Embrace The Digital Customer Journey Or Go The Way Of Yellow Pages.
The Winners Will Adapt, Change, and Grow Their Customer Journey.
What did a customer journey look like 15 years ago? In August 2002 Qwest Communications sold their yellow pages directories business, known as QwestDex, for $7 Billion to a private-equity consortium. At the time the deal was the largest leveraged buyout. Almost exactly two years later in August 2004 six-year old Google would go public with an evaluation of $23 Billion. Today Alphabet is valued at $731.91 Billion.
When I was growing up in the exurbs of Albany, New York, my Uncle Earl plowed snow in the winter to earn a little extra cash. Earl was that Uncle who was always starting and running away from dubious companies and ventures. He was super fun and slightly crazy. He bought me a bb gun for my 10th birthday. He was by far my most favorite Uncle. The name of his company was AAA Plowing. As a young marketing and branding savant I asked why such a boring name with no apparent meaning? Uncle Earl responded, “Because it gets me first on the list of plowing companies in the yellow pages. People are too lazy to go any further. I get more business from being at the top in the pages than anywhere else”.
Lesson #1 on the importance of keyword stuffing, rank and traffic value! The yellow pages owned the experience from awareness to consideration. Of course, you may have asked around at the office or called your friends. Uncle Earl knew that when it snowed 27” and you really needed a plow you were going to call AAA plowing first. He had the equivalent of #1 search result.
Digital disruption has undoubtedly improved the customer experience. Search provides us with ultra-targeted information on the problem we are trying to solve. Still, too many companies are not digitally aware. These laggards are not designing the digital experience their potential customers expect; poor search rank, low traffic value, low performing content and a confusing website. They are not effectively communicating with their target audience.
For digital marketing to deliver real results, the entire digital machine must be optimized. It operates as a machine. Today Uncle Earl would have to work a lot harder to hold onto that #1 local search spot. He would have built out his SEO, gathered testimonials, created a cool social media persona and spent an hour a week as a blog writer. He would have been awesome.
The Customer Journey Is The New Marketing, and Customer Experiences Are The New Branding.
Customers do not want to speak with you until they are ready:
- 77 percent of B2B customers insist on doing extensive research before consenting to speak with a salesperson, according to research from Hubspot.
- According to Forrester research, B2B decision-makers may be anywhere from 65 to 90 percent through with their research before they reach out to a vendor.
- 71 percent of those decision-makers begin their search, not on specific webpages of vendors, but with a general web search, according to Google.
Customer Decision Journey- This is a phrase we use to describe the early stages of the customer journey. The customer is researching to make a decision. Think about the last time you had a business challenge or opportunity where you had only high-level understanding. What did you do? You did research. You opened your browser started searching, reading, saving and learning. You started to build a knowledge of the topic. Started to trust certain SMEs, companies and sources. The new digital customer journey means companies must provide content that informs not sells. This content must be easily available, digestible and trustworthy. There is nothing that drives me and my business partner crazier than when a company is delivering tons of content that addresses none of the questions their target audience is asking. Know the questions your customer is asking and design content that provides simple, non-biased answers. Each touch point is an interaction which is acutely measured by the customer. If you disappoint with a piece of content you likely will never have the opportunity to shift their mindset.
In The B2B World, Your Customer Prefers The Inbound Marketing Experience.
First let’s define inbound and outbound marketing. For years I was doing SEO, writing targeted content, building personas and driving messaging only to later realize that I was doing inbound marketing.
OUTBOUND MARKETING – old marketing. Interruption-based marketing. Use a medium with a large following and periodically interrupt that following with disassociated ads. The hope is that with some careful planning and a study of the demographics, a small percentage of the audience will listen to the interruption in the storyline and convert to a customer. Car dealership commercials, billboards and radio. Very poor noise to signal ratio.
Oh, And You Have Fifteen Seconds To Gain Trust, Credibility And Drive Interest.
Fifteen seconds. You read that correctly. The total amount of time visitors will give you from search to visiting your website to determine if you are of any value to them. Five seconds on search and ten seconds on your website. Ten seconds to make a positive first impression. What if you only had 15 seconds to prove yourself in an audition? What if your elevator pitch was pared down to 15 seconds? You better be sure that you know your audience really well. Your messaging better be perfect and your images relevantly outstanding. Ensure that you keep the audience engaged?
- Relevant to the problem they are trying to solve.
- Provides information that is better than information that is found with your competitors.
- It is specific, focused clearly on the decision-maker’s point of view.
- It contains a strong call to action, with appropriate next steps for the buyer clearly outlined.
Marketing Must Deliver On The Promise Of Qualified Leads.
The marketing digital disruption has been scary for sales. Sales used to own the elevator pitch. Sales owned the first impression and hello. Today marketing owns all of those touch points. Marketing must deliver high qualified leads with great profile and historical interaction data. Customer X downloaded the case study, returned for the webinar and then joined our blog. They work for Y and have a budget of Z. The well-oiled marketing machine produces for sales. Sales produces revenues and we grow together. The ultimate measure of success for digital marketing is qualified leads and conversion rates. Every other measure is secondary. Uncle Earl named his company AAA Plowing because all that mattered to him were super desperate qualified leads that quickly converted. Today’s marketing is vastly more complex but the ultimate metric never changed.
It’s Not Too Late To Embrace The New Digital Customer Journey.
The good news: eighty percent or more of companies do not do digital marketing very well. You are not too late to the party to have real financial impact. Your competitors are providing you a once in a generation competitive advantage. I can guarantee you that if you do not move someone in your market will realize the opportunity and make the investment. You can become AAA Plowing for the world. The bad news: that proverbial open window is closing with increasing speed. Disruption provides a strong lead to the first movers. Then over time others embrace the technology. They change their organization and the market adapts to the new reality. Some companies fade away because they are never able to catch up to the new reality. The road of disruption is littered with the Kodak’s, Nokia’s and taxi cab medallions of past. There are the few amazing growth stories of those who embraced the disruption – check out the history of LG Corporation. Make the disruption part of your newly modified DNA. Time to choose your path.