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How Did the Customer Journey Evolve in 2019?

How Did the Customer Journey Evolve in 2019? written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The customer journey is at the heart of all marketing efforts. I wrote last week about how the marketing hourglass and the marketing maturity model are the two frameworks to guide you through the creation of your entire marketing system.

While the marketing maturity model helps you to establish and grow your own marketing assets, the marketing hourglass teaches you how to interact with customers throughout their journey with your brand. In today’s digital world, where things change quickly, the customer journey continues to grow and evolve. And it’s critical that you’re aware of these changes so that you can continue to deliver an effective marketing message to customers, even as their journey shifts.

Let’s take a look back at how the customer journey evolved in 2019 and where we might expect it to go in 2020.

The Omnichannel Experience Expands Further

Digital marketing allows you to create multiple touchpoints with your customers. From your website to social media to video platforms to paid advertising, there are dozens of channels for you to explore. And in 2019, you gained even greater options.

Voice search continues to grow. Experts expect that 200 million smart speakers will have been sold by the end of the year. While smart speakers and voice assistants provide another way for you to get discovered by new prospects, you may need to pivot your SEO efforts to get noticed by Alexa and Siri. Things like having a mobile-friendly site that is fast and secure, and making sure you’re listed on relevant local listings sites (think Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business) can all help you to be the brand that’s suggested by a voice assistant.

Augmented reality (AR), which first gained widespread attention as the tech that powered the popular Pokémon Go app, is now being used by marketers to sell products. We’ve seen retailers in the fashion, beauty, and home furnishing spaces develop apps that allow people to virtually try before they buy.

Visual search is also something to keep on your radar screen. Social platform Pinterest has added visual search to their site, allowing consumers to upload a picture of a product they like and presenting them with suggestions for where they can purchase the item—or something similar—online. For tips on how to make Pinterest work for your business, check out this Duct Tape Marketing podcast episode with Pinterest expert Alisa Meredith.

Data and Automation Are More Important Than Ever

Data and automation are buzzwords we’ve heard tossed around for several years now, but they’ve established themselves as critical elements of business operations and marketing. On the marketing front, they allow you to better understand the unique shifts in your customer’s journey, so that you can modify your approach and direct the right message at the right prospect at the right time.

As the technology becomes more widespread and costs of implementation decrease, small businesses are able to tackle personalization on a level that was previously only possible for giants like Amazon.

This year, 80 percent of regular shoppers indicated that they’ll only do business with brands that serve up personalized experiences. So if you’re still sending the same emails to everyone on your mailing list, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Understanding customer data allows you to segment your customer base into different personas. Very few businesses serve customers that are all exactly alike. For most of us, we mean different things to different people. Let’s say you’re a florist. Some of your clients purchase flowers only for special occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries. Others are event planners who place large orders on behalf of their clients. Others still are individuals with standing orders for arrangements at their home or office.

Each of these customers have very different needs, and so they should be getting very different marketing messages from you. By using the data you already have on your customers to better understand their behaviors and actions, you can craft your marketing messaging to speak directly to each segment of your customer population.

And with marketing automation tools, you can set your system to send certain messages to customers that are triggered by specific behaviors. That means everyone is always getting the marketing message they most need and want, and you’re likely to generate more business.

Online and In-Person Worlds Collide

If you’re a marketer today, there’s so much to think about in the digital world that it’s possible to get carried away and forget that your customers still exist in the real world! That’s why it’s important that, even as you keep an eye on digital trends, you work to bring the digital and real worlds together for your customers.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers who do a local search on their phone end up calling or visiting the business within 24 hours. This means that the online portion of the customer journey is leading directly to in-person sales.

How can you better facilitate the customer journey from online browsing to in-person purchasing? Make sure your business is present on local listings sites like Google My Business so that you can get found in the first place. Have your contact information and hours listed prominently on your site and local listings, so that prospects can actually call and visit.

