Behind the Buzzwords: Customer Journey
We’re living in a marketing world that is inundated with buzzwords. Sometimes, they make sense. Other times, they’re trendy hype words that have lost their real meaning through overuse, misuse, and lack of understanding. In our Behind the Buzzwords content series, ANNUITAS breaks down the complex jargon you see trending in go-to-market thought-leadership and helps you cut through the noise to contextualize it for your organization.
What does it mean?
Ah, the customer journey. The beautiful path every prospect takes as they embark on a voyage from initial discovery to a happy client who will continue to use your services and sing your praises to everyone they know.
This buzzword has been popularized in the past decade as a way to talk about how customers move through the buying cycle. Go-to-market professionals will often map out the stages of their customer’s experience, creating strategies to help them progress onward through each stage.
What’s the Problem?
The word “journey” implies that there is a clear-cut beginning and end to the customer lifecycle — they start their journey as a prospect, and end when they become a customer. But what about all the stuff in the middle, where there are an infinite number of paths that prospects can take before they become customers who sign on the dotted line? How do you have personalized conversations that align to the seemingly numerous customer journeys, at-scale? What about what comes after?
In short, when companies treat their sales model as a linear journey, they fail to consider their customers’ engagement with the company over a lifetime. That’s a big problem for three reasons:
1. There is more than one customer journey.
It’s an oversight to lump every customer into one customer journey map. It establishes false expectations that customers are on a straightforward path, when in reality, it’s far from it. As Gartner explores below, an actual journey that customers take is often extremely complex. A simple four step funnel, though helpful for visualization purposes, is far from the reality of what most B2B sales processes are like.
2. It often reduces customers to their demographics rather than treating them as actual people with a unique problem.
A core part of business growth is understanding your customer. Often, this is understood as breaking down the demographics and firmographics of your customer base, but we’d caution you from relying on them as the sole basis for figuring out who your customers are. After all, you may have groupings of prospects who all share the same job title, but have vastly different needs and approaches to their problems, which in turn will require different approaches and talk tracks from both marketing and sales to bring them into your fold.
Starting with your prospects’ challenges, needs and approaches to solving problems, however, allows you to map them to the customer journey that’ll bring the most value to the individual client. It also allows you to personalize at scale by creating conversation tracks that cater to these distinct approaches — saving you valuable time and resources. Once you start doing this, you may be surprised to find that prospects with completely different demographics fall into the same customer journey because they have similar needs and behaviors.
Ultimately, developing a customer journey is only helpful if you do it right. Too often, we come across go-to-market professionals who use mapping out an overly simplified and broad-strokes customer journey as a crutch to avoid the hard work of digging into who their customers actually are. The result? A “customer journey” that is stagnant and out-of-touch — the perfect jumping off point for tactical random acts of marketing.
3. It weakens retention.
If you’re a go-to-market professional reading this, chances are that you’re used to seeing customer journeys that end once a deal has been finalized. Afterward, the client account is handed off to the client success team, never to be heard from by your team again. The most you can do is cross your fingers and hope that they’re taken care of — that your client success team knows what they’re doing.
From the client’s perspective, they’ve spent a long time being wooed by your salespeople and establishing trust in them, only to be passed off to someone completely new who doesn’t have first hand familiarity with what they’re going through. But what if we challenged you to consider the closing of a deal as a vital midpoint of the customer lifecycle, not the end? By looking at pre- and post-sale journeys as parts of a whole, you’re able to see them for what they are — a continuous and interconnected process that requires just as much care following the closing of a deal as it does in the lead-up.
The Right Approach
Start seeing your customer journey as a lifetime, not a start and finish cycle. Avoid static “customer journey maps” and instead create individual, tailored approaches to each profile; while also understanding that many people go on a winding maze to become a customer.
A good place to start is by trying to understand the key differences in each customer’s buying needs in order to scale your conversations with them.
Consider these three tips:
1. Ask, what are you doing as an organization to get to know your customers?
It is always worth putting in the effort to find out more about your customers and their unique pain points. The foundation of building your customer’s buying journey comes from understanding the following:
- What macro trends affect their day-to-day business
- Their pain points (and what is driving them to seek a solution to their problem)
- Their decision-making processes
- How they prefer to consume content
2. Use data to understand customers on a deeper level.
The more information you have about your customers, the better informed you can be when it comes to targeting them, engaging with them, and having personalized conversations with them.
This begins with ensuring that you are collecting the right information to personalize your content to their specific needs. Consider progressive profiling as the mechanism through which you can orchestrate a two-way conversation with your prospects.
3. Always be willing to adapt and change as the world, and your customers, change.
If you’re still using the same go-to market methods for your business that you did five years ago, then there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.
The world changes quickly, and so does your customer’s behavior. The secret to staying relevant to them is remaining in touch with their behaviors, and demonstrating a willingness to pivot as needed in order to remain in touch. Find where they’re at, read what they’re saying, know how they’re buying, and adapt to meet them there.