How Buyer Journey Mapping Is Becoming The New Revenue Growth Platform
Marketing Not Generating Enough Leads? Your Prospect Experience Is Broken
We hear it every day. Is it your website? Is it your content? Is it your email campaigns, social media or search engine optimization efforts? No. Well, partially no. Yes, those aren’t working, but there is a reason.
Your marketing isn’t generating enough leads because you don’t have a comprehensive revenue generation strategy as the foundation for those tactics mentioned above.
You are partially correct when you say your website isn’t working right, but it’s not because the website is designed improperly or built incorrectly. It’s because the website has the wrong story (or no story). It’s because you content isn’t answering the right question (or any question) for your prospects. And it’s because you have no overarching orchestration to all of your marketing and sales tactics.
This is not a new challenge. We’ve been seeing this missing strategy symptom in our prospects’ marketing execution for over 16 years. What’s new is how we fix it.
It’s The Experience, Silly
If you haven’t noticed, the way your prospects want to buy goods and services has changed dramatically. Technology has handed customers all of the power. McKinsey & Company research uncovered that 75% of people surveyed “expect 'now' service within five minutes of making contact online.
“A similar share want a simple experience, use comparison apps when they shop and put as much trust in online reviews as in personal recommendations. Increasingly, customers expect from all players the same kind of immediacy, personalization and convenience that they receive from leading practitioners such as” Google, Netflix and Amazon.
Additional research by Thunderhead shows that “25% of customers will defect after just one bad experience.” You can no longer afford to ignore what’s going on. You can no longer expect to remain competitive if you don’t proactively start working on your customer experience from the first encounter.
McKinsey & Company notes that “as the customer experience becomes a bigger focus of corporate strategy, more and more executives will face the decision to commit their organizations to a broad customer-experience transformation. The immediate challenge will be how to structure the organization and rollout, as well as figuring out where and how to get started.”
Every business should know that the underpinnings of revenue generation will be this experience. Create an exceptional one and watch your company thrive. Continue to do what you’ve been doing and tread water.
If you’re not thinking about your business from your customers’ and your prospects’ perspectives, you might find your company as the next Blockbuster, Sears or Kodak.
Here’s how you can get started down the right path today.
Understand Your Personas
You might think it’s easy to understand your prospects and customers, but it’s not. Creating a persona profile won’t be enough. It’s a great first step and a required first step. But the key to understanding these people is getting deep into their challenges, issues, pains, hopes, dreams and aspirations.
You have to understand their emotional perspectives. Emotions drive human beings to make purchase decisions. You must know intimately how they feel at every step of their journey with your company, including:
- The first time they hear about you from a friend
- The initial website visit when they give you their contact info
- When your sales rep first makes contact
- When they finally sign your agreement
- When they take delivery of your product or service
- When they reorder
- Most importantly, what they tell their friends about your company
You should see the circular nature.
Each buyer persona is likely to have a different buyer journey, and you need to know the details around each. If your goal is to make them feel safe during the purchasing process and then happy during the service experience, everything has to be designed to deliver those feelings.
The only way to do that is to map out their feelings at each stage of their journey. A key to that is knowing the questions they are going to ask and being armed with answers, content and supporting documentation that quickly and effectively answers those questions.
Anticipation is key. Just like Netflix recommends shows you might like and Amazon recommends products you should consider, your experience has to anticipate their needs and deliver proactive information.
Use A Methodology For Mapping
One of the biggest challenges with this exercise is determining where to start and deciding what tools to use to give it some structure. With the death of the traditional sales funnel last year, you can no longer lean on it as the template to do this buyer journey mapping.
Three stages (awareness, consideration and decision) hardly represent today’s buyer journey, which is no longer linear, is no longer influenced by gravity (as the traditional funnel implied) and is disrupted by content at every step of the journey.