Webrooming is another digital-to-real-world trend that local businesses need to be aware of. Webrooming is the practice of searching for a product online while you’re physically in the store. I know I’ve done it myself to check out specs and reviews on the top one or two items I’m considering. Reviews and ratings are important to any small business for SEO, but they’re also relevant in the real world as they have the ability to sway a webrooming consumer in real time.

Engagement is Key

As the customer journey has grown more and more complex, engagement has become even more important. When prospects or customers reach out to you via any channel, you must respond quickly and effectively.

Engagement is your opportunity to capture more of your audience’s valuable attention. If someone comments on your social media account, don’t just let it sit there or simply reply with a like. Instead, ask a question or write a response that invites them to engage in conversation. The longer you can keep that volley going, the greater their sense of connection becomes with your brand. If you’re able to make a good impression now, it’s the kind of thing that will make them think about you later when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Building Loyalty is Critical for Long-Term Success

Because the customer journey is no longer a straight light, you need to build loyalty. Otherwise, people will abandon you when a better offer comes along.

Be honest: How many times have you done your product research on one site, settled on your product of choice, and then opened up a Google tab to search for the same product elsewhere, cheaper?

Digital enables people to go through all of the steps of the journey with you, and then at the last minute jump ship to go with a cheaper competitor. The only way to combat this is to offer an incredible customer experience. Your brand has to be about more than your products, or you’ll lose your differentiation (and your customers). And you need to be going above and beyond at every stage of the customer journey, because they can slip away at any point.

The Journey Can’t Just Happen, You Need to Guide It

With so many marketing channels in place, you can’t leave customers’ paths to chance. Instead, you need to take control of your destiny and guide the customer journey.

This starts with mapping to understand your current customers. When you know how your existing ideal clients behaved on their journey, you can work to recreate that experience for others. Not only is it more likely to lead to conversions, it also means you’ll be attracting new customers who fit your ideal profile

When you’re refining your approach, it’s good to use testing. Research your existing customers, posit a theory, test it out, and measure results. A/B testing is a great way to run side-by-side comparisons of different approaches to see which resonates best with your target audience.

The customer journey is constantly evolving, and I’m sure we’ll see even more changes—big and small—in 2020. No matter where the customer journey goes next, if you keep the marketing hourglass and a commitment to serving your customers as your North Star, you’ll be able to weather any ups and downs in the marketing landscape.

The Relationship Between the Marketing Hourglass and Maturity Model

The Relationship Between the Marketing Hourglass and Maturity Model written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape philosophy is that marketing is a system. There are so many moving parts that go into creating a great marketing strategy that, without a guiding framework, it’s easy to get tangled up, twisted around, and lost completely in the weeds.

Over the years, I’ve developed two systems that inform all of the marketing work we do: the marketing hourglass and the marketing maturity model. The marketing hourglass is a way of thinking about the customer journey. These are the steps that a consumer will take in engaging with your brand. It starts with first coming to know you, and goes all the way down to when they’ve become a happy repeat customer, ready to refer friends.

The marketing maturity model is a way for you think about your own marketing activities. What are the assets you need to build, then grow and amplify (or ignite) in order to guide those prospects from the top to the bottom of the marketing hourglass?

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through how the two systems are inextricably linked, and how you can align the way you think about the work you do behind the scenes to create your marketing presence with the experience customers are having on the other side.

The Top of the Hourglass and The Grow Phase

The top of the marketing hourglass is when prospects are first coming to know your brand. We call them the know, like, and trust phases. They’re not ready to make a purchase decision yet, but as they move through these three steps, they’re getting closer.

It starts with them first encountering your brand. Maybe they hear your name from a friend, maybe they discover you in a Google search. Whatever the case may be, you need to greet them with a solid marketing base at this stage to get them to go any further.

marketing hourglass

Create a Strong Website and Tackle SEO

Don’t you grow wary when a business operating today doesn’t have a website? What are they trying to hide? Or how far behind the times are they? The first step in the marketing maturity model is building a great website because it is the heart of your online presence. A strong website is more than great design; it’s about incorporating a modern promise that shows you understand your customers’ problems and have the best solution out there to fix it.

