August 23, 2017

Achieving Success Along the Customer Journey

Ever since there’s been the practice of marketing communications, there’s been a concept inseparable from it: the customer journey. If you understood your target audience and could communicate effectively at each stage of their purchasing journey, you’d do OK in the marcom profession.

Historically, that journey was the equivalent of a Sunday drive. The customer progressed steadily from Awareness to Interest to Desire to Action. The brand promotion, product/service and purchase-decision journey was predictable from the customer’s and the marketer’s standpoint. The pace was constant, and there were no interruptions.

That leisurely journey has all but disappeared from today’s marcom world. Defining what it has become is like a game of Mario Kart. You start slow and steady, driving along without incident. And then, suddenly, obstacles start peppering your path. Other drivers try to push you off the road. You lose control on banana peels, and your vision is splattered with squid ink. Your peaceful journey has turned into chaos. Finally, from out of nowhere comes the blue shell—boom! The chaos ends, everything stops and it’s quiet for a moment before the whole drive starts over.

Mario Kart is the modern-day customer journey. Consumers are bombarded from every angle. Every time they initiate a search, check email or open Facebook, messages immediately pour in, encouraging them to “try,” “buy,” “engage” or “learn more.” Plus, traditional marketing methods—print, broadcast, direct mail, outdoor—are still going strong. Throw in price wars, special sales events and greater specialization, and you get seemingly limitless choices that customers must narrow down.

With today’s customer engulfed in a tremendous amount of noise and options, a marcom professional must be the “blue shell” to thrive among the competition. The marketer must cause the “boom!” that silences the competition and has customers eager to align with your brand.

The formula for marketing success will vary based on your product/service, customer and objectives. But there are some principles that apply to all marcom professionals:

  • Understand your target customer. Who and where they are, how they receive information and learn, what matters most and least to them, how much they will pay, and how they define value.
  • Understand every touchpoint available to you. Technology is changing rapidly and impacting how consumers and businesses research and make purchasing decisions. Be ready to employ new tactics to reach your target customers.
  • Continually build your brand with advertising, PR and social. When customers see your brand among numerous options, their reaction must be, “I know that name. They’re good!”
  • Take risks. We’ve all sat in a creative brainstorm at some point and thought that an idea was too crazy to put out there. It’s time to have a more open mind.
  • Never be disruptive simply for the sake of being disruptive. Every tactic must relate to the bottom line and offer strong ROMI.

Lastly, remember that your marcom job doesn’t stop with securing a sale or client. At that point, your journey with the customer—continual service interaction, loyalty building and repeat business—has only just begun.