What Is The Customer Journey?
So, let’s begin by cutting directly to the point; if you want to not only make the most revenue but also drive repeat and referral business, you want to have a comprehensive understanding of your customer’s journey.
This applies to ANY business; brick and mortar stores, physical products, informational products, client-based services, eCommerce services, retail stores; lemonade stands, you name it…
WHAT IS THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY?
In short, it is how your customers find you and decide to make a purchase.
- DISCOVER: How does a customer discover that they need your product or service? (Is it a common item or service they just intrinsically know they need? Do they have to first experience a pain point? Are you an impulse buy?)
- LOCATE: Where do they look to find your product or service? Where do they WANT to find you? Where is it CONVENIENT for them to find you? (Search engines, local business directories, ask around, Maybe Amazon? Maybe another Marketplace or directory?)
- MEASURE: How do they measure your value? How do they measure you vs. your competition? (Do they look at reviews, examples of previous work, testimonials, do they need demos? Do they look at response times for customer service? Social media involvement and actively engaging in the community and with customers?)
- PURCHASE: Where can they make a purchase and how do they want to make a purchase? (How easy is it for them to make a purchase, are there a lot of steps? Do they want to call you? Do they want to go to your website and fill out a form? Maybe on Amazon or another marketplace? Do they prefer to pay with credit card? PayPal? Apple Pay or Samsung Pay? Maybe you may even have some customers out there still who want to pay via check or maybe even cash?)
As you can see; the journey may be different for each niche, but the elements of the journey remain exactly the same.
This is different for every product, but it’s the first thing you want to think about.
You know how amazing your product or service is and you know every single reason why your customer would want to purchase it.
You also know it EXISTS.
You may have something obvious like pizza, but you may have invented a new product or service, or put a new spin on something that people don’t even know they want yet.
You want to have an intimate understanding of how your target customer identifies they need what you have.
Let’s use some examples:
- If you have a restaurant. the customer needs to be hungry or making a reservation. Not only that, but they need to be hungry for the TYPE of food you serve.
- The potential customer understands restaurants exist, so it’s about meeting their other needs such as proximity, price, menu, etc.
- If you have a law firm, the customer needs to have experienced something such as a motor vehicle accident to trigger them to search for law firms or maybe they want a patent for an idea they have.
- You offer a service that people intrinsically understand that they need and you are often the first thing they think of when their situation arrives.
- If you have a service like TaxJar that makes collecting and accounting for sales tax super simple; your customer would need to be a business that has to collect sales tax and at the beginning stages of setting up their payment collection systems online.
- Not every product or service collects sales tax and not in every situation. You are targeting a sub-segment of a broad variety of niches. How do you let them know they need you?
- Or maybe you’re a web hosting company. Your customers have decided to make a website and found out they need a web host to host their website.
- Not everyone knows they need a web hosting provider when they first identify they want or need a website. Is this something you need to educate them about?
- But what if you invented a new app that makes it easy for people to locate the closest unicorn farm? First of all; god bless you. Next, customers probably don’t know unicorns are real (they are), but then they don’t know an app exists to help them buy one.
- You want to get in front of people RIGHT WHEN they need a unicorn. This is likely a planned purchase; usually spurned from a child asking mom and dad for a said unicorn. The first thing mom and dad are going to do is pull out their smartphone and do a Google Search For “Where Can I Buy A Unicorn?”. They probably won’t go to an app store, so you’ll need a solid landing page.
Okay great, so they know they need you. Now; where can they find you?
If you don’t have infinite resources to plaster the entire earth with your brand and value proposition, you’ll want to ask these 3 questions.
- Where CAN customers look for you?
- Where DO customers look for you?
- Where do they WANT to look for you?
What do I mean by this? The customer journey is about simplicity and removing friction points to an end purchase.
You want to make sure you are visible and appealing in the places where customers are looking to find you.
- CAN: Customers CAN look for you all over; search engines, business directories, search engines on websites like Target, or on marketplaces like Amazon, they can find you by driving by, or maybe spotting an ad somewhere. Plus, an additional million other ways such as asking for a friends referral, etc.
- Any business person I’ve spoken with or believe exists is concerned with ROI and the bottom line. They don’t want to just go throwing marketing and advertising dollars around to grow customer awareness on ever customer acquisition channel under the sun just because they CAN. They do and should be asking; “Is this channel worth my time?” So just because you CAN be found somewhere, doesn’t mean you should be spending your resources there. You’re concerned with things like conversion rate from a given channel, the revenue yield per channel, stage of the sales funnel, and more.
- DO: Do you know where your customers DO find you? Do you have a program set up asking “how did you find us?” or are you using an analytics program to identify how people are finding your website? Are the majority of your acquisitions or sales coming from a particular retail store? You’re going to want to know your acquisition channels and also have an idea ahead of time of how people find what you offer or do so you know where to allocate your resources to acquire customers.
