The Customer Journey

Customer Journey versus the Funnel

Last month we looked at the model for the Marketing/Sales Funnel. Now we’re going to look at another marketing concept known as the Customer Journey.

On the surface, these two may appear quite similar. But there are nuances that make them distinct. The distinctions are significant enough that it is worth the effort to understand the differences.

A quick story may help in visualizing the relationship of customer journey to the funnel.

The vacation—a planned journey.

Let’s assume for the purpose of this illustration that you are a travel agent. People come to you for planning vacations and all types of adventures.

An individual calls and asks if you can help with planning a vacation for him and his family to Adventureland…you say sure. He gives you some basic information and you make an appointment for the family to come to your agency and sit down with you to plan the details.

The Funnel.

While waiting on their arrival, you pull out your tools…maps, itinerary builder, travel guides, and so forth.

Based on your experience as an agent and having planned many vacations, you’re prepared to highlight all the resources the family will need on their journey.

You look over the map to determine the best route for your customer. You survey the route to ensure it has the necessary amenities such as ample fuel stops and sufficient locations for food and lodging.

It’s basically a straight-line projection of the pending trip. You’re certain that the basic requirements will be in place to accommodate the travelers.

Your goal is to have a basic plan, with the essentials to get them to Adventureland, ready for them when they come in to see you.

Again, your experience with trip planning helps you understand what the customer will need on this trip.

The Customer Journey.

At last, the customer and his family come in and sit down with you to start planning their vacation.

You pull out the preliminary plan that you have ready for them. But as you begin showing them what you have sketched out for the trip, you start to ask them specific questions…getting some more personal information.

First, you need to know what kind of vehicle they drive—you need to have an idea of gas mileage.

Then you ask if they prefer fast-foods or sit-down restaurants? Is there a certain brand of fuel they prefer? What are their lodging preferences and needs?  You play 20-questions with them to build up your database.

You are getting this information in order to understand their needs and desires.

This is the beginning of relationship building. You explain that your goal now is to customize this vacation just for them…based on their personal preferences.

You lay out your map and show them the straight line from home to Adventureland. Then you pull out your resources and begin to plug in the locations of their favorite gas stations, restaurants and hotels—everything that matches their preferences.

You continue to get more data on their favorite things to do…and you point out a couple of attractions they might enjoy along the way.

Suddenly, the line is not so straight anymore. It zigs and zags, crossing over the straight line many times. Whereas the funnel is linear, the journey is now more serpentine—from point to point.

What you have done is created a customized journey based on their needs and desires. This will almost guarantee a pleasant experience.

And I’ll bet they come back again for their next vacation.

Your Business and the Customer Journey

This story is not really too far from reality. You are a business owner, and you team up with a marketing agency who specializes in planning journeys for customers.

But instead of gas stations and hotels, the resources needed for the trip are marketing tools such as web pages, videos, emails, even cold-contacting, if called for. Whatever is necessary to guide your customers through their journey.

And the more personalized the journey is—the better the experience will be.

Journey Touchpoints

As in the scenario above, the first thing to do is to get to know your customer. You learn about their behavior, their likes and their dislikes.

Once you have enough data you can create a personalized adventure for them. In the case of internet marketing, you can create a personalized journey through the funnel stages to the purchase point.

These personalized details (tools) that you have put in place for the customer to interact with along the way are called touchpoints.

The touchpoints are any form of communication with the customer in which information is exchanged between you and them.   

It can be the landing page on your website, an email, a blog post, advertising, an app available on a mobile device, or even person-to-person contact… any form of interaction with your business and your product.

This interaction will provide an opportunity for the customer to form an opinion about you and what you have to offer.

If the touchpoints are personal and friendly, they will certainly form a favorable opinion of your business. But the opposite is true: If you create something the customer finds unpleasant and not to his liking…well, the outcome is obvious.

Make an effort to use the data collected to identify where your customers will be on every step of their purchasing path. Discover what pleases them and design your marketing plan to touch them through their entire journey.

“The best kind of marketing is so tailored to each customer that it doesn’t feel like marketing at all.”

Mike Sharkey, CEO & Founder of Autopilot

Personalize the Map

Key to building your map is to build it from the customers’ perspective and not from the business point-of-view.

In fact, the funnel is designed from your expectations on how the customer will progress through the buying experience. But the journey map is just the opposite.

What are the things the customer will be looking for as they go from awareness to conversion? Then ask yourself what will it take to keep them as a loyal patron?

Next, determine what type of touchpoints will they connect with…targeted content, direct mail, maybe even a phone call? Determine what their social media preferences are: Facebook or Instagram…or both.

And keep in mind that these touchpoints must extend through their entire journey which includes beyond the sale…this is known as the customer lifecycle.

It’s all designed to create a friendly and enjoyable journey to the desired destination…adding value to the journey that will go a long way in ensuring their loyalty to your brand.

One more key point: The journey map should be adjusted regularly…based on new data and a desire to add value to what’s working and to tweak those touchpoints that are not having the desired impact.

Relationship Marketing…value #1

It’s vital to understand the psychology that stimulates consumer behavior.

The customer’s decision to buy your product or service boils down to one major factor: the relationship you’ve built with them. It’s crucial to understand consumer behavior and then build those relationships by furnishing value at each step of their customer journey.

Consumerism is more complex than ever. There has never been the number of available platforms, marketing channels, choices, alternatives, or competition as there is in today’s eCommerce.

In order to build your business and see it grow, you should take a long hard look at the customer personas you’ve developed and the journey they take. The personas will help define the appropriate path for each type of customer and each touchpoint will be customized for the persona that you’ve created.

Being dominant on the internet is not just about clever advertising…but it’s a continuous effort in relationship building.  You must know and understand your customers and, again, keep adding more and more value to their lives.

In closing—A noteworthy quote.

“People increasingly share their experiences with companies and products in our connected economy, and we can either be active participants in creating and nurturing desired experiences or spend more and more time trying to react or make up for bad experiences.”

The Experience: When Business Meets Design, Brian Solis

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