The customer journey is a well-documented process of moving a potential customer or client through various stages; awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and loyalty or advocacy. It’s about nurturing a person through those stages so that they can make a decision they feel good about and are willing to tell others about.

Understanding what takes place within each stage will help you to build successful relationships with your customers and build trust with your prospects.

Stage one: Raise awareness of your product or service

The first stage is really where your marketing comes in, but before you start sharing messages on social media and your website, you should take a considered look at who you’re trying to engage with. What makes them tick?

What we aim to do in this stage of the plan is understand what you customer needs, and what the benefit to them would be by working with you or buying from you. Put yourself in their shoes, what has been their experience so far, before they’re even aware of you?

Ask: What is my ideal customer’s pain, problem, fear, want, need or desire?

This will help you to identify your target market. From there you can build a picture of who you’re marketing and selling to.

Now you know who they are, what causes them pain and where they hang out you can begin to market to your customers in their language, to show how you can help.

Stage two: Consideration

Some customers take longer than others to consider your offering. It depends greatly on your product or service and the customer’s need. For example, a buyer will very quickly consider the options between two travel mugs, but if you’re asking them to buy a car in which to drink their coffee, it might take longer.

Ask: How can I show my customer the best side of my product or service?

Many businesses, both product and service-led, make the mistake of sharing their features first; We’ve been doing this x number of years; we have this many awards; it’s this fast and so on.

So what! At this stage you have not yet earnt the permission to tell them about you… yet,

What this does is adds to the time it takes for your customer to consider buying-in.

Leading with benefits cuts to the chase and solves the pains. A great example of this is Apple. When they launched the iPod, they could have featured the amount of data storage. But what they said was, ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’, meaning the customer didn’t have to figure out what data storage actually means to them.

Stage three: Purchase

Up to now, all the communication and nurturing has been about creating leads. This stage converts those leads into sales.

The aim now is to move your customer’s engagement on social media or at an exhibition, onto your website, to a conversation, or into your store where they can buy from you.

Ask: How can I make the decision to purchase easier?

Is your content compelling and does your message contain a clear call to action? Does your website make it easy to buy from you? Can your customers buy directly from social media? Your earlier stages will identify which of these is important to your customer base to help them make that purchase decision.

Stage four: Retention

At this point, you will see another change in the relationship, as the prospect is now a customer and trusts you to deliver your promise.

Retention could mean a number of things to your business. Do you put clients on a monthly retainer, do your customers come back to buy more consumable products, or do you sell add-ons that customers want to make their original purchase even better?

In this stage, your marketing comes back into the forefront, and almost back into the awareness stage. However, now you have an established relationship so you can email them directly, speak about how to make their original purchase better, or make offers of a discount for their next purchase. They may even move away from your website and continue their relationship with you on social media and email, which leads nicely onto stage five…

Consider how your customer wants to best continue the relationship with you and this will make the retention phase so much easier.

Stage five: Loyalty or Advocacy

This is where your customers know exactly how to find you, buy again and spread the word to others. You have established a strong and trustworthy relationship that you have nurtured along many touchpoints of the customer journey.

Ask: How can I reward that loyalty?

Can you reward your clients or customers with a special offer, thank you gift, anniversary mention or a business referral? You don’t have to give something for nothing to show your appreciation for customer loyalty, sustaining your excellent service and communications is often enough.

There are many touchpoints along the customer journey that give you opportunities to fortify your customers’ experience. Your sales process makes up a large proportion of these points and so making sure it maps the customer journey is key to successful customer relationships. Look out for the forthcoming blog, ‘Using Your Sales Process to Improve Your Customer’s Journey’, to learn more about giving your customer a better experience along the way. In the meantime, you can hear my thoughts on the awareness stage of the customer journey in my YouTube Video: Understand your Audience and Market. You can also access my free business resources, and Step Change Podcast, where I’m looking to help you to develop your business.

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