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With the dawn of social media and digital marketing, small businesses gained a valuable edge to competing with large, established brands. They were finally able to compete on an equal playing field with them, able to dig in and grab their equal share of brand attention. As things have evolved and the digital space has become more crowded, many brands are starting to experience less and less return on investment with their digital campaigns. Their cost per new client acquisition is rising and their conversion rates are declining. It’s natural that they start to wonder if digital marketing is effective anymore.
The truth is that it’s not the marketing vehicle that is to blame. It’s the brand’s marketing tactics. In the beginning, when the digital space wasn’t as noisy, simply deploying digital marketing campaigns that employed traditional marketing tactics (basically sales material camouflaged as marketing material) was sufficient. As the space has matured and more competition has entered the scene, the requirements of what it takes to run successful digital campaigns that convert leads into happy customers have changed. The customer value journey that turns strangers into raving fans of your brand has become the most important factor that determines whether or not your campaign will succeed.
With this in mind, today we want to share with you how to set up a digital marketing sales funnel that will give your leads an amazing customer value journey, turning them into customers and finally raving fans of your brand that will recommend your company to everyone across the land.
The Importance Of The Customer Value Journey
The customer value journey is one of the most important pieces of the sales funnel you are going to use in your digital marketing campaign to convert visitors into leads and eventually into customers. It’s a blueprint that created correctly can be replicated for all your campaigns, ensuring you have a measurable, predictable process for attracting strangers and converting them into ecstatic customers.
The customer value journey is an 8-step path that people travel as they discover your brand, build a relationship with you, and become buyers and raving fans. If you were to map it out, it would look like this:
One of the most important things to take into consideration is that left to their own devices, visitors that enter your sales funnel will never get through this journey on their own. Let’s face it, life happens. They will get sidetracked along the way, stall out, or completely forget they started down the path of getting to know and working with your brand.
This strategy is a way you can walk people through all 8 steps of the journey, virtually taking them by the hand and encouraging them through each step of the way to proceed to the next. Here are some simple ways you can do that through each step of the journey.
The Customer Value Journey In Action (Step By Step)
Step 1: Making A Stranger Aware Of Your Brand
The first step in the journey is the most basic. Simply put, you need to take a prospective lead, grab their attention and get on their radar. This happens in many ways, but most often it happens through digital advertising, blog posts, podcasts, word-of-mouth, and social media. Basically it involves any way someone may come into contact with you that puts your product, service or solution in front of them.
This step is what many refer to as top-of-funnel marketing. This type of marketing IS NOT meant to immediately sell something to a prospect. We often give an example of a person that walks into a bar and spots an attractive person across the room they want to talk to. If they were to walk up to that person and say, “Hey, nice to meet you. Let’s get married”, that almost certainly would not work (and most likely be the basis for the bar management to ask them to leave the premises).
Instead, you want to get to know the person by buying them a drink, talking with them, eventually dating, getting to know each other at a deeper level and then perhaps one day getting married. In other words, you take a journey with that person.
The same exact thing applies to the awareness stage of the customer value journey. The content you create for your top-of-funnel marketing is the stuff that will grab the attention of your ideal potential clients. This information will be entertaining, informative and deemed value-added. This is what gets them aware of your brand and your product or service.
Step 2: Get Them To Engage With You
Engagement is a critical step in the customer value journey. If a potential customer does not begin the engagement process, you have no hope of moving them any further through the customer value journey. When you engage with a potential customer, you are aligning your messages with them, building a deeper relationship with them. You are demonstrating that you understand their needs and they are learning more about how you can help them solve their pain points and achieve their goals.
For most brands, engagement begins immediately after the first interaction with a prospect. This engagement should continue through their entire experience with your brand. Think of it as an ongoing conversation you have with them. You’ll have these conversations in multiple places. You’ll converse with them via your blog, podcast, online communities, email, SMS, customer support (both on the phone and online chat) and many more ways.
The key here is engagement needs to start immediately after a prospect becomes aware of your brand and it cannot stop. If you stop you risk the customer getting lost along the way and not completing the customer value journey.
Step 3: Get Them To Put Some Skin In The Game
Now that you’ve got a potential customer aware of your brand and regularly engaging with you and your content, you are hopefully engaging with them in ways that make them like their experience with your brand and making them feel like you are bringing value to them. When you do this, you are building trust. Trust is a key element to moving a prospect along the customer value journey.
Once you instill trust in them, you can ask them to “put some skin in the game”. In a nutshell, what you are asking for is a small commitment from them. In general, most brands ask prospects to subscribe to something and give you permission to email or text them.
Now, remember, we mentioned bringing value to build trust. Bringing value is even more important in this stage of the customer value journey. When you ask them for their information, you have to offer something so valuable to them that makes it worth them giving up their email address or mobile phone number.
Some of the common items of value we see offered at this stage of the customer value journey are webinars, free samples/trials, a free chapter of a book, a white paper, a live demonstration or even a guide. We cannot emphasize enough that this item of value has to actually be deemed valuable by your prospect. When selecting your item of value, ask yourself if this item will help address a need, challenge or goal your prospect may be experiencing. If the answer is “yes”, congratulations, you’ve done it! If your answer is “no”, go back to the drawing board and come up with another potential item of value.
Step 4: Convert Them Into A Customer
When your free items of value offer enough value to your prospects (answering their questions and helping them solve a problem or achieve a goal), those prospects will naturally be eager to learn more about your brand and get more involved with what it is you offer. At this point in the customer value journey, you just need to give them an easy way to do so.
