Maybe this story sounds familiar to you: The marketing team at a mid-size, global B2B company that operates offers products for the shipping, mining, and energy industries is developing their marketing plan.
Their plan includes producing a number of application and customer videos for YouTube and their website, conference papers, white papers, contributed articles for key publications, blog posts, case studies, website demos, webinars, and slide shares – well you get the idea. Lots and lots of content will be pushed out into lots and lots of channels.
They plan to use their email lists, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogger ecosystem to get the word out about the content and capabilities. Intensifying and amplifying their reach is their goal.
So in the course of a working session, we asked them, “What is the buying process for each of your segments, who are the buyers and what key content is relevant to them and when?” There was a very long moment of silence. This is a company that has the ability and resources to leverage a bigger megaphone but could be even more successful by simply doing better marketing. Which brings us to an important point: A megaphone, no matter the size, is not marketing.
The AMA redefined marketing in 2007 as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” The key concept here is the ability to communicate and deliver value. Delivering value necessitates knowing your customer. As we’ve said frequently in these posts, understanding your customer’s buying journey is a critical part of knowing your customer. Not all customers are the same, which is why we create segments, profiles and personas to understand the differences and nuances among our customers and prospects. Often different segments, profiles, and personas have different buying journeys.
If you don’t know the various buying journeys, do not start producing more great content to push out across your channels. Take a step back and map the customer buying journey. Why? Because this step will illuminate which touches, content and channels are needed and when they are needed.
Mapping the Journey and Lifecycle
There are different approaches to mapping. Regardless of the approach you take, it is important to include input from all internal people in contact with customers (sales, marketing, customer service, product marketing) as well as the customers themselves. The mapping process should at the very least take the following into account:
• Initial triggers that lead to first contact.
• Steps customers and prospects take (industry reports, product reports and reviews, white papers, demos, etc.) and the conversations (analysts, colleagues, event encounters, call centers, sales people, etc.) they engage in to solve their problem and find a specific solution.
• Steps and experiences leading up to their purchase (the RFP, reference calls, pilots, etc.).
• Steps associated with the purchase and consumption (the onboarding process, purchasing processes, implementation, invoicing, etc.).
• Ongoing experience and reaction to their purchase (problem resolution process, new product offers, community participation opportunities, etc.).
Once you’ve mapped the process and grouped the steps into various stages of the buying journey, you will have a clearer idea of what content and channel best matches to what stage in the buying process and lifecycle. In this way your content can create an exceptional experience when it matters most to the customer.
Matching Mix, Content, Channel and Lifecycle
The link between marketing activities, content, and the customer buying process, and lifecycle, will become evident once you complete the mapping process. The process will illuminate the role different programs and content play at the different stages depending of the customer process. The map will serve as a guideline for improving:
- The utility of your mix
- The content you use to connect and engage with customers and prospects
- Existing customer relationships
For example, you may learn through the mapping process that traditional in-person events and presentations are far more effective at creating contacts and connections for a specific segment than social media and blogs. Your map may reveal that webinars with industry experts are a viable touch point for consideration for some customer segments while online chats with existing customers and traditional telemarketing are more effective for other segments. Through the process, you may learn that traditional e-newsletters are ideal for staying connected with one set of existing customers and an online community with guest posts is better for another. As a result, marketing will be able to select the program and build the content that supports the preferred channel for that touch point at the right time in the buying process. Your odds of actually connecting with the customer and the content resonating with the customer are greatly enhanced. Plus this approach improves marketing and sales alignment, and supports a more behaviorally-based opportunity qualification process.
We have all felt personally connected to a brand or service that we feel “knows us”. Before mapping your customer journey, take a second to reflect on the variety of journeys that you have taken when purchasing goods and services. What do those purchases say about you and how would you market to yourself? After all, it is crucial to understand what put you in your shoes before walking in someone else’s.