The Customer Decision Journey
Every successful digital marketing plan starts off with a strong foundation in the Customer’s journey to the desired end result.
The steps below describe the entire journey of how a prospect goes through the different stages to become a loyal customer. A strong understanding of the relationship and interactions between customers and your brand at different stages of the journey will go a long way in helping you to craft a complete marketing plan that works.
In fact your job as a digital marketer is in figuring out how to effectively move your customers through each phase of the Customer Buying Journey in the quickest, most cost-effective way available to your business.
Why a “Value Funnel”?
Why not sales or buying funnel? The Customer Value Funnel has been described by a great amount of marketers by many names, the customer purchase journey, the consumer buying funnel, etc. Certain models also differ in stages and description. In essence, we are referring to the analysis of the different steps that a prospect takes leading up (and sometimes after) his conversion into a customer.
I call it a value funnel because I believe that the core foundation of every successful business is to provide value for its customers. If your customers do not see any value in your business, then they will not be wiling to interact or transact with you, period.
The fundamental goal of marketing should be to provide value for customers at different stages in order to ascend the levels of the value funnel. A fierce obsession with simply promoting sales is unlikely to get you far in acquiring loyal customers for your business.
Value can be real or perceived but customers will only take meaningful action when they feel that they can get value from the interaction.
In an ideal situation, you want your business to be present in every stage of the customer’s value funnel to build trust and confidence in your business. Of course, doing so might be costly and if your budget is severely limited, you may have to prioritise certain channels first.
Now lets go through the process and how the different stages can affect your digital marketing strategy.
Purpose: Creating awareness of your brand/product/service in the minds of your prospects
Relationship Status: First contact
The very first step in the funnel is to first create a presence in the mind of your potential buyers. Customers can only come to you for a solution if they know that you exist, hence the importance of your brand reaching out to them. This is usually the first-touch point that your customer comes into contact with your brand so you want to make it count.
Channels: Digital Advertising (PPC), Search Marketing (SEO + SEM), Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing
Purpose: To develop a healthy relationship with the prospect
Relationship Status: early stage, customer still does not know whether to trust you
The key to engagement is in creating content. Often you may hear the phrase echo in digital marketing forums and blogs that “Content is King”. Well in the world of digital, it really is. Content is what creates engagement for your customer, by providing specific forms of content related to your niche that are entertaining, informational or educational. Remember that the whole point of the marketing funnel is to create value for the customer, therefore the content you create must be valuable and relevant to them. Simply creating content without purpose comes across as spammy and can result in negative impact on customer engagement as well as receive penalties imposed by search engines.
Platform: Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing
3. LEAD GENERATION
Purpose: Create a list of subscribers that you can market to
Relationship Status: prospect is willing to invest time in your business by giving their contact
Now it is important not to forget the process of lead generation. This stage is extremely important especially for the longevity of a business. Without proper qualified leads, business can suffer huge setbacks especially since the marketing budget and effort in the previous two stages are wasted in capturing attention but not establishing proper contact. Customers may be engaged by your content for a few minutes, but once they leave your site chances are that you’ll probably never see them again unless you get that lead.
There are many ways to generate leads, often lead generation is a transaction of sorts whereby you trade something of value to the customer in exchange for his contact. Once that has been established, you are able to contact them again in the future to follow up with engagement or sales.
Getting leads may be costly in time and money because you have to give your customers something of value in order to get their contact information. Nobody gives out their information for free, especially to a brand they have just met.
Examples of Lead Generation Tactics
- Enter your email to get access to a tutorial
- Sign up for monthly newsletter
- Free trial for 1 week
- Claim your discount code when you enter your email
Collecting emails is one of the most popular lead that people capture, simply because of the proven effectiveness in email marketing. Other forms of leads include liking a Facebook page or following an Instagram account, or giving your handphone number. The type of leads you collect must be specific and relevant to the digital platforms that you are planning to utilize in your plan (no point getting Facebook likes when your main marketing platform is email marketing).
Platforms: Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Digital Advertising, Conversion Rate Optimization
Purpose: To change the relationship status by getting customers to convert into a customer
Relationship Status: Prospect turns into a customer
“The point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action”
Many people have the misconception that conversion refers to a sale. Conversion could mean many things but its ultimate meaning is defined by you in the context of your business. What action are you trying to get the customer to take at this stage?
Generating a lead can also be considered a form of conversion, however we have already established this in the previous stage. In this phase the focus is more on conversion that will cause the prospect to invest money in your business. That’s right, this is the stage whereby your prospect turns into a customer.
Since this is the first time the customer has engaged with your company, it is likely still too early for you to try and get them to invest a significant amount of money in an up-scale product or service. In fact at this point in time it is still too early to be concerned with profits, the goal is customer acquisition.
The logic behind is simple, and one that has been supported by strong market research over the years. It is always easier and less costly to market to a current customer as opposed to marketing to fresh prospects, because he has already transacted with the business before and there is a level of trust established. Companies spend huge budgets on customer acquisition, some even making losses because they know that the main bulk of the profits come at the back-end once they have acquired the customer.
In general there are two main types of sales that we are looking for at this stage
- Entry-Point Purchase
- Core Purchase
Entry-point purchase are usually offers that provide extreme value to customers so that they will be too tempted to reject the offer. Some examples would include free-trial for a service, huge discount on your first purchase, etc.
Which method works best is dependent your business objectives, budget, product complexity and other constraints. Implementing entry-point purchases can be more costly and time consuming for your business, but the conversion rates will be higher as opposed to pushing your core business offering at this stage. If your core product is one that is priced around mid-high tier range, you may want to consider having entry-point offers to nurture leads before introducing the main product or service.
Purpose: To monetize your back end products & services for profit
Relationship Status: Repeat customers
Now that you have successfully acquired the customer, its time to start reaping in the profits. At this point in time, assuming that you have been providing value throughout the funnel, the customer has engaged and transacted with your business before thereby establishing a level of trust or even dependence. They are now ready to escalate their commitment or investment with your company.
If you were using an entry-point offer in the previous stage, this is the time for you to make your core offer and capture your well-deserved profits. If the customer has already purchased your core offer, then you may want to consider upselling them with other relevant offers that may be more costly but also provide greater value to them.
It is called a funnel, because you get to the later stages more and more people will drop off. But that’s not unexpected, again the most important aspect of a business is that it provides the value that its target audience wants. As long as you can provide relevant and consistent value, your business should be doing well off. If not, your marketing efforts will only serve to help your business fail faster.
How to Apply The Funnel
The Customer Value Funnel is only the skeleton for a comprehensive digital strategy, in order to make the most of it there are a few factors that you should consider in deciding which marketing channels to fit which stage of the funnel:
- Marketing Objectives
- Customer Analysis
This means that prior to strategic planning, you need to have a done a thorough customer analysis of your target market (i.e demographics, psychographics, which platforms they frequent, etc), as well as have good knowledge of your business processes and needs.