Does Your Website Match the Customer Journey?

The Customer Journey
Last week I argued that firms need to concentrate more effort (and money) on top of the funnel marketing and metrics need to reflect the new priorities of measuring the success of actions aimed at the top of the marketing funnel. Today, I’d like to expand on that by helping you match your content to the customer journey.

How customer journey differs from the marketing funnel

Marketing funnel

When HBR (Harvard Business Review) asked top marketing firms to assess the relevance of the marketing funnel in today’s digital landscape, they found the problems summarized below:

According to these marketers, the primary problem with the funnel is that the buying process is no longer linear. Prospects don’t just enter at the top of the funnel; instead, they come in at any stage. Furthermore, they often jump stages, stay in a stage indefinitely, or move back and forth between them.

Instead of looking like this: social media marketing

HBR, McKinsey, and other top marketing think tanks argue the customer journey is convoluted, with numerous tangents, stalls, backtracks, and exits from the funnel.

svg_Q309_CDJexhibit2 REV6

Customer journey

Here’s what the customer decision journey looks like according to McKinsey. The cyclic process is a better fit for reality than the linear journey down the marketing funnel, but the customer journey depicted by McKinsey is still too rational and doesn’t fully show the tangents, stalls, and exits from the marketing funnel common among consumers today (and maybe always).

Consider this version of the ecommerce customer journey (for Rail Europe) provided by Adaptive Path (I recognize you can’t read this well. Simply select the image to see a larger version).

customer journey mapping
Obviously, there’s not a true correspondence of the McKinsey customer journey with that of Adaptive Path, but I would argue the more complex customer experience journey is more important from a marketing standpoint because it maps out all the touch points in the customer journey.

In the first panel, you see an expanded version of the marketing cycle including both exits from the process as well as outside influencers such as other websites and friends. Moving to the second panel, you see the various touch points encountered along the way from exploration to conversion and the all important post purchase activities ignored by many marketers (but that’s a post for another day!).

Notice even the touch points aren’t linear, with backtracking through changing plans and re-evaluations of the alternative before finally consummating the sale.

For complex purchase experiences like vacations, post purchase involves not only decisions to share about the customer experience, but purchasing additional products and returning for more research related to the trip.

While I don’t want to divert into a discussion of the remainder of the customer experience journey, take a few moments to appreciate the lower panels discussing the actions and emotions related to each stage in the customer journey. I’ll leave this for a future post.

Does your website provide content that addresses each step in the customer journey?

In my experience as a consumer, I find website owners don’t pay enough attention to serving up content aimed at each step in the customer journey. Often, they focus enormous attention on customers seeking information to guide their purchase decision and not enough content aimed at other stages in the customer journey.

Today, most website visitors are pretty far along the customer journey — they’re aware of your products and services from friends or other websites (like review sites, social networks, or online communities) and probably already formed opinions about your brand based on earlier activities.

Customers come to your website or physical store with your product in their consideration set and the business is yours to lose — if you don’t match content to where they are in the decision-making process.

Borrowing from sales, once you’ve convinced the consumer (or business consumer) to buy, shut up — don’t go through the rest of your presentation. They want to buy, so close them.

The same goes for your website. Don’t take potential customers through pages of sales copy if they’ve just come for the last piece of the puzzle before buying — your price, terms of sale, and delivery options. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked to buy something from an email only to find myself on this lengthy sales page. Too often, I simply give up because the only piece of information I want is the price. The marketer now wasted the entire cost of her campaign because she didn’t understand what I wanted from her website.

Matching content marketing with the customer journey

So, the customer (or prospective customer) comes to your website armed with an intention to buy your product.

Let’s go through an example to show how your content should match the customer journey, now that the prospect arrived at your website. For this example, I’m gonna use SproutSocial, which helps me manage my content marketing tasks. Here’s what their homepage looks like above the fold:

match content to the customer journey

As a potential customer, maybe I’ve heard recommendations for SproutSocial from colleagues or reviews or lists of useful social media tools. I have a few questions that prompt my visit to the website and the website better make it easy for me to find this information:

  • Price — this is the biggest question a prospect has when they reach your website. Notice the prominence of the free trial button and the menu option for pricing information.
  • How easy is it to use SproutSocial. Also above the fold, I see screenshot of the dashboard and social engagement tools.
  • Social proof — I may be looking for recommendations from businesses or colleagues I trust. So, below the fold, you’ll find a list of businesses most folks view as household names to lend their support for SproutSocial.

Once I’ve started my free trial, I might want some support on using it. SproutSocial provides a blog that not only helps me get the most from my SproutSocial account, but provides social media insights to help me manage my social media campaigns better.

