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