Does Your Poor Customer Experience Explain Your Lack of Growth?

Back in 2012 large tech companies built a formulaic, customer experience-oriented approach to growth. It quickly became the approach that companies with aggressive growth goals tried to emulate – but it was never intended for those that sell considered purchases. Organizations have spent years trying to follow a formula that doesn’t work for their business model. 

The companies that successfully drive growth are those that have built and continue to build close relationships with their customers. The companies that successfully drive high growth realize that the customer experience can be grouped into two categories: micro experiences and macro experiences.

While micro experiences represent an individual’s interaction with a company, the macro experience considers the full customer’s overall relationship with the company (we’ll dive into what that means below). Understanding how the two types of experience relate to each other is the key to efficiently scaling growth from acquisition to final sale.

Micro vs. Macro Customer Experience

Let’s explore the differences in micro customer experiences and macro customer experiences that drive growth. Growth hacker methodology, the formulaic approach that was built by tech companies, is largely focused on micro experiences. Taking Nir Eyal’s Hook model as an example, there are four stages to a micro customer experience: Trigger, Action, Reward, and Investment.

The HOOK Canvas

Scenario: 

  1. Trigger: Sarah is tasked by her CEO to fill the sales pipeline
  2. Action: Sarah searches “how to generate sales leads” and finds an eBook to download
  3. Reward: Education and direction on where to start
  4. Investment: Sharing some personal information on a form

In this scenario, a typical example of a micro growth tactic would be to optimize the landing page that Sarah finds – reduce friction, expose her to the content, and get her wanting more. While changing page colors, pictures, copy, and form fields are all very important pieces to optimize, what’s often overlooked is the orchestration of all the touchpoints that come before and after this interaction that ultimately lead a relationship with the company and a sale – the macro experience. Applying this perspective, Nir Eyal’s 2.0 model would look more like this (yellow representing the single micro-optimization spelled out in the scenario):

Customer Experience Hook

However, we’re still talking about the user experience at this point. When developing the full customer experience to drive growth, we have to consider every stakeholder involved:

Customer Experience Hook

The macro customer experience questions then become: 

  • Who are all the decision-makers and influencers involved? 
  • How is every interaction orchestrated with the individual to form a relationship with our company/product/service so that the individual feels comfortable considering us, purchasing, and re-purchasing?
  • How can/should interactions be orchestrated between all parties to positively influence one another?
  • Where, when, and how should each interaction take place?
  • How should I invest funds across my channels, content, and technology so that the ecosystem as a whole grows to meet our goals as efficiently as possible? 

When you start asking these questions and measuring the whole journey to find the answers, you will not only drive larger organizational growth, but you’ll also be able to make more executive level strategy decisions.

The question remains, where to start?

Understand the full customer experience

The most crucial step in creating a full customer experience is compiling data into a content model. It looks like this:

ANNUITAS Content Model

The reason we develop content models in this format is so that we can make sure we understand every stage of the buyer’s journey for each stakeholder involved. This map is developed by conducting first party research with your company’s prospects, customers, sales people, marketers, and more; anyone who could affect the customer experience. We then validate this information by conducting third party research. The goal being to find the information that each critical person is seeking along every stage of their journey. By knowing this information, we can make them feel more comfortable forming a relationship with our organization as they purchase and re-purchase.

While the image above has boxes that represent titles of content offers, it’s simply a sample format for delivering the information the customer needs to answer their key questions. These boxes could just as well be a web app that shares data/insights in some way – a text message, social post, video, etc. The point is to set up the buying journey map for each key stakeholder. After that, we can more easily start to understand how every piece of the puzzle should fit with every other piece (the macro customer experience), then fine-tune each individual delivery mechanism (micro customer experience optimization). Thus, we merge the traditional growth process with a broader strategic framework that enables organization-wide growth initiatives.

Curious on how you can/should tie all of these efforts to ROI? Read more specifically about that here: Demand Marketing KPIs & Metrics You need to Monitor.

