Once you’ve got your story straight, the approach that you’ll take to marketing communications will become clearer. But first, we need to think about our customers.
The buyer journey isn’t linear, nor is it simple (Court et al., 2009; Edelman and Singer, 2015). Customers progress through a set of different considerations when purchasing a product, as your customer interviews will reveal.
One common model of the customer journey is a funnel. Customers move through several stages, from awareness through to referral, as they progress through the customer journey. By thinking of the customer journey in this way, you’ll be able to understand how to tell your story across it, but remember that the specific stages and order might differ for you.
You can’t sell to someone who doesn’t know you exist! Therefore, the first hurdle is capturing the attention of your customers.
To achieve this, you might use:
- Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, Podcasts, Influencers
- Integrations and partnerships
Once you have an understanding of who your customers are through research, this stage becomes easier. You’ll know whether they spend time on Instagram following certain influencers. You’ll find out which podcasts they gravitate towards. And you’ll be able to gauge their level of intent.
The channels you choose will also depend on the size of your budget and your number of customers. If you’re at a very early stage, reaching 100 potential customers hanging out in a Facebook group could be highly beneficial. But if you’ve already got 5,000 customers, you’re going to be looking for more scalable channels.
When you decide on a channel, you should also carefully consider the context of your customers. If you advertise on a high-intent search term, like “app to chat with team”, then you’d respond with a high-intent landing page that makes it easy to sign up. However, if you were advertising on a social network without your audience having shown prior interest (not retargeting), then you’d likely take a softer approach which is focused on introducing your brand and vision.
Your approach to this stage needs to be succinct. It should focus on the first half of the story, potentially giving a snapshot of your promised land or the change that has occurred. It should also encourage an action, such as a link to a landing page.
Metrics: ad impressions, social impressions
Once you’ve successfully captured your audience's attention, you can start to tell more of your story. But keep it succinct.
To achieve this, you might use:
- Landing pages
For prospects who have shown a little interest, this is a great time to give more depth on the first three steps of your story: change, stakes, and vision.
The online publication Quartz often has excellent examples of this type of content, for instance, this article for the consulting firm Accenture. Rather than listing off all the ways that Accenture can help businesses, they start off with a profound change:
“...today’s digital landscape looks wildly different than that of 10 years ago. Terms like “blockchain” and “biometrics” … have entered mainstream vernacular.”
Then they clearly state what’s at stake:
“The benefits … could save industrial-equipment companies a total of $1.6 billion.” Before imagining their vision of the future where new technologies combine to increase efficiency, innovation, and ultimately form “Industry X.0” (Accenture, 2018).
Prospects who have shown more interest, such as visiting a landing page from an ad, will likely respond better to content that focuses on steps 3 to 6: vision, barriers, proof, and action.
Metrics: ad clicks, page views, video views, podcast downloads
If things go well through acquisition, you’ll see positive signs from your prospects. For example, they’ll show more interest in your content and learning about your services.
To nurture customers in this stage, focus on providing value to your prospects. Content which is useful or entertaining should help you entice them to subscribe for email updates or to social media feeds.
As your prospect gets warmer, they’ll respond well to more interaction from you, so offer in-depth whitepapers, case studies, live chat, and sales meetings when viable. Ensure that this extra content serves to bolster your story, designing it specifically to meet the needs of your customers.
Metrics: repeat visitors, whitepaper downloads, email/blog signups, podcast subscriptions, account signups
This is the stage at which your customer pays for your product or service. This could be a loss-leader, an in-app purchase, or a paid subscription.
It’s important to reduce friction at this stage and use a popular, trusted platform for processing payments.
Metrics: trial to paid conversions, first purchases, revenue
At this stage, your existing customers continue to purchase from you or use your service. As discussed earlier, retention is important to work on before you invest higher up the funnel.
Metrics: customer lifetime value, active users, churn
Finally, an extremely valuable stage is referral. At this stage, customers introduce their friends and networks to your brand.
A great example of referrals being used to drive signups can be found in Dropbox. They offered extra free storage to users who invited friends to the platform, an incentive structure inspired by PayPal’s refer-a-friend program. This helped them to grow their userbase a lot faster than if they were limited to PPC.
For many startups, especially during their first few years, existing customers (and the potential they have to refer others) hold huge potential for growth.
Metrics: referrals, social shares, proxy metrics (surveys)
Putting it all together
Move past the buzz surrounding the latest tricks and start engaging your customers. By understanding them, the story that you’re going to tell, and the channels that you can employ, you can focus on marketing that achieves real results.
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Accenture (2018). When exponential innovation meets the infancy of “Industry X.0”. Available at: https://qz.com/1181223/when-exponential-innovation-meets-the-infancy-of-industry-x-0/ [Accessed 18 February 2018]
Court, D. et al. (2009). The consumer decision journey. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-consumer-decision-journey [Accessed 18 February 2018]
Edelman, D. and Singer, M. (2015). The new consumer decision journey. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-new-consumer-decision-journey [Accessed 18 February 2018]