The journey a prospect takes from awareness of their problem, challenge, or goal to ultimately purchasing a solution can be a personal and emotional experience. For your customer it's more than just a transaction.
If you're looking to improve the ROI on your marketing dollars, increase revenue, and provide a great customer experience, then start by mapping the buyer's journey.
Why Map the Buyer's Journey?
Unfortunately, most companies never take the time to map the buyer's journey from their customer's point of view. Reviewing and documenting the interaction between your customers and your brand in each step of the customer's journey, is like a pressure test. It will help you identify the "leaks" in your marketing and sales pipelines.
Mapping the buyer's journey will help you identify where the customer is in your marketing funnel or sales pipeline. When you know where your buyers are, you can provide them with the relevant information, education, or guidance they need to get where they're ultimately going, faster and more efficiently.
If you don't already have a documented buyer's journey or would like to improve the one you have, here's some tips that will give you valuable insight into the experiences your customer's are really having with your brand.
Understanding Flywheels, Funnels, and Pipelines
To understand where your buyers are, first start by understanding the difference between flywheels, funnels, and pipelines. It sounds confusing but it's not.
The flywheel is essentially a high level view of the overall buyer's journey. Imagine you're looking at the funnel from the top in. As prospects move through the funnel, they are interact with your marketing, then your sales team, and eventually your customer service or fulfillment teams as they complete a circle. The customer is always at the center or the flywheel and should be the the center of your attention.
Marketing & Sales Funnels.
Funnels are a more traditional way of looking at the buyer's journey but there's more than one way to diagram a funnel. First is the AIDA funnel, which suggests that the buyer become aware of your product, develops and interest in your product, so then has a desire for your product, and then finally takes action and buys the product. This was the traditional funnel where the consumer saw your product on one of three TV networks or in the store and they would move down funnel mostly on their own or with a help of an aggressive salesperson. The modern sales and marketing funnel as well as the inbound marketing funnel are very similar and both focus on educating and informing the buyer at every stage of the journey.
Unlike funnels, the sales pipeline is not about the customer or the buyers journey. The sales pipeline is simple is a way of keeping track of potential sales "in progress" throughout your sales process. The stages in a sales pipeline are broken down by the milestones that happen from the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) being accepted by the sales rep through the close of the sale.
How to Map the Buyer's Journey: Part 1
The Traditional Funnel
Each buyer has a journey that they embark on from the awareness stage to the consideration stage, the decision stage, and the delight stage (if your business uses the inbound funnel, feel free to swap out the stages). Use these four stages like buckets to group the steps in.
The key to mapping your buyer's journey is to first document the questions or concerns your buyers have at each stage of the funnel. Think of your buyer's questions as potential objections. The better job your sales team does removing objections better they'll be at converting leads into sales.
Bucket 1: The Awareness Stage
This is the first stage and the stage where the buyer first becomes "aware" that they have a problem they need to solve, a challenge they need to overcome, or a goal they want to achieve. What information do they need to understand that they actually have a problem challenge or goal? This is where the buyer finds you when they are doing research. They are probably searching the symptoms related to their issue. They'll probably discover you in this stage through your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts on your website, blogs you've written, or social media.
Bucket 2: The Consideration Stage
In this stage the buyer starts to consider which solutions can help them solve the problem, overcome the challenge, or achieve their goal. Again, you'll want to document the questions and concerns the buyer has when considering which options (from any source) will help them get where they need to go. Content like e-books, comparison matrixes that helps educate the buyer works best.
Bucket 3: The Decision Stage
Here is where the buyer decides which product or service from which company is the best option is to solve their problem, overcome their challenge, or achieve their goal. Here you'll want to makes the case for why your solution and your company is the best choice for the buyer. Case studies, white papers, customer testimonial, and pricing guides are typically what the buyer i looking for prior to and leading up to the purchase.
Bucket 4: The Delight Stage
Once the buyer has purchased your product or service, this is your chance to make a customer for life or getting referrals by going the extra mile. Think about information that helps the buyer get the most from their purchase. What kind of information can you provide the buyer after they've received your product or service? Things like user guides, how to videos, timely updates, and even net promoter score surveys can keep the buyer's engaged after the sale.
