Marketing

Online Marketing: Mapping Your Customer Journey

If you want to build a business, you won’t go far with a bad product, poor customer service or a negative customer experience. To get your brand off on the right foot, we start with two critical pieces: customer personas and mapping your customer journey. A customer journey is comprised of a number of elements, including your product/service positioning, offers and tactics used to engage customers.

“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”
Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

In 1996, Michael Shrage of MIT famously described “Provices and Serducts” as an emerging trend. The blending of product and service is essentially creation of a more engaging customer experience. If you sell a product, it better be perfect, because the moment there’s trouble, the customer wants service! If you sell a service, you’ll have longer-lasting relationships if you also have some form of anchoring product (otherwise you’re dispensable at the drop of a hat).

Regardless of your business model, you should strongly consider mapping your customer journey. It can help you find snags in customer experience, smooth out rough spots in your sales or service processes and ultimately lead to lower costs and higher revenue.

How to Start Mapping Your Customer Journey: Research

If you’ve been in business a while, you may not even know what your processes are anymore. You may have changed personnel, updated offerings or winged it all along. You should review how everything works from start to “finish” with your marketing, sales and fulfillment. How? Interview your staff, take notes, draw diagrams, take customer surveys and collect documentation. Research is a key building block, and it doesn’t have to take a great deal of time. Get the basics and delegate to individuals responsible where you can. The Customer Journey Map below should guide your research.

A Key Element to Understand: Voice/Tone

You may think you have a brand represented as “light and happy”. Your research should unearth the reality. If customer surveys indicate it’s “dark and dreary”, you may want to move into the core mapping exercise with an eye toward instilling the right brand message. Your company voice plays out at every step on the journey. What story do you want your customers to hear? Note, internal messages matter too – what employees say to one another also matters. You’ll want to reduce friction wherever it appears.

SBEC Blog: Mapping Your Customer Journey

Drawing the Map

Customer Expectations

A customer wants to interact with your company with ease. For example, on your website, they want to find information easily and understand what you do and why you’re a credible source. If it’s at an in-person event, they’ll want access to useful information and a helpful staff member. As they engage further with you, they’ll want more evidence that your offering is a reasonable value – where price and product intersect. Proof may come from a number of sources, from data sheets to social proof. The more you can provide evidence with ease, the more you meet customer expectations.

Buying Process

The key steps in the buying process are Thinking About, Exploring, Understanding, Getting Assurance, Decision/Purchase, Post-Purchase (which could actually be its own map). You’ll fill in elements for each step based on the next few items. These stages of your funnel(s) should be easy to divide.

Mood

What is the customer feeling at each step of the buying process? Curiosity, fear, anger? Your goal is to make it happy!

Customer Goals

What is the customer trying to do? What do they need to make a decision to continue to the next step?

Touchpoints & Emotional Response

Describe the interaction, whether internal or external. What is the event (website visit, phone call, download, order processing)? What does the customer want and get? We like to color-code (red, yellow, green) to convey the emotion of the customer. Are they mad? Red. Are they happy? Green. The less red and more green the better.

Customer Thoughts

Empathy is critical in mapping your customer journey, and the kinds of questions you anticipate are essential to a solid customer experience. We prefer to ask sales teams directly what questions they get (like FAQs). It is amazing what you can learn from the trenches: if your persona is right, if your messaging is right, if your collateral is sufficient. Look at emails or explore notes from phone calls. They all tell a story of the customer’s buying process.

Ideas to Improve

What can you add, change or remove to turn emotional response reds to yellows or yellows to greens? Is it a new document? Is it a change to the product? Is it an improvement to your process? Make a checklist and prioritize it. The more you can reduce friction, the faster your customer experience will improve.

Tools for Mapping Your Customer Journey

One size does not fit all, but we’ll share our template (100kb zip PowerPoint file) as a starting point. You can also check out some of our additional reading to find in-depth research and tactics from industry experts. Mark Cuban once said, “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.” Mapping your customer journey can help do just that.

