As discussed in my previous blog, Bridging the gap between social marketing and sales, the first step to building a strong, long-term relationship with consumers is having a clear understanding of the customer journey.
Once this is done, brands can target customers throughout the buying cycle in a way that continuously influences their decision making. Before diving into how brands go about this, let’s take a step back and review the different stages of the customer journey:
A need is realized and identified by the customer.
There is an initial consideration as the customer looks for different solutions to satisfy their need.
Different options are identified. Brands and customers have their first engagement.
The customer reaches an evaluation stage in which pros and cons are weighed for each option.
The customer reaches a purchase decision.
In some cases, delivery, installation, or product execution interactions occur between the brand and the customer.
Finally, the customer does a personal evaluation of the final product, which has the potential to be a positive or negative experience.
Understanding the buying cycle allows brands to strategically position themselves in the mind of the consumer. Brands should be aware that their customers want to feel valued. To achieve this, brands ensure their consumers are a priority by engaging with them at different stages of the customer journey. For example, by interacting with potential customers on social media and perhaps answering their questions online, you’ve inserted yourself into the third stage of the decision-making journey as the consumer considers different options. You see, sharing information that makes the decision process easier and faster often results in a better overall customer experience. Interactions like this might lead to positive reviews, and good reviews are key for a brand to continue influencing their consumers. (It’s especially true now because we know that 60% of the decision-making process is done online these days. Please see my Build customer relationships with social media blog.) No one wants to be considered just a number or transaction, so engage with your customers and become part of their decision-making journey.
Another way brands insert themselves into the customer journey is by influencing consumers to recognize that they have a need in the first place. By sharing new ideas on social media and teaming up with thought leaders, brands can inspire new ideas and draw in customers. It is important that brands stay diligent and consistent throughout the customer journey to ensure each transition through the decision-making process is as seamless as possible for the customer.
Lastly, following up with customers is imperative. By following up and evaluating individual experiences, brands prove to customers that they value customer satisfaction and continue the cycle of influence. By showing they care, brands are taking the time and effort to maintain long-term relationships, which can result in repeat business.
Being part of the entire customer journey is extremely beneficial for any brand. However, there are certain precautions that need to be taken to ensure a brand doesn’t go too far and possibly frustrate the customer. Customers should never have to repeat the same information to different people. This goes back to the importance of consistency and unwavering diligence. In the eyes of the consumer, their interactions with the brand should appear seamless; everyone must be on the same page within their cycle. Customers will also find themselves turned off by a brand that constantly boasts how great their products are, rather than how their product can make the customer great. The consumer should always feel as if they are getting something from the brand, even if it isn’t always tangible.
Once there is a clear understanding of the customer journey, brands can develop strategies to continually influence consumer decision making. Brands should:
Make their customers a priority by interacting with them often throughout their journey.
Share ideas and provide thought leadership to inspire customers to recognize needs and look for different solutions.
Interact with consumers through various outlets, provide information and resources, and assist customers in their decision making.
Ensure the process is seamless for their customers.
Follow up! Keep that customer journey cycle going and form strong relationships with your consumers.
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