Build Your Marketing Plan around the Customer Journey

Remember AIDA?

No, we’re not talking opera, we’re talking about the marketing mnemonic AIDA – awareness, interest, decision, action. AIDA described the typical decision purchase path that consumers used for most products and services. First, they became aware of your product or brand, then they became interested, then they decided to buy, and finally, they acted – or bought your product or service. It was all rather neat, and very, very linear.

Unfortunately, whether that ever was the reality, it is certainly no longer the way consumers behave on their decision path. In 2017, the customer journey is increasingly fragmented, personalized, and customized. However, regardless of changes in the purchase decision path, the goal of marketing remains the same: to influence consumer behavior to purchase goods and services. That means understanding your customers’ potential journeys and using them as the foundation of your marketing plan is essential for marketing success.

Here are the four key steps to understanding your customers’ journeys:

  1. Map Your Customer Journeys. com defines the customer journey as “the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.” Understand all the variations possible in your customers’ journeys is critical for understanding what touchpoints you need to influence with marketing. Qualitative techniques such as diaries, ethnography, and shop-alongs, as well as social media analytics, help you understand the breadth of potential touchpoints while quantitative survey research gives you the data to understand the dominance or prevalence of those potential touchpoints.
  2. Evaluate the Impact of Various Journeys. Today, even the simplest products and services have extremely complex and convoluted customer journeys. To avoid analysis paralysis, smart marketers in best-in-class companies use regression analysis to understand which touchpoints (and the resulting journeys) have the most impact on business success. Understanding the value or contribution of each potential touchpoint will help you evaluate different marketing initiatives.
  3. Explore the Impact of Marketing Initiatives. Once you understand the impact of different touchpoints in isolation, what happens when you create different combinations? Simulations that estimate the potential impact and contribution of different customer journeys will lead you to the most valuable – and may also lead you to some creative new marketing initiatives.
  4. Build the Marketing Plan. Using your understanding of the most important touchpoints in building the most efficient customer journeys, allocate budget and resources against the desired target markets to facilitate the most effective marketing campaigns. Social media, content marketing, traditional marketing – without understanding what levers you should pull to influence consumer behavior, you cannot design the optimal marketing plan. And at this point, you have sufficient information to establish sound performance indicators as well.

Using customer journeys as the foundation of your marketing strategy has an added benefit: rarely is every touchpoint in the journey owned by Marketing. So, to achieve marketing goals, you necessarily must include other parts of the organization. A great content marketing strategy will fail if the company’s customer service is lacking. Great advertising can bring plenty of guests to the hotel, but they won’t come back if they have a miserable experience. By focusing on the customer journey as the raison d’etre of the marketing plan, you gain partners throughout the organization to make marketing successful.

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