Jeff Bezos went one step further when he said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Has Amazon done that? Apparently they’re crushing it, based on today’s $350 billion market cap, making Amazon a top 10 company worldwide.

Take a look at mapping your customer journey. You may not own the Dallas Mavericks or be a huge international company, but you can probably streamline your flow, reduce friction and convert more business if you try.

 

This article first appeared on the Twisted Puppy blog.

 

About the Author

SBEC Director of IT: Scott HerringScott Herring is the SBEC’s Director of IT. He has been a software developer for almost 30 years and is a serial entrepreneur. Scott is currently focused on his digital agency Twisted Puppy, helping small to mid-sized businesses grow using ultramodern online marketing techniques.You can find out more about Scott’s business on his company website.

Scott will share practical insights for creating a solid foundation (strategy, tactics, metrics) for your online marketing at the SBEC Friends of the Center Networking Luncheon on August 24, 2016.

The Power of Branding [Martha Spelman]

A strong brand results from a clear definition of the strengths particular to you or your company and the audience that will benefit from working with you.

Someone will always be faster, stronger, more knowledgeable, younger, older or more experienced than you. But that doesn’t mean that they will necessarily “win out” over you. Because nobody has your particular combination of skills, talents, abilities, knowledge, experience or expertise. And maybe they don’t hustle, network, promote or communicate as well as you do. Maybe they haven’t as clearly identified what it is, with their particular mix of traits, they can offer a buyer.

The Power of BrandingThis is where branding–both personal and business–comes in. A strong, well-defined brand is a powerful marketing tool.

Branding is the process through which you objectively “decipher” what you offer and to whom. Ultimately, you want to determine what your specific strengths and weaknesses are and who the audience is for those strengths; who could benefit from working with or hiring you. A person or company with a strong brand continuously reinforces the value they offer and what differentiates them from the competition.

Once you’ve deciphered your “brand positioning” — the products or services that best fit with an audience who has the need and budget for your offering? You develop a marketing strategy that will effectively reach that audience.

And if you think you’re weak in certain areas? Don’t make excuses, make improvements. Take classes, sign up for webcasts and podcasts; read, watch and listen. Use volunteering as an opportunity to learn new skills or tackle new projects. Research the competition, join a mastermind group, find a mentor willing to help. Do what it takes to build your brand, improve your position and hone your “expert” niche.

If it’s difficult for you to objectively decipher your personal or business brand, you can ask others — interview your friends (ask them to be honest), clients or customers and colleagues. Find out what their perception is of you — and your strengths. Work with an outside consultant who will provide a professional, objective assessment and strategy.

Be rigorous in your examination. You ultimately want to clearly distill what it is that “makes you different.” Then publish content that sets out your particular strengths, preferably focusing on a defined “expert” niche that can be illustrated with representative testimonials, recommendations, case studies and “success stories.”

The clearer you are on your particular strengths and how those strengths can be deployed to benefit potential customers…the more powerful your brand and the bigger the return on your marketing.

Read More on Branding from This Author

Brand Message: WIIFM or WIIFT?

The Brand Experience: Feeling is Believing

 

About the Author

Martha Spelman: SBEC MentorMartha Spelman is an SBEC mentor. She is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert and author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. You can find out more about Ms. Spelman on her website.

 

 

 

3 Steps for Building Brand Recognition [Allan Colman]

Building brand recognition is the first of 12 essential practices we use to help companies accelerate revenue. Branding combines your purpose, vision, mission and values all into a strategy and implementation tactics. In my role as a Senior Business Accelerator Adviser with 36ixty, we find 3 steps to help clients become the best at one thing. This is critical in building brand recognition. There is a Russian proverb which clarifies this approach, “If you chase 2 rabbits, you will not catch either one.”

Step #1 – M:
Get your message right.

Clarity addresses questions such as why do we exist? Who are we serving? How do we behave? What values will we adhere to? What is it that we actually do?

Step #2 – A:
Leverage the appropriate amplifiers.

Once you get the message right, this is where you use all the marketing tools available, from social media, to press releases, to advertising, to collateral, to speeches, etc.