Many times, the best way to do this is to allow the customer a way to dip their toe into the water and test out what it is like to do business with your brand. This is easily accomplished by offering them some sort of special entry-point offer. Your entry-point offer needs to be high-value and low risk. This allows them to sample your product/service without having to put too much skin in the game.
Again, this is an entry point offer. Entry point offers ARE NOT designed to make you a profit. The purpose of the entry point offer is to make a smooth transition from a subscriber or follower to a paying customer. Done correctly, profits will occur later in the customer value journey.
Remember, the commitment is small. For most brands, the sweet spot is creating a splinter offer of your main offering that you can offer them for somewhere in the $8 to $20 range. We often recommend that brands set their entry-point offer at a price point that covers the cost of acquiring the customer, making your lead generation essentially free.
Step 5: Get Them Excited
When someone buys from your brand, they are going to be excited. They’re excited that they did the research and feel happy that what they purchased is going to help them solve their challenge or reach their goal. This is a scientific fact. At this stage, it’s important to capitalize on this excitement and build it to an even higher level.
At this point in the customer value journey, you have to give your customers a memorable experience. Some of the most effective ways to foster and build this sense of excitement are to offer free onboarding, a quick-start guide, or even bonus features for the product they purchased. The idea is you want to continue to excite and delight your new customer, getting some quick wins and making them extremely happy.
Step 6: Make Them Buy Again (And Again)
Now that you have a customer and you’ve excited them and made them happy, it’s time to take them down the path to real profits. This is done by generating opportunities to get them to buy from you again (and again), deepening the relationship the customer has with your brand.
Your entry-point offer was aggressively priced and designed to get a conversion. The offers in this step of the customer value journey are what is often referred to as ascension offers. These offers need to be geared towards profit. You are already serving your customers well, have excited them about doing business with your brand and are helping them solve their problems and reach their goals. It is natural that they will want to buy from you again and again.
Ascension offers typically are upsells made after the initial purchase. It could be a bigger version of what they originally purchased, a more advanced solution, or even “done for you” add-ons that they would be interested in taking advantage of.
Step 7: Ask Them To Spread The Love
If a customer is happy, they will love to share the experience they’ve had with your brand. The trick to this though is if you don’t ask them to, they are very unlikely to do it. Because of this, a very important part of the customer value journey is asking your happy customers to share the experiences they’ve had with your brand. Ask them to become your brand advocates.
At this stage of the customer value journey, ask people to share their positive experiences with your brand. Ask them to write reviews or share a social media post with their friends.
Step 8: Make Them A Brand Promoter
The promoter stage of the customer value journey is your ultimate goal. Up to this point, your customers are simply passive advocates of your brand. In other words, if you don’t ask them to say great things about your products and services, they are unlikely to do so. The promotion stage is much more active.
When your customers are active promoters of your brand, they’ll actively go out on their own to spread the word about the great work you do. They’ll tell stories, make recommendations to friends and colleagues and share special offers because they truly believe in your brand and your services.
Some brands offer their best customers an affiliate or commission-based reward for the promotion they give. Others will occasionally give the customer a free offer for sending new customers to them. Either way, acknowledging (and rewarding) your best customers for being brand promoters is a great way to make this a win-win for everyone, encouraging even more promotion down the road.
BONUS PRO TIP: Automating The Customer Value Journey
If you’ve noticed, throughout this article we’ve touched on how when you move people through the stages in the customer value journey, doing these moves immediately is critical. We’ve also discussed how these conversations are on-going, consistent and never end.
One of the biggest issues we see small businesses face is how to conduct business, take great care of their customers and at the same time continue to enhance and release new products and services, all while trying to keep up with their marketing sales funnels. This is an understandable and realistic struggle all small businesses face. Because of this, being able to automate pieces of the customer value journey is key.
Using a marketing and sales automation platform to automate key pieces of your customer value journey will ensure that you stay consistent in shepherding people through the journey. Marketing automation platforms allow you to instantly follow up with new leads (on the phone, via ringless voicemail and SMS messaging), and then manage the ongoing conversations (drip email campaigns, SMS messaging, etc.) that you have with them as they move through the stages of the customer value journey.
Using automated appointment scheduling tools built into most sales and marketing automation platforms make it easy to delight new customers. They are bound to have questions and will need help along the way. Giving them an automatic, easy way to schedule times to speak with your sales or support teams, at a time that is most convenient for them is a great way to increase the excitement they have about working with your brand.
Even more, once a prospect becomes a customer, you can use your marketing and sales automation platform to automate the advocate stage of the customer value journey, making asking for online reviews, referrals and testimonials not only automatic but super easy for your customers, increasing the chance that they will do this for you.
Hone Your Customer Value Journey And Crush Your Digital Marketing Conversions
Truth be told, the customer value journey is not to be taken lightly. Done correctly though, with consistency (and automation) in place, you’ll be able to ensure that no prospect or new customer will get lost along the way. You’ll be capitalizing on every lead and new customer you have, increasing conversion and maximizing the return on investment for all your digital marketing campaigns, growing your company faster than you ever thought possible.
Chris Leo is a Silicon Valley, CA entrepreneur, complete workaholic, top notch inbound marketer, dad to the coolest kid on the planet, type “A” personality, shameless self-promoter and never ending “connector”.
Even though he is seemingly always working, when he does take breaks, the “work hard, play hard” motto takes on a whole new meaning. Most people talk about “wanting to do things”, Chris goes out and actually does them.