Embrace The Digital Customer Journey Or Go The Way Of Yellow Pages.

by Mick Fagle.

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.

QwestDex had $1.6 Bln in revenue in 2002. Today the company is known as DexYP and consists of all former baby bell yellow pages groups plus YP digital. DexYP had total revenue of less than $2.3 Billion in 2017 – to me still amazingly high. I fully realize this is perfect creeping determinism, but I thought these private-equity folks were the smartest guys in the room. This single transaction would lead to multiple bankruptcies and hundreds of new wonderfully creative uses for those ungodly thick directories. My sister made the most bizarre yellow pages papier-mâché bust when we were kids. It was stunningly modern art edgy for a 13-year-old.

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.

“You have 7 seconds to make a personal first impression. Why would it be longer in the digital world?”
Mick Fagle

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.

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
STEVE JOBS
INBOUND MARKETING new marketing Permission-based marketing. Communicating via mediums in which the audience has given you permission to communicate. The audience decides to choose you. Provide content that addresses the questions people are asking and proliferate those answers around the web in anticipation of the question. You create great content to share with your audience. It’s about helping them, educating them and engaging them in an open and transparent way. It is digital, measurable and customizable. Excellent noise to signal ratio. A B2B audience is a professional audience. They are being paid to solve problems in the most efficient, effective manner. To solve problems, they seek out information from trusted sources consume the information and ask more questions. In the early stages of the customer journey your best approach is to help them with information. Become a trusted source. This is your best way to eventually becoming a vendor.
Imagine for a moment that you are seeking answers on how to best structure and distribute content based on the most recent google algorithm changes. You have your trusted sources (Search Engine Land, HubSpot, searchenginewatch.com) that you visit. You have your connections on LinkedIn and you likely have friends and colleagues who you engage. Now imagine if a loud, obnoxious car dealership like commercial popped up with me as the spokesperson. I start shouting at you about the new algorithm details in that annoying car dealer voice. Maybe there is a giant Panda as my prop. You would zap me off no matter how great the information. I broke the trust and credibility bond and provided a terrible customer experience. You would likely never click on me again.
“Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Consumers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.”
IAN SCHAFER

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?

Search. Be found and for the right reasons. Be on page one and rank in the top half of page one for the terms your target audience is using to find answers. Remember, you have 5 seconds so it better be perfect. I will never forget being in a client meeting with the client’s agency reviewing their keyword strategy. The client was spending a large amount on internally used alpha numeric product names. They were not spending a nickel on keywords and phrases actual customers were using to find the solution they were offering. This was a relatively simple fix which boosted traffic 2x over the next month.
Select. Once you are found and they visit your website that first impression must be positive. Your homepage is your business storefront. People avoid the confusing, visually unpleasant store. Have you ever passed a store been confused about who they are or what they offer?  We remember the few wonderful, simple, clear websites.  We go back to them.  Be visually pleasing, offer limited text and a clear path by customer type or solution. There will never be another first impression. Solve. The ultimate test of credibility is proving you can definitely solve their problem. Your customer has a job that needs to be done. They need help getting these jobs done and are seeking out information. Within three clicks from the home page you need to offer insights into your solution, the unique approach and how you frame the concept. Show proof of your awesomeness. Your content should follow these rules:

  • 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.

Great journey mapping resources:

Journey mapping template: (Click Here) Customer persona template: (Click Here)

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