Step #3 – P:
Persevere.

Over time you need to be seen as credible, expert and a master.

Questions for Defining Your Brand

Answering the following questions will help get you your brand:

  • What do you do when providing your product or service that is different than what everyone else does?
  • Why do your clients/customers return to you and your product/services?
  • When people refer business to you, what do they tell others about you? (Ask if you don’t know)
  • What skills to you have that people find interesting and helpful?

As the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what stays in a room after you leave the room.”

 

About the Author

Allan Colman: SBEC MentorDr. Allan Colman is an SBEC mentor, a top business development executive, and a leader in helping law firms strengthen their business development productivity. For over 2 decades, he has helped law firms and professional service firms step into the current business culture and economic climate and generate more revenue. The business development structures he has put into place with clients continue to perform and produce measurable results. You can find out more about Dr. Colman on his website.

 

 





Learn About Increasing Government Contracting Opportunities

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Los Angeles District Office will be conducting a FREE 8(a) & HUBZone workshop.

SBA invites you to learn about how to increase government contracting opportunities through 8(a) and HUBZone certifications.

8(a) Business Development Program helps small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market. Participants in the program can receive sole source contracts up to $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing. The federal government has a goal of awarding 5% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to 8(a) firms.

SBA’s HUBZone program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities with 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions, as well as subcontracting opportunities. The federal government has a goal of awarding 3% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to HUBZone-certified small businesses.

Thursday, April 16, 2015 from 9:00am–11:30 a.m.

SBA Los Angeles District Office
330 N. Brand Blvd., Ste. 1200
Glendale, CA 91203

Parking garage is $9 for the day. Street Parking is also available.

Registration is required to attend this event.

Register here with the following information:

Name of attendee
Business name, address and phone number
Email address
Number of years in business
Once registered, you will receive confirmation for attendance.

No walk-ins. Class space is limited.





Martha Spelman: Always Be Marketing

If anybody knows anything about marketing, it is Martha Spelman. As a successful marketing consultant, author and entrepreneur, Martha knows exactly what she is talking about. Here are her words on marketing for businesses to keep in mind:

For any business, it is imperative to ALWAYS BE MARKETING. Market when you’re not busy but especially when you are…because inevitably, the calm comes after the storm.

We’ve all heard the line: “I really don’t market – my work comes from referrals.”
Three times in the last week, I’ve had meetings in which the business owner said, “My company used to survive on ‘word-of-mouth’ and now, that’s not happening.” Friends of friends, client referrals or industry colleagues — used to fuel their work pipeline. The business owners I spoke with weren’t executing an active marketing strategy but still the phone rang; somebody always knocked on their door.
Apparently that is no longer the case. The referrals have stopped. And with no other marketing plan in place, the well is running dry.
There are several reasons that your referrals might have slowed down or stopped (aside from your work or product quality heading severely downhill…which is doubtful):
1) The economy is down and your previous referral sources aren’t getting work or coming in contact with potential clients to send your way

Click Here to Read Full Post

Martha Spelman: SBEC Mentor

Martha Spelman
Marketing Consultant
Co-Founder Newzful -subscription-based site that provides useful facts, stats and data for content marketing
Author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Create, Publish and Promote Your Business Blog





Fred Held: Know Your Target Market

When SBEC asked what costly mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid, one of our mentors Fred Held provided some valuable insight. According to Fred, one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is not knowing their target market which can end up causing a business to fail.

Fred:
My clients usually fall into focusing on how wonderful their offering might be. They believe that there is nothing like it on the market and think they will make it in the USA. One of the most common assumptions is that the target market is everyone. They have not done a product profit plan. Usually they will not be able to compete making it in the USA. They do no market research or believe anything negative from a survey of consumers. The result is more than 90 percent fail. Spend time doing market research and understand the target market of your business and your efforts will be worth it.

Much like what Martha Spelman mentioned in our previous post, most people just think about how great their idea is and believe it will sell to everyone. However, you truly need to understand your target market to succeed.

Fred Held: SBEC Mentor

Fred Held