Behind every great website is a strong SEO strategy. While SEO is an ongoing process and there are dozens of factors to consider if you’re taking a pro-level approach, even a marketing novice can use some SEO quick fixes, like repairing broken links, checking site speed, and designing a mobile-friendly site, to get your website ranking higher.

Build Trust with Content

Once the prospect has discovered your website, you need to provide them with ways to come to know and trust your brand. That’s where the other elements of the build phase—a strong content program, social media presence, and email marketing campaign—come in.

The content on your website (blog posts, explainer videos, product descriptions, your about us page—if it’s on your website, it’s content!), should help prospects get a greater sense of what you do. Your homepage will draw them in with a promise to solve their problem, your other content needs to prove that you’re as good as you say you are. Informative blog posts, glowing reviews from existing customers, and explainer videos that teach viewers something valuable are all great ways for them to come to know and trust your brand.

Get on Social Media

Social media can help in the like and trust phases, too. Simply having a presence on the major social sites gives your business greater legitimacy. Then, creating a strong social presence, with consistent posts that are relevant and helpful, builds on the trust factor.

And take it beyond simply posting—engaging with your followers on social media means building a personal connection. It allows prospects to get to know the individuals behind the brand, and when they get 1:1 responses to their questions and comments on your page, they develop a deep trust in your business: “If they’re paying this much attention to me before I even become a customer, I’m sure I’ll be in good hands once I make a purchase!”

Stay Top-of-Mind with Email Marketing

Finally, email marketing is a great way to continue to show your expertise and remain in prospects’ fields of vision. While they have to seek out your website content or social media profiles, creating an email newsletter filled with helpful tidbits (and the occasional offer) allows you to come to them with your industry knowledge.

The Middle of the Hourglass and the Grow Phase

The middle of the hourglass are the stages we like to call try and buy. By this point, you’ve built a lot of trust around your brand. Your prospects are intrigued and really like what you do. If you can make a compelling offer to get them to give you a try, and the trial goes well, that’s often what seals the deal and helps them convert to full customer.

At this point in the marketing maturity model, you want to continue expanding your essential blocks from the build phase. Your website and content program can grow. Adding things like a regular podcast with a cadre of exciting industry guests is a great way to strengthen your content. Gather all of your relevant content together onto hub pages to give your content program and SEO a boost.

Speaking of expanding SEO efforts, focus on building up backlinks, and get Google Search Console set up so that you can optimize your search ranking for many years to come.

Also, continue to engage and follow up with leads via social media and email marketing. But it doesn’t stop there; now is the time to introduce new tactics to grow your existing relationships and turn prospects into customers.

Undertake Paid Lead Generation

When we say paid lead generation, we’re talking about things like search ads and social media advertising. These can come in many forms. A great place to start is with boosting content on social media, giving posts you’ve shared organically a broader reach for a small fee.

The more advanced tactics take you further into tracking your ads and getting more efficient about driving conversions.

Once you’ve established a series of Google Ads, you can use their offline tracking tool to understand how your ads are impacting business in the real world. By importing your sales information from conversions that happen in your brick-and-mortar store or over the phone, you can better understand the effectiveness of your online ads and refine your approach to win over more prospects.

For all of your ads, you should be creating landing pages that are unique to that particular campaign. In doing that, prospects find the exact deal, offer, or topic that intrigued them in the ad front-and-center on your website, and it makes them all the more likely to convert.

Create a Culture that Integrates Sales and Marketing

Your marketing efforts can take you pretty far, but you need them to be integrated with your sales approach from the start in order to get the greatest result. Make sure that your sales and marketing teams are in communication from day one about prospects.

Set up a clear process for the handoff from the marketing to sales teams, so no one falls through the cracks. And have your marketing team create materials for your sales team, so your brand voice remains consistent in those interactions with prospects as you’re shepherding them from your marketing to sales basket.

Focus on Customer Experience

This is the stage at which your prospects become customers. They’ve liked you enough up to this point to give you a try, so the customer experience must be stellar. That’s the way to take them from one-time customer to repeat buyer.

