The customer journey has changed. In days long gone by, it used to be a linear process. A customer would find a company, conduct a little research, connect with a sales associate, and make a decision. However, the digital age has changed the way that customers complete their buying journey. There are now a multitude of choices that customers must navigate as they begin, pause, change, restart, and complete their buyer journeys.
Around every corner there are new insights into products and services that further complicate the customer buying journey. Search engine results, social media, vendor websites, and referrals are just a few of the ways that customers gain insights into products and services before they even schedule a sales call or meeting. In fact, according to a recent Harvard Business Review report, an estimated 90 percent of B2B customers rely on referrals as the main influencer at the start of their buyer journey. An additional 74 percent of buyers turn to the Internet for research before making an offline purchase. Finally, according to Salesforce, an estimated 80 percent of buyers say that the experience provided is as important as the products or services that the company offers. This last statistic holds the key to understanding the new customer buying journey.
The Customer Buying Journey Relies On A Positive Experience.
New research suggests that improving the customer experience can result in five times more revenue growth. In order to enhance the customer experience, companies must employ a few of the following proven digital strategies.
- The customer experience should be streamlined across marketing channels. It should include personalized intelligent content that responds to the interactions, engagements, and questions of each prospect.
- The smart content should be delivered via a cohesive omni-channel approach that accommodates the start, stop, pause, and turn nature of the customer's new buying journey.
- Digital strategies should remove cumbersome and unnecessary gates in favor of a frictionless experience that focuses on the moments that truly matter.
- Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategies can be leveraged to achieve enhanced customer success, retention, and conversion rates.
Together, the above strategies will create a more positive customer experience. As part of this effort, marketers and sales associates will need to narrow down the pinnacle moments of the customer's buying journey. These are the crossroad moments that will either result in the customer continuing their journey or abandoning the path in favor of a competitor's offer.
The New Customer Journey Avoids Pre-Determined Steps.
Gone are the days when customers are happy to be funneled down a series of pre-determined buying steps. In those days, companies would clump prospects into various stages of a sales funnel. However, as we have discussed within this post, the customer buying journey is no longer linear. This means that the funnel methodology of pre-determined steps with a series of pre-written content needs to change. Instead of focusing on a set number of steps per buying journey, companies would do well to focus on the moments that matter.
The moments that matter are the defining key touchpoints that create the opportunity for companies to promote a positive customer experience. By recognizing these moments, companies can also move away from being unnecessary gate keepers. In the linear buying journey, gates proved an effective way to gather customer data that was then used to build more robust profiles. Fast forward to 2019 and you will discover that an estimated 87 percent of buyers will avoid downloading content when faced with a gate. This high percentage of buyers are changing the tides and enforcing the belief that funnels with constricted gates are no longer effective tools.
If you want to appeal to the modern buyer, then you need to remove friction from the entire buying journey. This means that if you do use a piece of gated content, then you must ensure that you follow these key steps.
- Don't ask intrusive questions, use complicated forms, are try to gather one too many pieces of customer information.
- Do make sure that the gated content is worth the effort it takes to fill out a form and divulge personal contact information.
- Don't ask for the same piece of information twice. In other words use smart forms to add a touch of personalization, all while showing returning visitors that you paid attention the first time they filled out a form.
- Do use progressive profiling to gain additional insights into each of your prospects.
- Don't forget to thank people for filling out the form needed to download your content,
- Do pick your moments for wisely.
The Customer Journey Must Also Have A Layer Of Predictability.
As we've discussed at length, the customer journey relies on key moments that matter most to each individual prospect. If you want to create a better customer experience that supports a prospect's journey from active lead to loyal customer, then you need to ensure that there is a certain level of predictability to their journey. Through the right data, analytics, and insights, you can create a rich feedback loop that adds a layer of predictability and further supports a positive customer experience.
To create the rich feedback loop you can implement a few key strategies.
- Make direct customer engagements a priority via a multi-channel marketing approach.
- Leverage the right technologies, including a marketing automation platform, to create trusted, personalized, and predicable experiences.
- Dismantle internal silos that are limiting communication between sales and marketing teams.
Through the above strategies you can gather richer marketing data, generate better leads, and respond to customer inquiries with a heightened level of insight and accuracy. Most importantly, when you implement a rich feedback loop you can and will understand the unique aspects of each customer's buying journey.
Are You Responding Properly To The New Customer Journey?
As the customer buying journey has changed from linear into a labyrinth of choices, the question that remains is, "have you adjusted your response?" Whether you are struggling to send prospects the information that they need to contact your sales associates, or you are having trouble adding the predictability and personalization that your prospects crave, our team is here to help. Contact a member of the Maven Sales Group to discover how you can better respond to the new customer journey.