“Faced with a plethora of choices and communications, consumers tend to fall back on the limited set of brands that have made it through the wilderness of messages. Translated, that means prospects and customers are confused, and when people are confused, they tend to do what’s safe, which is often NOTHING.” – McKinsey & Company
“People say the sales funnel is changing – that, in today's digital world, the way customers buy is no longer a simple path from awareness to prospect to sale. That's just not true. The sales funnel isn't changing – it's completely and utterly dead. It's been brutally turned upside down, inside out, with little left to identify it as the clean, straightforward process it once was.” – Ad Age
“Research revealed that the customer journey is not rigidly linear, as depicted in the sales funnel model, but rather circular. It is a network of touch points, decisions and opportunities that are either appropriated or rejected by the buyer.” – McKinsey & Company
Folks, we need a new model, and you need a model to use when starting to map out your customers’ buyer journey.
In theory, all of this readily available information should help educate prospects and streamline the buying experience, but it has had the opposite effect. Information overload has extended the customer journey and infected it with uncertainty, anxiety and confusion.
The modern buyer journey is a violent and unpredictable storm. Prospects are pushed and pulled in every direction by disparate (and often conflicting) information. No longer linear, the buyer journey is now cyclical.
Prospects don’t all enter at the Awareness Stage. They can enter at any stage and can encounter information from any stage at any time. They can bounce back and forth among stages or even become stuck in a stage. It’s a dizzying storm, and your prospects are lost in it.
Forget the funnel. It has been replaced by a revolutionary new view – the Cyclonic Buyer Journey™ model. Using a series of interconnected cycles, it accurately depicts the chaotic experience and torrent of information prospects face.
To mirror that complex journey and account for the myriad sources of information that affect the decision-making process, the Cyclonic Buyer Journey features eight distinct stages: Pre-Awareness, Awareness, Education, Consideration, Evaluation, Rationalization, Decision and Ongoing Delivery.
These stages include people who need what you do but are unaware of you or your solutions all the way through to your customers, who must have an amazing delivery experience with your company.
These eight stages give you the model you need to map the customer journey with your company. For more on the Cyclonic Buyer Journey, click here.
Map Out Every Single Touch Point
This is where buyer journey mapping can get tricky. To start, you have to identify every single touch point, from early on to deep into the service experience. However, by simply trying to map the current state, the information should be available.
For example, what do people say on the street when asked about your company? That collection of commentary could be the very first exposure people have to your company — the very first touch point. Do they say your company is amazing? Do they say you’re good but not great? Do they say you have an amazing product but your customer support could be better? Or do they say your software is buggy?
You have to know.
It’s now likely that if the story is OK and they have an interest, they’ll head to your website initially via their smartphone and then follow up with a laptop visit.
Not convinced? Here are some stats:
- “51% of customers say that they use mobile devices to discover new brands and products” (BrightEdge, 2017)
- “69% of smartphone users also say that they are more likely to buy from companies with mobile sites that easily address their questions or concerns” (BrightEdge, 2017)
- “Over 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone” (Google, 2018)
If your site fails to deliver info quickly on their device, they’re gone. Here’s one more shattering statistic, from IDG Global Solutions:
“The majority of senior executives (92%) own a smartphone used for business, with 77% reporting they use their smartphone to research a product or service for their business. While the majority (93%) go on to purchase that product via the internet using a laptop or desktop, 50% of these executives have purchased IT products for business using their smartphone, with 13% reporting making a purchase between $1,000 to $4,999.”
That initial touch point is likely going to be via a mobile device, with a follow-up visit via a laptop. The experience has to be amazing on both.
Understand that not everyone is going to be ready to buy when they land on your site. You need pages for people at different stages of their buyer journey.
To get these people to come out of the forest and identify themselves, you need content that directly addresses their pains and challenges. That content has to be multi-format (video and copy, long form and short form, graphic and written). It has to be personalized and in context to their challenges.
The better the content, the better the experience.
