By Nora Weintraub
One of the latest buzzwords for sales and marketing is "the buyer's journey," which makes it sound like your customers are going through an epic voyage to purchase your product or service. Without customer intelligence as a backup, it's difficult to identify the exact steps along a prospect's path. If your company sells products to other businesses, the journey gets even more convoluted and tangled along the way. Knowing your customers can give you a better understanding of their pain points, how they found your products and what it will take to convince them to make a purchase.
If you ask a chief marketing officer about the buyer's journey, he or she may have a very different opinion than the customers themselves. And because most people rely on Internet searches to find product information, the buyer's journey usually begins from an online platform. The average CMO only manages to get a 5 percent email click-through rate, meaning most of these executives fail 95 percent of the time when trying to connect with their prospects during the journey, according to a column by Mathew Sweezey in ClickZ. There's a definite disconnect between many of the best planned marketing campaigns and what customers are actually doing.
Buyer's journey is more direct and has fewer stops than marketers think
Yes, it's true that customers have more ways to reach your sales team and more sources of information on products and services than ever before. But in Sweezey's research of B2B buyers, he found that the average client only does a few Google searches before making a decision. Although some people start out by asking their peers for recommendations, they will still consult the Internet at some point during their journey.
Many marketers know they need to provide different types of content for buyers in varying stages of the voyage, but some may not realize that the majority of customers prefer shorter reading material. Most prefer a length of under five pages. Companies need to understand what types of information are most relevant to their customers based on the stages of the buyer's journey.
Shorter trip doesn't mean you can get lazy with marketing
Although your customers are using the Internet to a higher degree to navigate the road to making a purchase, you need actionable insights to help them along the way. While you may employ a variety of marketing techniques, the end goal is the same: to get to know your clients and form a relationship, Jason Thibeault wrote in an article for Econsultancy. Your organization won't be able to adequately meet your customers' needs unless you have a deep understanding of their pain points and create appropriate marketing materials. The Internet has given companies far more ways to market and sell their products, but the basics are the same—personal connections still matter in the digital age.
But that doesn't mean you can't leverage customer analytics to form a better picture of your client base. Although the basic point of marketing is always the same, knowing where customers are in the buyers' journey and how they got there is important to build on the relationship. Marketers that take advantage of chances to make personal connections with their prospects may be able to increase the odds of converting the lead into a sale. Even if the Internet has sped up the trip from prospect to customer, people still want to have a conversation.
The journey may be essentially the same, but everyone is different and may have different communication preferences. The better you know your customers, the more appropriately you can communicate with them, making the whole sales process easier.