Remember when marketers drew customer journey maps into neat, straight lines or pretty circles? Those days are over. In the social era, the “customer journey” is so unpredictable, so varied, that the best a brand can hope for is to show up somewhere along that dizzying pathway to encourage a sale.
The new consumer journey in the social era is:
- Highly personal
- Interrupted constantly
- A paradox of choice
And therefore… Completely unpredictable.
Check out this consumer’s multi-channel journey, courtesy of Google ZMOT (below). Whether you’re B2B or B2C, in the social era, your brand must be prepared to find a customer at any one of these stages.
Remember, the social era is more than just using social media (though of course, that’s part of it). If the industrial era was about building things, the social era is about connecting things, ideas and people, communicating identity through purchasing power (a.k.a, the PROsumer), and blurring the lines between professional and personal.
If your brand doesn’t understand why social is at the heart of the consumer’s journey, it’ll get left behind. There are simply too many choices and too many well-informed, empowered buyers out there. Here, I’ll bust some myths regarding consumer behavior and preconceptions and offer five questions for identifying entry points in your social customer journey.
Myth 1 – busy decision-makers don’t have time for the internet
Busted – According to Google, 89% of B2B researchers use the internet for B2B research in the buying process. Potential customers of your brand are already searching through your competitor’s content, forming opinions and looking for the best deal and service, whether you’re there or not. In the retail world, 82% of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store.
Myth 2 – the CFO is older and male
Busted – Nearly half of all B2B researchers are millennials, an incredibly diverse generation (spanning from age 23 to 38, there are 80 million of them in the U.S. alone), with very different needs, beliefs, values, and experiences within this group. To reach them, you’ll have to think counterintuitively; stop marketing generationally and think in terms of audience mindsets. The closer you dive into your audience research, the better a picture you have of them. Another note on these figures is that although 64% of C-level (CEO, CFO, etc) have final authority on decisions, but 81% of non-C-level employees influence these purchase decisions. Again, it goes beyond marketing to older, high-leveled decision-makers, because they’re influenced by a large number of other people.
Five important questions
Looking at your existing customers may help you understand where in the journey your brand appears (or doesn’t). These questions will help you to get the lay of the land as far as entry points are concerned.
1. “Who are my best customers?”
Understanding your best Customer goes a long way in predicting behaviors and purchasing patterns. Your ideal customer is not just the one who purchases but truly engages with your brand, too. You want more consumers like this. Also, ask yourself if they belong to any communities with like-minded people? Chances are that they’ll also like your brand.
2. “How did they find me?” OR “How did I find them?”
Knowing where your previous consumers have entered your ecosystem gives you a great idea of what your brand does right. If you know they discovered your brand, followed your account and then purchased a product through a targeted Instagram ad, you’ll know your Instagram strategy is serving that audience particularly well. Don’t just focus on where your brand appears, but look for gaps in the entry points where you can gain some new traction.
3. “Why did they choose me?”
What separates your brand from the competition? Look at this from every entry point. For example, if you’re getting a ton of referrals, it’s likely that the quality of your product/service great. If your brand is having retention issues, it’s likely that your messaging is stronger than your product/service, or your pricing model may not be working. Look at where your messaging is strongest, understand why this is, and see if you can translate it to the other aspects of your brand. Remember, though – not every customer is the same.
4. “How has it all changed?”
It’s important to remember that as consumers get more and more savvy about your industry, their entry points into your funnel will probably have changed also. Is your brand getting more traffic from one part of your marketing machine than it used to? This trend might be worth investigating.
Now that the sales funnel is no longer a funnel, your consumers (both B2B and B2C) expect you to meet them on their journey and not the other way around. They’re also better researched and more socially active than ever before. Therefore, it’s important to strike that fine balance between being accessible and not talking down to them. If you so much as tip-toe out of this balance, your consumers will be sure to let you know.