This starts with a killer onboarding process. No matter what kind of business you’re in, there’s some kind of onboarding for new customers.

If you sell products, your onboarding has to do with getting the product to your customer and ensuring they know how to use it. If you’re shipping your items, make sure that you have a process for your customers to track their packages. Once the item gets to them, include information that will help them get the most out of their new item.

For complicated products, like an electronic device, include clear instructions and maybe even a link to explainer videos to help them get set up. Simpler products, like clothing items, can include care instructions or even just a thoughtful thank you card to show you appreciate your customer’s business.

For services, your onboarding process might be more complex. Establishing a single point of contact within your company for any questions your new client may have, and sending along forms and paperwork that can help you both get on the same page faster, are important elements of your onboarding process.

No matter what kind of business you run, reviews are also very important at the try and buy stage. If you have an unhappy first-time customer, a speedy, sincere response to their complaint can turn things around and save the relationship. Similarly, glowing reviews shouldn’t go ignored. If you take the time to thank new customers for their positive feedback, their happy feelings will only grow!

The Bottom of the Hourglass and the Ignite Phase

By the time you’ve reached the bottom of the marketing hourglass, you’ve already won over that first-time customer. This is your chance to get them to become a life-long customer, and to tell all of their friends and family about your business.

And while it’s statistically easier to hold onto existing customers than to win new ones over, the last thing you want to do is take someone for granted now! You’ve already put in the hard work of converting them; you need to continue to wow them so that they’ll stick around.

Again, you continue to work on the existing tactics you’ve got up and running, from your website through to sales enablement and customer experience. But here, you add three more elements to take your marketing approach to a whole new level and build those lifelong customer bonds.

Invest in a CRM

A customer relationship management tool (or CRM, for short), helps you to better manage all of your customer interactions, both old and new. The tool allows you to track all points of contact with prospects and customers.

This is helpful in better understanding prospects’ path to conversion, and in offering better service to your existing customers.

Let’s say you have an existing customer who’s had an issue with an order. When your team can see that they called last week and emailed a few days later to follow up—and can pull up the transcripts of those communications, plus see notes from the customer service representative who was handling the case—you’re better able to take appropriate action for your customer, without making them explain their problem over and over each time they reach out.

Or maybe you have a customer that’s never had a complaint in their life. The CRM can still help; it can provide information for you to make smarter offers to that customer. If you’re a home improvement store and you notice that a customer recently purchased a dehumidifier, you can target them with ads about replacement filters for their new machine.

Whether you’re troubleshooting, looking for new cross-sell opportunities, or simply trying to better understand your sales pipeline, a CRM is the way to do it.

Use Marketing Automation

Marketing automation and a CRM tool often go hand-in-hand. The CRM gives you all of the customer information you could need or want to enact smart marketing automation techniques.

When you understand your customers’ behaviors, you can segment your buyers into different personas. Each type of customer has their own unique needs that your business meets, and when you understand those needs, you can create marketing materials that most effectively speak to them (and direct that messaging only at the relevant parties).

Take Advantage of AI and Analytics

Also tied in with your customer information is analytics and AI. When you’re gathering information on your customers, you can use analytics to understand what the data all means and, from there, refine your marketing strategy long-term.

Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console for your website are free to use, and can provide you with deep, meaningful information about the behaviors and attributes of your customers and prospects. You can even use more advanced techniques, like call tracking, to understand how your online marketing efforts are affecting customers’ behaviors on the phone.

Armed with this information, you can undertake A/B testing, showing two different marketing messages to two different audiences in order to understand which one works best. This kind of testing allows you to hone in on the best possible messaging for each segment of your audience, helping you to retain existing customers and win new ones who might be referred by your biggest fans.

When it comes to creating an effective marketing strategy, you need to align your marketing tactics with what your prospects and customers want and need. By using the marketing hourglass as a guidepost while you walk through the marketing maturity model, you can build a strong marketing presence that will work for your business from start to finish.