Start with the data you have

While you should start by mapping out the entire journey, every buyer activity along their journey isn’t always readily available. This can be because you don’t have permission to access all the data across your organization, or, more often, it’s because the data isn’t being collected in the first place. Not sure what that data is? Read this article to learn more. 

This is, unfortunately, a common scenario, but it doesn’t mean you’re out of options. There is typically some set of standard data (i.e. prospect role, company, industry, location, lead and/or opportunity stage, etc.) you can work with to start connecting some of the dots. While compiling that data, you may find that you need to reassess your tech stack. We provide guidance on how to do that here. 

In the meantime, one place that you can start to expand visibility into your customer experience is through your website. Typically, you’ll have Google Analytics installed. The default settings can provide insight around the overall behavior flow (and thus, information flow), and identify any major bottlenecks/gaps.

Start by looking up the “Behavior Flow” report. It shows where people enter your site and their path as they move through it or exit. You will likely see that upwards of 85% or more of your traffic is leaving your site after the first interaction. Oftentimes, this is because your site is forcing visitors, “down or out” – i.e. it only caters to visitors who are ready to buy right now. However, the users that are simply exploring don’t see a route to the earlier-stage information they’re seeking. You’ll know this is the case if you see the only pages people are visiting after the first interaction are your About Us, Product, or Contact Us pages. If you see this activity at a glance, you likely have a gap in your customer experience.

Augment your data and expand your visibility

While using the data available will start you on the path to better understanding your customer’s experience, it won’t get you to a strategic demand marketing state. In order to arrive at a best-in-class customer experience, you’ll need to gain visibility into all the relevant touchpoints each stakeholder has in the customer journey. This includes, but is not limited to: 

  1. Online channel interactions: direct, referral, organic/paid search, organic/paid social, email, webinars, etc. 
  2. Offline channel interactions: conferences, trade shows, field events, product demos, sales calls, presentations, etc. 
  3. Interactions with content/information found before, during, and after the channel interactions
  4. People associated with the interactions listed above

For each of the items listed above, you’ll need a method to capture this data, store it, manipulate it, and display it for decision making. For example, for a trade show: 

  1. Data Capture: Use the trade show app’s badge scan export functionality and upload this list into your marketing automation software that syncs with your CRM and data warehouse. 
  2. Data Storage: Using a separate data warehouse to manage your data enables you to more efficiently and accurately make data available from multiple systems for analysis by a data scientist. A data architect, database manager, and data scientist can help set this up on AWS or similar service. Not sure where to start on this? Find more information out here. 
  3. Manipulate Data: The data scientist then can create a timeline for all the interactions that lead to success (or failure), then look for patterns in this path – for individual stakeholders and across the full customer purchase team. 
  4. Display data: Using Tableau, Google’s Data Studio, or similar tools you can display that data to visualize these paths to understand where there are blockers and how to redirect each stakeholder to the information they need along their journey, no matter the medium, to move forward in their purchase decision. 

You’ll come to find that “typical” positive customer experience is not linear. Rather, it’s dynamic and it requires various systems, processes, and people to facilitate the journey. See below for a real customer journey example. 

Customer Experience Journey

While the path is not easy to get to a mature customer experience that leads to larger organizational growth, it becomes more realistic when you can chart the path forward one-step-at a time: 

  1. Understand the customer experience as a whole
  2. Make improvements using the data you have
  3. Chart the path and strive for broader access to people, content, process and technology across all the departments that involve the customer experience
The Result

You’ll not only be able to answer why a single website user fills out a form on your webpage; you’ll be able to tell the story for how a relationship is built between your company and the customer – not just the individual, but everyone involved. By understanding this fundamental relationship, you’ll be able to convert your customers more quickly, more often, with higher deals, and hold onto them for longer. Even more importantly, by understanding what your customers need when they need it, you’re doing what’s right by them. Connecting your customer experience to growth goals is one of the first steps in becoming a strategic demand marketer. Read more about making the shift from tactical demand generation to strategic demand marketing.

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