The 14th of February just passed (sorry, we should have reminded you last week to avoid couple crisis :D) – and it is the day of lovers… Two people that found in each other extraordinary characteristics and decided to start a beautiful journey together.
We are a little less romantic and more prosaic, and today we talk about another extraordinary journey, that if well made, results in great collaborations: the customer journey.
In this article, we are going to introduce the concept of customer journey and describe the different stages it is made of. But you should read until the end, as we also included some practical recommendation of what are the best marketing and sales tools you can use in each phase!
Customer Journey is a marketing term that describes the cycles that a customer goes through when purchasing a product: it includes the pre-purchase, decision-making, the purchasing itself and the post purchase stages. The customer journey is made of touchpointsthat are all the points of contact between a brand and the customer. Touchpoints can be direct, when there is direct contact between the brand and the customer (like advertising, a browse on the company website, or a sales call), and indirect, when the customer gets in contact with a brand through 3rd parties (like portals, forums, reviews blogs etc).
Due to digitalization, in B2B sales, most touchpoints happen online, through digital communication or the internet. Another consequence of the digital transformation is that, together with the availability of information about brands and products (we talked about that here) the number of touchpoints is increasing, hence brands need consider two aspects:
- You must map and control the touchpoints available in the web, to send the right messages to the right public
- You have to adjust the communication with the clients depending on their customer journey stage
Regarding point 1, an effective way to develop the right message for the right public is through customer segmentation and buyer persona creation. Through these exercises, it is possible to understand needs and characteristics of different segments, hence developing effective communication.
As for the 2nd point, first it is critical to know that the stages of the customer journey can be summarized as follows:
Awareness: The awareness stage begins when a customer recognizes there is a problem/issue/need, and starts searching the market for suitable solutions that will resolve it.
Companies can stimulate customers in this process, creating awareness of the need/issue that their product/service solves. Unrecognized problems, together with the solution to them, can be revealed to the customer, through effective communication at the awareness stage,
- Effective tools: Effective B2B marketing tools in the awareness stage are blog posts, social media discussions, video contents or podcasts. It is critical that the quality of these materials reflects the quality of your product/service. In fact, through these medias, you present your brand to a public that might not know anything about it.
At this stage, it is important that the content you create is helpful to your potential customers but it not directly product specific and does not include a strong call to action.
Consideration: The consideration stage starts when customers are aware of your offer and consider it as a suitable alternative to solve their problem. As most markets are competitive, leads are also probably considering other suitable offers from competitors.
In this phase, you must convince potential buyers that your offer is effective, and it is better than the competitors’ one. It is critical to show your knowledge and expertise in the market which makes you a valuable possible partner. Moreover, you need to create trust.
- Effective tools: in the consideration stage, effective tools are business cases, trend studies or whitepapers on the topic your product is related to. Another important aspect is creating trust as customers buy what others have purchased and have been satisfied with, also in B2B. Therefore, reviews from previous customers, endorsement and patron programs are definitely a good idea.
Decision: You got there! That is great news as you are closing a sale and getting a new customer. If you got to this phase, you are probably getting awarded with the order and you managed to convince that your product is suitable and better than competition.
- Effective sales tools: If the decision stage happens in person, then you need good negotiation skills; if it is a digitalized process (which is increasingly the case), it is critical to have good e-commerce services and attentive online communication (through emails or digital meetings) to make sure that the purchasing process goes smoothly.
Retention: You got a new customer. All the efforts you invested to acquire it will pay back even more if you are able to retain it. Do not forget that to generate new business from an existing customer costs 5x less than to acquire a new one, and that in B2B satisfied customers are more likely to repeat purchase than in B2C: and that is why it is more manageable to create barriers against competition.
- Effective tools: To excel in retention, offer high levels of customer service and high response rate through portals, social media, or traditional communication tools.
Advocacy: And here we are at the end of the cycle.
Satisfied customers are important as they are likely to purchase again, but also as they can become ambassadors of your brand, recommending it to others.
- Effective tools: Great ways to address clients in this stage is by sending enquiry forms, asking for feedback, and keeping up communication through newsletters or emails.
I am sure it is already clear how important this stage is, but I want to stress it once more: customers do buy what others purchased, so do everything possible to take ambassadors on-board!
And now, you know a little more on the customer journey, but how do you create an extraordinary one through mapping?
Stay tuned, more on this topic is coming soon to out Solia Resource Center, therefore sign up to our newsletter not to miss out on anything!
Also, don’t forget to drop us a like and a comment with your insights!
“You can’t transform something you don’t understand. If you don’t know and understand what the current state of the customer experience is, how can you possibly design the desired future state?” – Annette Franz