How can we record the buying process when most customer buying journeys and lifecycles are not linear?
While it is impossible to completely capture and monitor the entire buying journey and decision; mapping this process helps you capture their channel preferences and interactions.
You may not be able to know exactly which colleague analyst, on and offline channels a customer used, or which publication informed them, but mapping the buying journey and customer lifecycle will give you insight into when and how they are influenced.
There are different approaches to mapping the customer buying process. Regardless of the approach you take, it is important to include input from all internal people in contact with customers (sales, marketing, customer service, product marketing) as well as the customers themselves.
The mapping process should take into account five primary facets:
- Initial triggers that lead to first contact.
- Steps they take (industry reports, product reports and reviews, white papers, demos, etc.) and the conversations (analysts, colleagues, event encounters, call centers, sales people, etc.) they engage in to solve their problem and find a specific solution.
- Steps and experiences leading up to their purchase (the RFP, reference calls, pilots, etc.).
- Steps associated with the purchase and consumption (the onboarding process, purchasing processes, implementation, invoicing, etc.).
- Ongoing experience and reaction to their purchase (problem resolution process, new product offers, community participation opportunities, etc.).
Once you’ve mapped the process organize each step into the appropriate stage: contact, connection, conversation, consideration, consumption, and community. Now you can synchronize your marketing content with the buying process and lifecycle.
As a result you will more tightly align marketing and sales and create a more behaviorally-based opportunity qualification process.
Match Mix, Content, Channel and Lifecycle
The link between marketing activities, content, and the customer buying process, and lifecycle, will become clearer once you complete the mapping process. It will become obvious that different programs and content will be more valuable and appropriate at different stages depending on the customer process.
The map will serve as a guideline for improving the utility of your mix, and the content you use to connect and engage with customers and prospects, and to enhance existing customer relationships.
For example, you may learn through the mapping process that, traditional in-person events and presentations are far more valuable at creating contacts and connections for a specific segment that social media and blogs are.
Your map may reveal that webinars with industry experts are a viable touch point for consideration for some customer segments while online chats with existing customers and traditional telemarketing are more effective for other segments.
Through the process, you may learn that traditional e-newsletters are ideal for staying connected with one set of existing customers and online community with guest posts is better for another. As a result, marketing will need to select the program and build content that supports the preferred channel for that touch point in the process.
Is it worth the effort? Research by Marketing Sherpa suggests that it does. Their work reveals that buyers prefer content that is targeted to their specific industry, job function and company size. They also found that educational pieces such as sharing best practices, work well during the early stages and industry-oriented pieces work well during solution evaluation stages.
So before cranking out more content, step back and validate the buying process, content, channels and mix so you can orchestrate a marketing effort that will engage and motive customers.
See the Don’t Waste Your Bullets for more about mapping the customer buying process, syncing content, and creating opportunity scoring models.
Laura Patterson is president and co-founder of VisionEdge Marketing, Inc., a recognized leader in enabling organizations to leverage data and analytics to facilitate marketing accountability. Laura’s newest book, Marketing Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization (Racom: www.racombooks.com ), is a useful primer for improving marketing measurement and performance.
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