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Digital channels have opened a door of additional opportunities for companies to target customers but the multitude of new channels has made tracking and managing the buying journey complex. An empowered customer nowadays researches online, asks friends for purchase advice and searches for independent and expert reviews. Before making an online purchase decision, he/she may engage with your brand through many different media channels over several days if not weeks – months even!

Rather than being neat and linear, customer journeys are more often than not convoluted and complex affairs – particularly in B2B markets where large decision-making units (DMUs), budgets, technical product and service requirements often define journeys. A user may see a display ad, click on a link from a friend, or do a search before buying something from your website — and all of these interactions can play a role in the final sale. It’s important to map the entire customer journey, attribute the right values to each touch point and adjust marketing tactics and budgets where appropriate.

If you are thinking ‘Easy to say but how do I do it?’ then here are a few useful, tips for you…

1. Use Google’s tools and benchmarks

For different markets, regions and industries there are different ‘purchase funnels’ where online channels play different roles in the customer journey. Interested in knowing who does what, where and when? Well, out there, someone has already done half of the job for you… Google offers several tools –Multi-Channel Funnels, Attribution Modeling as well as a benchmarking tool, The Customer Journey to Online Purchase – that help marketers understand those different roles, more wisely spend their marketing budgets and tailor the right content at the right moment.

2. Implement customer surveys

Once you’ve explored the benchmarks, look deeper into your own marketing data. A combination of workshops, staff interviews or focus groups and customer interviews are normally indicated. In particular, we usually advise clients to survey (hyperlink to Pinnacle survey service? Or download?) their own customers, asking them explicitly which digital channels they use and the type of content they prefer.

Remember: Nobody knows your customers better than you!

3. Offer them what they want, WHEN they want

Although a customer’s journey to purchase might have changed and the process is no longer linear, some ‘traditional’ marketing models regarding hierarchy of effects and buyer psychological stages remain relevant. If you fail to capture the most important touch points from the customer perspective and initiate the desired emotional response, your marketing efforts will be vain. It’s still a crucial challenge to design campaigns that deliver the right message at the right moment in a customer’s journey to purchase; and that hasn’t changed.

Content marketing (hyperlink to content marketing section of Pinnacle website?) is crucial to influencing today’s buying process. A good example of how content marketing strategies can be used to reach and engage with customers online for each stage of the buyer process is illustrated by the Smart Insights’ ‘Inbound Marketing Funnel’ infographic (2012):

infographic

The challenge for today’s marketers, then, is not to throw out the old funnel paradigm. Rather, marketers must continue to employ broadcast marketing tools where they are still effective, while learning to deploy, inspire, measure, and nurture the kind of communications and advocacy in customer networks that drive marketing through all stages of the funnel.

 

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