How to Unlock the Buyer Journey with Data

You’re a single owner of a small- to medium-sized enterprise who has probably been pulling in leads and qualifying them through a single channel. But the market is shifting. You find yourself struggling to keep up with your competitors and, even more, today’s digital consumer who is complex and more discerning.

The single channel you once relied on is now drying up. It’s generating fewer prospects and worse, fewer leads.

You know the internet has saturated your market, and customers are having trouble listening to your message with all the static noise.

What can I do? How can I compete?

These two sentences have haunted many small business owners as they’ve sat in their offices trying desperately to brainstorm ways to meet their KPIs, increase conversion rates, and see a significant ROI.

There is a way.

If you want to drive consumer action, you need to understand the consumer and their journey, then explain your value proposition to the consumer in a real, personalized way.  

How Has Technology Shaped the Buyer Journey?

More than a decade ago, prior to the uptick in digital technologies, companies were able to market to consumers using one-way communication. They could generate a radio or television ad, or practically any other piece of communication, with a one-size-fits-all approach. And they used repetition to drive hard pitches home.

The consumer was bombarded, particularly from big brands who had the financial means to continuously monopolize communication waves. Fewer resources and little access to information meant consumers were forced to rely on a select number of branded companies to fulfill their needs.

Consumers were on the outskirts and were largely powerless in their choices.

Things have changed--for both the consumer and companies.

New technologies and media vehicles have expanded the consumer’s options. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat. Instead of sitting passively by and allowing companies to throw products and services at them, consumers are actively doing long-period research through a variety of channels and consulting people they know to better understand their choices.

Now, if you want to get their business and become their top preference, you have to get to know them on a deeper level. You have to appeal to their core. You have to craft communications around their needs, behaviors, and interests.

Better for the consumer, but a lot harder for you.

How to Map the Buyer Journey

The old concept about the consumer’s journey was broad and only looked at the consumer from a high level. There were three basic phases:

  1. Awareness - the point where the consumer realizes he has a need and then performs internet research to better understand his need and what products or services are at his disposal. They will look at a company’s website, online reviews, educational materials, social media networks, testimonials, and any other channels that are available.
  2. Consideration - the point where the consumer has narrowed his choices to a few companies. It is at this stage the consumer conducts additional research--as many as three times, each time diving deeper into the company’s offerings--and heavily compares his choices.
  3. Decision - the crucial moment of purchase. After days, week, or even months of research and comparing brands, this is when the consumer has decided on a service or product and will move to resolve his issue once and for all, provided there are no barriers to conversion.

You may think you have a clear understanding of the consumer’s journey, but this model only looks at the surface. You know which phase the consumer is in, but you arenn’t equipped with the information to tailor your message to them; you’re still taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

It doesn’t work, and you can’t compete this way.

“Your business's messages can not compete unless you understand the power of authenticity,” — Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce.

To create a more authentic and natural message that resonates with your consumer and leads to conversions, you have to dig deeper into who they are. Only then can you personalize messages and build unceasing dialogues to keep your product top-of-mind as the consumer moves through his buying journey.

The most useful tool we have under our belt is story mapping. We use it to build a working model of empathy and understanding with consumers.

Persona Story Maps

Persona story maps are gateways into the consumer’s perspective. These two-dimensional maps allow us to build models of empathy as we look at the motivators, demotivators, hurdles, and touch points the consumer faces at each phase of the buying journey.

Since the maps are flexible, we constantly update the consumer’s habits as they change.  

User Story Maps

Consumers interact with your business through a variety of touchpoints. User story maps help us define the customer journey, their interactions, and points of contact that need to be supported with content, messaging, and direct support. Here, we also visualize the consumer experience to discover barriers to conversion and identify opportunities to smooth out their journey.  

Content Strategy Maps

Content strategy maps look to the persona and user maps to build content and new content ideas around both your consumer and business initiative or service offering. The two-dimensional layout doesn’t group content pieces into buckets that focus on content type, as this could tie our hands and remove the flexibility from producing an offer that targets a certain consumer’s needs; rather, it uses color coding to symbolize the types of content.

