time for customers who are polite.
Nevertheless, do not allow this misalignment to snub you down, as you must always remember that there is no such thing as an unblemished and ‘perfect’ customer journey, especially in today’s world of the self-guided customer journey as Lori Wizdo at Forrester recently pointed out:
“The evolution toward a self-guided journey is changing the role of B2B marketers and sellers, which is why sales and marketing need to better align, share information, and work hard to keep the buyer’s attention throughout the journey.”
Continue The Journey
Hence seek to continuously elevate your brand’s understanding of the customer and strive to structure internal conversations in the context of a journey and thereafter align your teams (relying on data-driven analytics) at every step of the process.
Be sure, in time this approach will surely pay a big return- both for your business and your customers.