Why the Customer Journey Matters
More than ever, customers are in complete control of their purchasing decisions. Readily available information, social media access, and customer reviews have all contributed to putting the buyer in the driver's seat. Businesses must reach the customer at multiple touchpoints before, during, and even after the decision-making process.
The journey to making a purchase is no longer linear but complex and multifaceted. It's vital to connect with buyers throughout the entire process and with messaging that resonates. Epsilon's research reveals that 80% of customers are likelier to purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.
This can present a marketing challenge for any company, but especially for SMBs who have limited resources. But while reaching the buyer is definitely more complex than it was twenty years ago, the best way to think about it is to remember that you’re a customer as well. Think about how you want to receive information to help you decide and start from there. Put yourself in your prospect's shoes; it will seem less complicated. In this blog, Tangelo Media breaks down the customer journey and why each step matters.
1. Brand Awareness: This is the stage where customers first become aware of your brand, product, or service. They may discover you through advertising, social media, word-of-mouth, online research, or all of the above. That's why omnichannel marketing and consistency in your messaging and customer experience is crucial. According to Salesforce, 75% of customers expect companies to provide a consistent experience and a seamless customer journey across multiple channels.
This awareness stage is crucial because you can't sell your product or service if the public doesn't know you exist. And you can't measure it with a traditional ROI lens because these prospects aren't ready to commit yet. It's also when you must humanize your brand and make it relatable to the audience. Harvard Business Review states that customers who have an emotional connection with a brand are three times more likely to recommend it, show a strong desire to repurchase, and are less price-sensitive.
2. Consideration: This is when potential customers actively research, evaluate your offerings, and compare them to other products or services. They are looking for differentiators such as price, quality, company values, and how you help to solve their problems. Consider how your direct and indirect competitors appear in the marketplace and how they influence perception. This is also when the prospect reads reviews, so don't underestimate how much your reputation affects their decision. And finally, potential buyers are asking friends for their recommendations. Nielsen reports that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, so referral programs can be highly impactful once you have converted that prospect.
3. Decision: At this point, customers are ready to make a purchase. The goal is to convince them that your product or service is the best choice. You should consider the following questions when marketing to a prospect at this stage. What criteria will they use to evaluate the available offerings? What makes your offering stand out when they are considering you versus your competitors? What could be some of their concerns in purchasing from your company? This is where you need to put a stake in the ground and focus your messaging on the attributes you can support and defend. If you aren't the cheapest option, then own that, but explain why the quality and customer support you offer are worth the higher price tag.
4. Post-Purchase Experience: Unfortunately, the post-buyer experience is often neglected, but it is crucial for customer retention. Customers who have had a positive experience are more likely to become loyal and advocate for your brand by referring others, leaving positive reviews, or engaging with your brand on social media. If your customer wants to return something, make it easy. Don't hide the information or force them to email five people to get a response.
Consider offering a discount for a review or referral. And if you get a bad review, don't ignore it. Ensure someone in your team follows up as often as necessary until they can reach the customer and make it right. Most buyers are forgiving if they feel you made a concerted effort to address the issue and put processes in place to ensure it doesn't happen again. It's better to know about a buyer's negative experience so that you can do something about it versus finding out about it after it's too late to address it. According to Invesp, acquiring a new customer can be five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. And less customer churn means greater profits.
The customer journey is a dynamic process that precedes the purchase and extends far beyond it. SMBs that recognize the importance of each stage and invest in understanding and enhancing the customer experience are more likely to succeed in today's competitive business landscape. Organizations can build trust, retain customers, and create brand advocates by personalizing interactions, optimizing marketing efforts, and prioritizing post-purchase support. While it may be more work in the short term, the long-term benefits will make your customers (and your CFO) very happy.
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