So, for example, instead of looking to which offer you should produce each month, you are able to consider which offer you should produce based on the buyer you want to target that month.

All of these maps are then used to generate personal conversations with each one of your consumers through behavioral marketing strategies. Waste less time getting to your consumer.

The messages you create are directly aligned with their needs, behaviors and interests, which will allow you to increase your conversion rates, meet your KPIs, and increase your ROI.

Before the Maps: Gathering Data Insights To Understand Your Consumer

Before diving into the story maps, you need to know who your consumer is--and that takes data. You can’t know for certain your consumer’s motivators, demotivators, hurdles, touch points, or barriers to conversion without it. And without those five components, you can’t target your messaging to the right consumer.

To get a full picture of your consumer, you will need to gather both surface-level stats and beneath-the-surface stats.

Website analytics

Google analytics is a popular web analytics tool a lot of businesses use to get insight into their audience’s behavior. It allows you to see:

  • The consumer’s geographic location
  • The sites that referred consumers to you
  • Which pages consumers are viewing and where they go next
  • Conversions as they are happening
  • Broad strokes of the consumer’s demographics (e.g. gender and age)
  • The number of new or returning visitors, and their level of engagement
  • The browsers, networks, and mobile devices consumers use to access your site
  • If consumers are engaging with and receiving your content

Social media analytics

Because the digital consumer engages a brand across a variety of channels, including social media, you’ll need to gather data insights from these platforms as well. Social media networks have built-in analytics tools to show you how consumers engage with these channels. You’ll know:

  • How your posts are performing
  • Whether your number of followers have grown or declined
  • Your number of impressions  
  • Their demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity)

Stakeholder interviews and customer feedback surveys

Aside from the customers themselves, your sales team or leadership team knows your consumer best; after all, they work with them every day. Stakeholder interviews and customer feedback surveys are designed to give you clarity and qualitative data to reinforce the numbers. You’ll get to know:

  • Consumer trends
  • True consumer demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, income, etc)
  • What consumers respond to in terms of communication
  • The size of your current consumer base
  • How consumers use your product or service
  • Consumer concerns
  • Barriers to conversion
  • The consumer’s perception of your company

User reviews

Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. As part of their research, they will look to user reviews to see if others have been satisfied with your product or service, as well as your customer service, closing process and responsiveness.

Google your business, and take a moment to focus on:

  • What users are saying about your business and its products or services
  • What impact this has on other user feedback
  • How they say they are using your products or services  

Industry research

There are times when our clients just don’t know who their customer is or, better yet, who they’d like to attract. Take a look at similar industries to yours, ones with the same size consumer base and services or products. Study how they:

  • Market their products or services
  • Tailor their messaging across multiple channels
  • Attract and retain customers
  • Call consumers to action
  • Layout their website templates (Are they ripe for conversion?)

The insights you extract from all of these key areas should be used to build your story maps. These, in a sense, are behavioral strategies you’ll use to tailor messages to your consumers across multiple channels.

Use Data Warehousing to See the Entire Consumer Portrait

As you gather data by the means we mentioned above, you should start thinking about the bigger picture. They are, as  McKinsey & Company put it, “just a series of snapshots.” Until you place this data into “a central data mart,” you won’t be able “to get the full customer portrait.”

And we know this to be true.

The only way we are able to get a clear, 360-degree view of our partner’s customers, their changing behaviors and interests, and campaign performance is by constantly extracting data and storing what we gather from each strategy into a central dashboard or warehouse. This allows us to:

  • Identify consumer patterns
  • See where consumers are in the funnel
  • See which parts of the funnel are performing well or need work
  • Gain insights on diminishing returns of the funnel in specific channels
  • Build consistent, dependable consumer journeys
  • Engage consumers when and how they want
  • Measure cross-channel performance

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