- Let’s say you’re a landscaping company and you spend your advertising budget taking out ads in the newspaper and local magazines. But then you take a look at the analytics on your website and find out most people are finding you from Home Advisor, Angies List, Google, and Yelp.
- WANT: This comes down to conditioning and ease. Where is it easiest for customers to find you and where are they used to looking for you? Now mind you; at this stage, it may not be YOU in particular, rather what you do or offer.
- You have a pizzeria. Consumers now nowadays are conditioned to use apps like Zomato, Yelp, Open Table, & more to find restaurants because they’re EASY. Also, they are way more likely to make a purchase because they are demonstrating intent by completing a mobile search through an app. They know what they want, now they want relevant results that are proximal, within their price range, and are offering what they are looking for.
- You are an attorney. You could spend time chasing ambulances or with expensive television commercials that you can’t effectively track how many impressions you got….or you could feature yourself prominently on niche marketplaces for attorney’s like Avvo, Upcounsel, & the like. Niche marketplaces like this not only rank extremely high in Google, but also people searching for lawyers are used to using these marketplaces to find you. So you’re killing 2 birds with one stone. Efficient, effective, and easy peasy.
So now you know where you want to be visible, how do you become appealing and effective?
How do customers measure your value and measure you vs. your competitors? This is a critical juncture on the customer journey.
Of course, you know you’re the best at what you do and your product is the best in the business, but how does someone who just found you realize this? How do they decide to choose you vs. your competitors? Welp, they measure you and your value proposition.
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- You’re selling a physical product on Amazon. You and about 20 other products similar or even just like yours show up on the search results page. How do you make yours stand out and prove that it’s the best?
- On any comparison shopping site where multiple products are compared against eachother, or niche marketplace, or marketplace in general where people have options, besides beautiful product imagery and professional sales copy, your best acquisition tool are REVIEWS.
- You have really complex software that will tell businesses down to the nano-second how much time is wasted daily by their workforce and where it is wasted, and even why. (AWESOME)
- Since this is so complex and you don’t have any competitors, demo’s and free trials are the best way for your customer to identify if they want to use your software solution.
- You have the best new toy in the world. You’re selling pretty well in brick and mortar retail stores. You have a lot of great reviews but sales are stagnant on all of your online channels.
- You need a way to visibly convey how awesome your toy is and why little one’s love it. So, you make a video on YouTube and focus on ranking it in your category and displaying it on your website and elsewhere so parents can see how awesome it is and kids find it and request it by name because they can easily measure its value by seeing it.
- You’re buying a car. Do you just go the dealer and have them tell you what you want and why you want it? Nope.
- You go to places like Edmunds and you look at in-depth reviews & analysis. You may go on YouTube to check out videos of your potential new vehicle. You’ve compared many makes and models before you even get to the dealership to test drive.
Great, you’re the chosen one! The customer’s journey is almost over. They want to make a purchase. But can they? Can they easily?
This seems obvious right? Well, not really. You have a few questions to ask.
- How do your customers want to purchase your product or service?
- Are you offering the easiest path to purchase possible?
Have you ever been to a website, found your amazing Batman shower curtain, added it to your cart, and were ready to check out and purchase it; only you have 10,000 steps to just check out and you abandon your cart?
Or maybe you’re traveling and your sandals break, so you run into the store along the boardwalk only to discover they are cash only? Most unfortunate.
You’re going to want to make sure you offer the payment options that your customers are used to and also make them easy. Your customers do not conform to you; you conform to them.
- You sell marketing services to businesses. You prefer annual contracts and your customers prefer to just set it and forget it, enter their payment information once and have it bill recurringly.
- Can your payment process handle recurring billing? Is it as simple as enter the credit card information once and you’re all set? Or can you send recurring invoices?
- You have a food truck that goes around to all the popular events and places. At these events; people may or may not have cash. You’d be turning away a significant portion of your business if you are cash only.
- Mobile payment processing solutions like Square are a great way to remove the friction point of cash only.
- You have an eCommerce website where you sell health supplements. Your customers add a lot of items to their carts, but they don’t check out.
- You’ve deduced or hired a conversion rate optimization consultant to identify the issues with your shopping cart abandons. They’ve identified that your checkout process is too complicated. It has too many steps and asks for extraneous information. So, you modify your checkout process to be as streamlined as possible. Also, your site’s checkout process was hard to get to, now your site has a nice big button that is always visible when someone has added something to their cart.
Having great products and not selling is agonizing, but dominating competitors and selling through inventory is intensely gratifying.
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LET’S WRAP UP THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
- It’s absolutely crucial to know your target customer’s customer journey.
- It’s not about being EVERYWHERE, it’s about knowing where you need to be.
- The best marketing dollars you can spend are to make sure you are visible, appealing, & effective in the places that matter most to your target customers.