But, here’s where SproutSocial could do better at matching content to stages along the customer journey because there’s little content, except the blog, aimed at keeping me as a customer or encouraging me to become an advocate for their product. If I were managing their page, here’s a list of things I would add:

  • A chat option — now, I realize this is buried in behind the settings button, but I would bring it out maybe as a slider or just a button in the sidebar. My preference would be to add it under the “STUFF TO DO” options in the upper right corner. The same is true for the help button, which provides a link to help resources. Keeping customers is 5X more profitable than replacing them, so highlight content aimed at making customers happy.
  • A forum — sometimes the best way (and most responsive means) for help is by connecting users who likely encountered the same problems. Solutions and workarounds not only provide help for users, but offer insights that should guide product enhancements.
  • Integrate advocacy — there’s really no tool integrated into the website allowing me to share my experiences with my friends. Sure, I can share articles from the blog, but there’s no way to share the product.

I recognize the website isn’t SproutSocial’s only means of communication with customers, but your website should still contain content aimed at each stage in the customer journey, with other marketing efforts supporting your website efforts.

Here are some other things to think about when adding content matching the customer journey:

  1. Filtering — often ecommerce sites create filtering assuming customers are in the exploration stage of the customer journey. Sometimes prospects enter your website at another stage. For instance, think about the situation where I share my vacation photos on Instagram. You ask me about the house I rented and I give you the name of the house. Try searching for the house name and many sites don’t offer that option; instead offering filtering based on location, size, etc.
  2. Going back to filtering, think about how customers want to search your databases, not how you can construct them easily. For instance, when purchasing a dress, I might be more interested in length or sleeve options than the designer. Offer filtering that matches my needs.
  3. Post-purchase options — let’s say I already purchased a product from you. Now I want to order accessories, track my purchase, or return the product. Making such queries easy goes a long way toward creating customer satisfaction and offer an opportunity to up sell products. For instance, ordering memory from Apple can be a nightmare because it’s unclear which memory cards fit which devices. Instead, you should be able to easily enter your information and get a filtered list of optional add-ons.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and social media.




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Social Marketing vs. Social Customer Service

Actually, I don’t think it’s so much an issue of marketing VERSUS customer service as it is an issue of using customer service to SUPPORT your marketing efforts, especially in social media.  In fact, Richard Branson, of Virgin Group, puts together teams containing both marketing and customer service in his social media teams.  That’s because social media is a convenient place for customers to COMPLAIN about your product or service.

Facts about customer service

Here are some facts to consider when planning for customer service:

1. ROI (Return on Investment) – it costs 5 times as much to REPLACE a dissatisfied customer as to retain a customer.

2. Negative word of mouth travels much faster (and farther) than positive word of mouth — especially in social media where it might go viral.

3. More customers complain in social media than traditional outlets.

4. Customers are more likely to ask for help in social networks than to call your help desk.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about how customers use social media as a means to customer service and the impact of this on your business.  Infographic courtesy of: The Social Help Desk Revolution — Brought To You By

It really doesn’t matter how great a job you do attracting customers, if you can’t keep them you’ll likely FAIL. Yet, many businesses act like they don’t appreciate their customers and don’t respond to questions or complaints posted on Twitter or Facebook.  Not only does this customer failure cost them existing customers, it influences likely new customers to look elsewhere for their needs.

There are just SO MANY options out there, why would a consumer take a chance on a product or service panned by a friend.

Adequate customer service can turn such negative comments into positives.
Click to Enlarge Image

Using social customer service to build (or destroy) your brand

  1. Assign specific employees to monitor social media channels looking for complaints, questions, or even compliments. And have a back-up in case that person is out or quits. Remember, the internet is 24/7, so don’t just staff during business hours.
  2. Listen carefully for comments both on owned social media and other social media.
  3. Triage comments quickly to determine priorities and who is in the best position to address the comment. For instance, questions might go to technical support staff, complaints to customer service, and compliments to marketing staff.
  4. Establish standards to assess the effectiveness of your social customer service.  For instance, you might set a standard response for a complaint at 4 hours.
  5. Handling social customer service is a PROCESS that should involve follow-up to ensure customers are satisfied at the end of the process.

Reducing customer complaints/ questions

Of course, handling customer service failures is NOT the way to run a successful business.  Rather, organizations should be on a mission to constantly IMPROVE  customer service that stops complaints BEFORE they happen and builds positive word of mouth.

  1. Train employees to provide superior customer service — especially forward-facing employees (those who directly interact with customers).
  2. Monitor that employees perform their roles in a manner ensuring superior customer service. Just yesterday a Facebook friend complained about an employee spending time on her smartphone rather than greeting customers.  Create standards to assess individual employees and tie rewards to this assessment.
  3. Communicate with customers to ensure satisfaction and identify areas for improvement. Your listening post is a great place for this.
  4. Superior customer service is an evolving process.  Constantly improve training and update standard to ensure continued superior customer service.

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Branding, PIVOT, and Paid PR

Brand Awareness

I have a question from a linkedin connection: “what is the best way to create brand awareness for loyalty programs?”

Nancy Loderick

I say it would depend on the buyer persona for the loyalty programs. Where are the customers/prospects? Are they online? Where online? Depending on where these folks are, I would focus on that particular media, e.g. Facebook.

