“A focus on customer experience and an outside-in perspective are the cornerstones of business success. The strongest client relationships are built on trust, mutual respect & really listening to each other. Those are the kinds of relationships that can last a lifetime.” — Vanguard Chairman and CEO Bill McNabb
Before buying anything your customer conducts their own research and reviews purchase options from all angles. They are more than half way through their buying process before they engage a vendor. By this point they have already disqualified a number of potential suppliers and have an idea of what they want. In this new paradigm it is important to ensure that they find you in their research, have a positive impression of your offerings and find it easy to engage with you about a potential deal. Leading companies understand that they must connect with their customers in new ways.
Because of these evolved buying behaviors it is important to take an ‘outside-in’ perspective and invest in top-of-the-funnel programs that influence prospects early on in the sales cycle. Well executed initiatives should increase your awareness and favorability resulting in more leads for higher value deals that close at a higher rate. But the key thing is – don’t start with digital tactics, start with your customer’s holistic behavior. Here are five things that you can do today to improve your customer’s buying journey (and ignite your pipeline):
1) Understand Your Customer’s Buying Journey: Today it is important for your team to be customer-obsessed. This means understanding their holistic buying experience and not just by each siloed platform or job function. We recommend that you have your customer’s buying journey formally mapped and well understood by all members of your team. With a full understanding of the purchase path including your customer’s opportunities, pain-points, selection criteria, preferred research sources and touchpoints along their buying process you can align messaging/content by customer segment and by stage of journey. A few best practices to keep in mind:
a. Segmentation: Different customer segments are likely to have different needs, decision criteria and purchase processes. Ensure that your team understands nuances that could make a difference. This is critical in attracting your best prospects which will generate more valuable opportunities.
b. Timeliness: Today your customer’s journey is likely different from what it was 18 months ago. Ensure that your map is updated on a regular basis as appropriate for your business.
c. Holistic View: Recognize that significant parts of your customer’s journey happens away from your properties. A customer buying journey map is not the same as a customer experience map (engagement with you websites, service teams, etc). Ensure that you incorporate how they discover, consider and evaluate options in your competitive set.
d. Prioritization: While it is good to understand the complete buying journey, some areas are more important than others. Be sure to identify ‘Moments of Truth’ and focus on successfully engaging at these make or break points in the buying process.
2) Target Your Customer Across Their Journey: Nothing else matters if your prospect doesn’t know who you are or understand how you can help them. We recommend that your journey map informs the ideal contact strategy. If you are a B2B or midsized business you need to be aware of new techniques for cost-effectively reaching your specific target audience. This will include a combination of media tactics including search-based targeting, customer match, IP targeting and retargeting which can be personalized across your customer’s buying journey. This should be integrated with your Email/CRM programs and implemented in a strategic manner that minimizes creepiness and maximizes engagement.
3) Personalize Your Customer’s Journey with Meaningful Content: When you are targeting your customer along their journey it is important to provide relevant messaging/content that is developed based on their needs. Research tells us that product-centric, non-solicited messages fall on deaf ears. Solve their problems, promote benefits (not features) that line up with their decision criteria. Have your content marketing team partner with your media team to ensure that you are engaging your customers with the right content and format for each platform. Remember the best message isn’t always ‘buy now.’ When targeting don’t forget to show your appreciation for existing customers! Their loyalty and advocacy is a valuable asset that should be nurtured.
4) Integrate Tactics & Functions: Your customer is using search engines, desktop and mobile in their cross-platform journey. Because they want a seamless buying process, it is important for your functional teams to work together and integrate planning, engagement and tracking to take a singular view of each customer. Cross-channel, online tracking hasn’t been perfected however there are many areas where your teams can collaborate to provide a better buying experience and increase your win rate. For B2B companies specifically it is important for digital marketing to be integrated with your sales teams. The better your teams collaborate, the better your customer’s buying journey will be. Brilliant results will follow.
5) Automate Where It Makes Sense: Manually delivering a seamless customer journey is costly and prone to error. Your team’s time should be focused on strategy, developing great products and deepening personal relationships with customers and prospects. Utilize programmatic platforms for messaging and driving traffic to automated experiences that improve your customer’s journey. Continually listen to customer feedback and optimize over time.
So there you have it. Five things to build a better sales pipeline. You may be doing several of these things today, but if you want to maximize your topline results we recommend that you orchestrate each based on your customer’s holistic purchase path. Remember while you see this as many different things your customer only sees a single journey – make it a great experience. Refined Path is a boutique that provides digital marketing strategy and programmatic media services informed by deep online and offline sales experience.
Hope that you found this helpful. Please contact us if you would like to discuss building your pipeline.