Once people convert, you now have to nurture them, continuing the experience and the highly educational conversation. Do this well and you’ll have a prospect who wants to talk to a sales rep.
Now the experience moves from marketing to sales, but the stories, the experience and the feelings have to be consistent. The sale experience has to be as remarkable as the marketing experience if you want to get them to say yes!
Every single sales touch has to be equally architected and orchestrated to deliver that amazing experience. Once they say yes, you have to make sure the service experience is equally remarkable. The same touch point architecture and orchestration should be in play.
Do this all effectively and those stories we mentioned at the beginning of this section will evolve from mediocre to extraordinary, and your cycle will spin faster and faster, driving more new customers, more revenue and a business that is moving quickly up and to the left.
Create A Highly Orchestrated Experience
Highly personalized and highly complex multi-touch buyer journeys are challenging when it comes to creating the orchestrated experience we’ve been talking about. One of the secrets is looking at the buyer journey in its entirety and making sure each individual touch point is connected, helping people move from one point to then next.
Here are a couple of examples.
We see this scenario with software companies every day. The only offer on their website is to sign up for a demo. If we look at the buyer journey closely, a demo is not what people are looking for in the Pre-Awareness, Awareness, Education and Consideration stages. A demo might be an appropriate offer for someone in the Evaluation Stage.
The demo requires a commitment in both time and personal interactions. Both are at a premium these days. To software customers, a demo is the equivalent of a sales call. They feel like someone is probably going to try and sell them something. Not too far from the truth, right? Your prospects are pretty savvy these days.
If only later-stage buyers are ready for a demo, then what about all those other people? In fact, our research shows that about 80% of the people who visit your website are too early in their buyer journey for a demo, and by not offering them what they want, you’re sending them back out to the web to visit your competitors’ sites.
Instead, find content and material that people in each stage want and need. Then work harder in a one-to-one way to nurture them through their buyer journey so that you bring them along at their pace until they’re ready for the demo.
You might get fewer demo requests initially, but you’ll also see more qualified people attending demos, a higher conversion rate after the demo and more new customers signing up.
Here’s one more example of an orchestrated buyer journey in the sales process.
Once a prospect reaches out and is ready to engage with a company rep, you’re going to want to make that exchange easy. Historically, a prospect has to fill out a form requesting to speak with a rep or call the company to speak with a rep. Neither produces the kind of instant gratification we discussed that prospects are expecting today.
But if we install a chat tool on your website and allow prospects to chat with reps instantly, now you’re delivering the kind of experience your prospects want and you’re accelerating your own sales cycle. That makes it a win-win for everyone.
Once you map out the buyer journey, you can go back through and add in these touch point improvements that drive a better experience and support your revenue goals.
Apply Tactics Accordingly
By looking at the buyer journey holistically, it gives you a much better schematic for deploying marketing, sales and customer service tactics.
First, you can prioritize what parts of the buyer journey you want to go after more aggressively.
As an example, if you know who your top 100 prospects are, but they might not be aware of you, focus on the Pre-Awareness Stage with a set of account-based marketing (ABM) tactics designed to focus on people in this stage.
If your personas are very visual, consider how you use video marketing techniques across their entire journey. Leverage video on your website, in your email outreach, in the sales process and even in new customer onboarding.
If you have a lower-than-desired close rate, consider looking closely at the experience toward the end of their buyer journey. What tools are you using? Who is showing up to close the deal? What references are you using? How easy is it for prospects to get access to those people? And what about your contract? A lot of touches at the end of the buyer journey might be tripping you up.
By removing friction and enhancing the experience all along the journey, you shorten your sales cycle, increase your conversion rates and ultimately make a big impact on your ability to hit your revenue numbers month over month.
Build New Analytics To Track Progress And Business Outcomes
This approach is different to the random acts of marketing and stale sales process you might be working with now. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the data we use to track the performance of the effort is also different.
Instead of tracking individual marketing and sales execution performance, we recommend you consider looking at metrics for each stage in the buyer journey.