What is the biggest pain point for these customers/prospects? Create some good content that solves their problem.

What drives these prospects? Are they bargain hunters? In which case, coupons may work.

In summary, I would say it all depends on what drives the customers/prospects. Once you know their needs and their pain points, you can create content and programs to address these.

Marketing That Works

To me, brand awareness is more than where to reach customers, its positioning the loyalty program (and the brand) effectively. For instance, Marriott builds its loyalty program by asking loyal guests for feedback on their visit. If they rate their stay as anything less than perfect, the evaluation goes to the property manager. The manager than has 24 hours to correct the problem and make the customer happy. If not, the complaint is forwarded to the manager’s boss for action. By focusing on delivering quality (Marriott has around 97% customer satisfaction), they build loyalty.
Loyal customers WANT to join a loyalty program to get rewarded for something they already like doing (because its satisfying). I guess what I’m saying is the building a brand is a lot more than advertising and PR — its walking the walk.
Also, awareness doesn’t buy you much. Im aware of LOTS of brands I would NEVER buy. Its brand image that’s the goal. Having a positive brand image builds profitability.

Steve Wiideman

At Disney, we did an “affordability” campaign, that had little to do with discounts and more to do with reminding people about how much love the brand.

Daily deals are addictive and though I’ve wanted to, I have yet to remove myself from LivingSocial or Groupon. That sure says something for loyalty.

Brand awareness and loyalty are completely two different beasts. For brand awareness, you could drop a LOT of money into a content-targeted campaign on AdWords, AdCenter, MIVA, and, the way LiquidWeb is right now (they have a banner ad on almost every tech-related website in existence at the moment).

Loyalty isn’t rocket science. It revolves around communicating, offering incentives, influencing (maybe even exaggerating) perceived value, inviting guests to special events and spoiling them, grandfathering them in to lower pricing, etc.

Richard Winfield Lewis To bring attention to a customer loyalty program (does branding really matter in this case as long as we gain customer loyalty?) is to target your existing customers first. This is an easy first step and helps to make casual customers regular customers. The next step is to target industry ‘influencers’. <– those people who influence a large number of other people. My goals when managing a campaign are very clear, do the least work with the most impact.

Paid PR

I’d love some advice on how to deal with a client who is in love with paid PR services. He keeps insisting on using them, even though they haven’t worked in the past. I’m trying to convince him that we need to create a more effective online presence via the website and content. (This is a fledgling business consulting company that he runs.) Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Marketing That Works My tactic would be to gather metrics on his current solution, then show him how poorly these are performing. I know its a lot of work, but if you want to get him as a client, its worth it. Also, he’ll likely be thrilled you went the extra mile and recommend you to colleagues.

    Nancy Loderick Thanks for the tip Angela. I like your idea. This client is a process/numbers guy so I think showing him numbers would get his attention.

    Marketing That Works I happy to help. Let me know if this doesn’t work and I may be able to come up with another idea.

    Steve Wiideman

    Hi Nancy, sorry it took so long to jump in today, the week has been crazy.

    PR can be an extremely powerful way to build industry credibility, earn backlinks for SEO, and improve online reputation. Of course, this assumes it’s being done by a professional who gets your business featured in magazines, your directors get speaking gigs at conferences, and you’re interviewed by newspapers at least once per month. If you’re not, then it’s not really PR, it’s article distribution.

    Hope this helps?

    Marketing That Works Thanks Steve, always nice to get your perspective on things.

    Dave Saunders Are you talking about traditional PR (i.e., sending a press release to the media, getting on CNN, etc.) or New Media PR (i.e., disintermediating the media and reaching the public directly with Internet content?

    Nancy Loderick Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your thoughts. In looking back at my client’s past PR content, it was not good. So, I think it has been a combination of poorly written content and merelyl a distribution.

    Steve Wiideman Ha – thought as much. :)

    Steve Wiideman

    Nancy Loderick Thanks for the examples Steve! Even if one knows what constitutes “good PR,” it’s helpful to have real examples.

    Nancy Loderick Dave – to youir question about PR – traditional or new media. My client is only familiar with traditional (he’s in in 60’s), while my expertise is in the new media type.

    Dave Saunders Nancy — I’ve found that to be a challenge with clients. The games are played in different ways. It muddies the waters. Perhaps you could recommend he read The New Rules of Marketing and PR. David Meerman Scott does a great job explaining the differences and then you can use a third party to reinforce the benefits of your approach.

    Richard Winfield Lewis The oldest and best advice for any consultant is that you give them what they need and not what they want. Once you know the goal(s) and the target market(s) then just get them paying customers. That is the bottom line and all that matters. Once they see the money rolling in they won’t care how you did it. In this case I suggest micro-targeting to ensure effectivenss. Do whatever it takes to convert your target audience to sales. If you are not sure that you can delier results then don’t take their money.

    Nancy Loderick Thanks Dave and Richard – I appreciate your advice.