The Consumer’s Journey: How to Market at Each Unique Step
Here’s an easy question: What’s the most important part of the entire conversion process? The customer! Yep, not a trick question. The customer rests at the center of the entire marketing world, and without them, well, there’s no revenue. That’s why empathy is so important in marketing, and one of the best ways to achieve it is by understanding the general customer’s journey from start to finish. Getting a handle on this process isn’t too tough since you’ve been through it as a customer already. At each stage of the journey, if you can figure out what the customer wants, you can please the customer.
And if you can please the customer, you can see them to the next stage of the journey, ending with a conversion who will continue using your product/service. Everyone wins.
#1 The Awareness Stage (I Have a Problem!)
The first stage of your customer journey, awareness begins when the customer has an epiphany – they know they have some problem that needs solving. Specifically, a problem that can be solved with a service or material resources. At this point, customer research is instructive, and they’re not looking at a particular company or business. They want to understand fully how the problem affects their life, whether other people have this issue, how others have resolved it, etc.
During the awareness phase, your search and display ads are like the frontlines of your marketing army. Potential customers are using search engines to learn about whatever problem they have, and they’ll probably be consulting social media as well. These circumstances can, if all goes well, pull your ads into the customer’s frame of view. It doesn’t have to happen right away – customer research can take days or more, depending on how dedicated they are to solving the problem, how much time they have, how serious the issue, etc.
To really milk this phase, you want ad copy that hits the targets at this phase specifically. So make judicious use of your targeting options to create relevant ads for your audience in a way that addresses the concerns they are likely to have at this phase of development.
Think about the users’ intent as you add keywords to your PPC spectrum and divide ad content by sub-phase. During awareness, the research sub-phase is followed by a tighter search process in which they’re snooping around for whatever solution their research has recommended. And that being the case, potential customers on the hunt for a specific product or service may use different keywords than one who is purely doing research.
Regardless, you have to show customers the kind of ad that connects them to a post-click landing page, and that page must offer them info that they need to get a full grip on the problem and how it gets solved—specifically, how it gets solved by you. An awareness-stage post-click landing page ought to be brief, and it can feature things like whitepapers, webinars, eBooks, and similar content.
At this stage, you want to focus closely on the “soft sell.” Offer visitors a free resource before doing anything else. The hard sell comes after you’ve buttered them up, so to speak. Ultimately, though, this part of the customer’s journey is optimized as a way to acknowledge the customer’s problem and let them know what the consequences are—if they don’t choose to solve it…
#2 Consideration (Hm, Let Me Think…)
By now, the customer knows who you are – they are aware of the solution you’re offering. But they’re still trying to figure out whether you’re really the solution for them.
In this stage, the customer compares your solution to your competitors to find out which works best for them. Your ads for this stage should evolve into content that promotes your own business and its solutions specifically. This is done on your homepage, product page, and pricing page. Advertise, advertise, advertise.
From back in the awareness stage, you probably have the customer’s email.This is a valuable resource for sending relevant emails that teach them about who you are and what you bring to the table. At the consideration and decision phase, you need to separate yourself from the competition. Make it clear to customers why you have the winning edge over the competition and why they should make a decision in your favor.
#3 Decision Time (Alright, Let’s Do It!)
Finally, the customer is on the verge – they’re nearly ready to accept your offer and officially become a conversion. Get ready to nudge them! Free product demos and private consultations work really well here. After they convert, the customer enters into the retention sub-phase. And once the customer passes through the conversion stage, the retention phase begins.
Unlike the earlier parts of the customer journey, the retention segment doesn’t have a clearly defined end. It basically just goes on until they no longer want or need your service/product.
To retain customers, you’ll be relying largely on your customer support page, email newsletters/offers, and a consistent blog. As you might expect, customer success is extremely important to retention. After all, if the product/service didn’t solve their problem, could you really blame them for taking their money elsewhere? That’s why your service really needs to shine at this point. Respond quickly and effectively to customer questions and requests for troubleshooting help.Keep them informed about your latest offers and promotions to maximize the positivity of their experience with your business.
Retention is also the ideal time to work the upgrade angle – convince customers to upgrade to a new pricing plan with promises of enticing new features that capitalize on the trust you’ve already built using the basic offer they’ve already enjoyed.