For example, here is an Education Stage dashboard that shows how the educational content, offers and pages are doing at pulling people through their buyer journey.
By looking at performance in a buyer-journey-centric manner, you can see quickly where you need to upgrade or adjust the touch points to create a better experience and drive more people through their journey.
You can see how the tactics are performing but also how they’re contributing to prospects’ experiences with your company. The perspective gives marketers and sales operations folks a new way to understand how their efforts are impacting the company’s ability to drive revenue.
More importantly, instead of looking at marketing and sales results from a tactical perspective, you’re now looking at them from a buyer journey perspective. You quickly see how content performs on the website and how the elements of that conversion experience might need to be adjusted. This includes the form, the landing page, the CTA and everything associated with those elements, like design, copy and technical implementation.
This approach shines a much brighter light on what’s important and what can be optimized over time.
Leverage Technology In A Smart Way
If you’re smart and following along, some of you might be thinking about how hard this sounds and how many moving parts are now part of doing this right. You are correct. That is exactly why so many technology products (over 10,000) are on the market to help people execute in this way.
All-in-one marketing automation tools and sales CRM products are fine for smaller companies. But for more sophisticated companies, companies with more complex buyer journeys and companies with people in marketing and sales operations now tasked with driving revenue, using more targeted tools available can produce significant lift.
There are no one-size fits-all tech stacks. Every company has different requirements, and buyer journeys are just like the DNA in human beings. While some similarities exist, everyone is different. Not one company has the exact same buyer journey. Even companies in the same industry have different buyer journeys.
This means just because your buddy bought Conversica for sales email automation doesn’t mean that’s what you need. You might be better off deploying Drift or SalesLoft, two very different products. Just because you saw Wistia at a conference for video marketing doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be better off using Vidyard as part of the native HubSpot installation.
So many software tools and so many options are available. Again, use the buyer journey to help your team focus on those stages that need the most help and look at technology options in those stages first.
Set Realistic Timeframes
How long is this going to take? It’s a good question but perhaps not as relevant as you think. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll look at your current buyer journey and say, “I want everything fixed in six months.”
It’s much more likely that you’ll make digital transformation of your buyer journey a major corporate initiative that you work on for the foreseeable future.
Just like you wouldn’t turn off marketing or sales, you shouldn’t be thinking this is a one-and-done initiative. View it as a more strategic approach to revenue generation and overall company growth, something that you’ll want to work on all of the time.
What you should expect is to see the key metrics directly related to business results and business outcomes moving up and to the right fairly quickly (within three to six months for sure). This means more leads, better quality leads, a higher close rate, a shorter sales cycle, better customer reviews and more people visiting your website.
All of these metrics will contribute to revenue growth. But by taking an ongoing and persistent approach to always improving the customer and prospect experience, you’ll finally find the revenue generation machine you’ve been looking for.
Take An Agile Approach
That brings us to this final section. Marketing embraced the Agile methodology originally designed for software development, and now sales is also looking at Agile as a way to be iterative and be data driven. Using the buyer journey as a foundation for revenue generation needs to be Agile, too.
You have to involve both the customer and the prospect in the process. You have to lean on both of those groups to understand them intimately and collect feedback from them to fuel your prioritization and continuous improvements around how you architect their journeys with you.
You need to build the team that is accountable and the process that allows this team to continuously iterate your customers’ buyer journeys based on data, not opinions. This has to be a strategic initiative championed by the CEO and assigned to an executive-level champion. Everyone in the organization has to be bought in and on board.
The customer buyer journey touches so many different departments, from marketing to sales to customer service as well as finance, operations and IT. When everyone is looking at the business through the same lens your customers do, you start making decisions that help your company thrive.
It’s only then that companies like mine can help you install the strategy, tactics, tools and analytics to create the revenue generation machine that produces month-over-month revenue growth and allows you to not only meet but exceed the revenue goals for your business.