How to Map the Buyer's Journey: Part 2
The Sales and Fulfillment Pipelines
This is a very important piece in understanding your buyer's journey since this is what your customers currently experience when they buy from you. It's important not to overlook this step since you'll find customer touch points where you're really great, touch points you're not so great, and touch points in the process that are missing completely.
Step 1: Understanding Your Process Milestones
What are your sales and fulfillment milestones? Start at beginning of the process from the first communication between your customer and your sales team. Document each step of the sales process and work your way through the fulfillment process to the end. It's a good idea to spend a few minutes with the person or team responsible for executing each milestone and document the following:
What is the specific goal of each milestone?
What steps are taken during the milestone and when do they occur?
What are the customer contact "touch-points" during that milestone? (include phone calls, emails, content sent, document requests, etc.)
Print out examples of all communications and document the time between customer contacts.
Document the frequently asked questions, concerns, and complaints from customers during this milestone?
Step 2: Document the Current Process Milestones
Create a documented customer road map for what this looks like today. There's a couple of ways to do this.
First, you can document the process flow using software like Visio or Lucid Chart. Next, scan and store the documents that you collected for each milestone and create a links in the road map to relevant communication documents.
The second approach is more a little more old school, but equally effective. Find a long wall and stick a Post-It Self Stick Easel Paper sheet on the wall for each milestone. Using a marker, bullet point each step in the milestone on the sheet. Under each step in the note any customer communications and the time since the last communication to identify cadence. Gather each of the communication documents and hang them on the wall under the milestone process or gather them in folders and mark each folder with the milestone.
Step 3: Analyze your Current Process Milestones
Now that you have your customer road map documented, it's time to analyze it. Once you've identified what you have, you'll know what you need. Here are the important things to look for.
Is your communication cadence consistent?
Look at the time between customer communications. You'll notice, when the customer was in the sales process, it was probably more regular unlike the fulfillment stages, where communication cadence tends to break. The goal is to stay consistent.
Are you setting expectations?
At the onset of each milestone there should be communication that lets the customer know where they are in the process, what's expected of them, what happens next, and when it will happen. The more you educate your customers during the process, the less they will be "surprised" by your process.
Is the communication "voice" consistent?
The way we speak to someone, written or verbal should be consistent. Your voice or tonality represents your brand, so the tonality of your communication needs to be consistent. The customer is relating to your company in this relationship and as in any relationship changes in tone can change the perception of that relationship.
Are you measuring customer satisfaction?
Sending an NPS (net promoter score survey) email out at the end of the transaction to measure customer satisfaction is a great practice. It lets your team know how they're doing, gives you the opportunity to identify issues quickly, and address them promptly.
How to Map the Buyer's Journey: Part 3
Optimize to Delight Your Customers
Now that you're armed with information, it's time to take action. There will be a lot to unpack but well worth the effort. Create the content you need to give your customers the education and information they need at each stage of the funnel and keep up to speed at each milestone during in sales and fulfillment pipelines.
Go secret shopping
To optimize the experience, go "secret shopping". Google search for the products your company offers as if you were shopping for yourself. Start by searching for the the problem your product solves or the challenges it overcomes. This will help you discover competitive website, blogs, and search marketing ads. Who is actively providing information to help your prospects understand their challenges and goals. Is it your company or is it your competition?
Visit your competitors websites and read their company reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. You can also fill out their lead forms to see how long it takes to get a response, how they respond, and the message they respond with. You should create a generic Gmail account as well as a Google Voice number so you can receive the introductory emails and initial prospecting phone calls anonymously.
What educational content are they providing to help you identify your challenges? How does your business compare to you competition at this stage? Are they helpful? What other information could a prospect use at this stage to gain a better understanding of their challenge? You get the picture. The better and more clear the buyers path is from awareness to purchase, the happier they'll be and more successful you'll be.
Implementing a CRM coupled with a sales and marketing automation platform like HubSpot, will help you deliver a seamless customer experience. These platforms allow you to create email sequences based on timelines or action triggers, and create sales workflows with reminder calls, calendar scheduling, and next step task assignments.