Sure, it’s easy to compare how much money we spent on Google Ads last week to the number of sales we made last week, and then ask, “Did it work?” We want to quantify results, so we analyze our marketing in real time, or we try to attribute a specific customer action to our specific ad. Instead we need to examine the complete customer journey.
The Customer is Not an Event.
Because we want customers to make a decision instantly we apply that logic to our marketing. Therefore, most marketing analysis is flawed because we view marketing as an event: Click-through-rate on the email blast last week, or the number of people that mentioned the special in our TV ad.
But that’s not how your marketing affects customers. The customer is on a journey and your marketing is a miniscule percentage of their day. For your marketing to be able to affect the customer purchase decision you have to understand the complete journey.
It takes time from the moment a customer thinks they might want to buy your product until they actually do. That time period may be a one-day stroll, or it may be a six-month sojourn. Whatever the time frame, many factors come into play, both internal and external, that affect the decision. While you’re worried about whether your Facebook post will generate 20 clicks to your product page, the customer may be worried that their kid has strep throat.
So, the question is not, “Does TV work?” …or “How is our Google Adwords campaign doing?” instead the question is “How does all our marketing work together to influence the customer journey?”
Let’s say you run a promotion this month with a $10 off coupon for any service for your plumbing business. You will judge the effectiveness of this promotion by how many coupons you received this month, and compare business to the same month last year. Did you do as much business as you thought you would? Did customers use the coupon? Answer those questions and you believe you can make a decision about whether a promotion worked or not.
But that’s just not the way the real world works. You are missing several important pieces of information, some of which may be: (1) How the customer makes the decision to purchase your product. (2) Where was the customer in the decision making process before being exposed to your promotion? (3) What influence did your promotion have on the customer’s purchase decision in the future? (4) What other marketing will work in tandem with the promotion to assist it? (5) Does the customer even like coupons?
Understanding the Customer Journey
There are outside influences over which you have no control: personal finances, fear or confidence in the economy, the weather. But you need to understand what they are so that you can account for them. By diagramming and understanding your customer’s journey, you can then arrange and optimize your marketing mix to allocate your limited marketing budget where it will be most effective.
Start gathering the journey information:
– How long does it take your customer to make a decision?
– What forms of media and entertainment do they consume?
– What are the factors they consider when buying your product?
– What are the possible outside factors that influence their decision?
Rebuild Your Marketing Strategy
With this new information you can now re-shape your marketing mix into something that escorts the customer in their journey. Each channel and activity should be built to assist other marketing activities, not stand alone in isolation.
You also need make allowances that different customers are in different stages of their journey. Most marketing is created to address the end of the journey, ignoring the road that leads to the purchase decision.
This brings us to your marketing message, the most influential piece of your mix. Potential customers go through a brand discovery process in deciding where to buy. Remembering that there are multiple stages in the customer journey, you should craft several messages that influence each of these stages. Tie all these messages back to your brand story and you will have a cohesive marketing mix that travels with the customer, not one that sits at the end of the road waiting to give your pitch.
Now it’s time to diagram your customer’s complete journey. Start with your intuition and any hard data you may already have. But I also suggest you begin doing post-sale interviews with your customers and clients, or better, have a qualified third party do it. You want to know what the customer was thinking, and the personal influences that affected their decision.
Here are some broad categories, use them as a guide to compile a list of things you want to know about the journey:
- Time to Decision: How long does it take your customer to make the decision to buy when they realize they might want to buy?
- Decision Factors: What the most important 2-3 things that drive your customer’s decision to purchase?
- Media Usage: What traditional, digital, and unconventional media do your potential customers use?
- Time using media in potential marketing channels: Where do they spend their time with traditional, digital, and entertainment media channels?
- Personal Factors: Such as job security, confidence in the economy, problem children, etc.
- Market Conditions: What is happening in your industry market right now that influences the decision to buy?
- External Factors: Such as the weather, economy, politics, peer pressure, etc.
- Your Influence: Marketing, sales staff, service personnel.
Plenty of businesses are lining up to meet the customer at the end of their journey. That leaves a lot of open road for you to help them to choose you along the way. Don’t you think?
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