Relationships, Not Journeys, Matter For Today’s Customer

As recent as the early 2000s, the customer journey followed the traditional path of advertising to conversion to follow-up. However, the past decade has seen the enormous growth of social media and online reviews, as well as the evolution of search engine algorithms and mobile accessibility. While the tent poles of the traditional customer journey still exist, they’ve evolved as well, demonstrating the multi-faceted and nuanced path that customers now see.  This new landscape features fragmented media outlets, always-on connectivity, publicly published reviews, and social network interaction, changing the customer journey in ways that we couldn’t have predicted at the turn of the millennium.

customers-and-brandingIt all starts with brand awareness. Brand awareness has always been important but now it’s more important than ever. This goes beyond general awareness – positive feedback, messaging, and engagement are all important in the early stages of the customer journey. The reason behind this is simple: customers now have the ability to look up anything and everything about your company, product, or service, from downloadable PDFs to promo videos on YouTube to reviews on Amazon and Yelp. Traditional ad buys still exist, but the seeds need to be planted before and after as customers are driven to research the brands they’ve heard about. Having a sound search engine footprint is ideal for this strategy – especially knowing how to create strong search engine listings – but social media messaging and response is also important to establish a positive brand identity.

Search algorithms, smartphones, and social media have given customers the ability to look for information with precision. This is why it’s critical to focus on consistent branding and messaging across targeted segments. The more you can address a specific question with a brand-positive answer – be it a white paper, social media interaction, or blog post – the more you have informed the exploratory period of the customer journey. If everything goes correctly, exploration inevitably gives way to conversion: the act of buying your product or signing up for your service.

The same technology that expanded the pre-purchase path has also made the post-purchase a dynamic event. The traditional method used to end with names, emails, and mailing addresses put on lists. Today, it’s more about cultivating a relationship with two goals in mind: return conversion and external advocacy. For return conversion, the customer needs an incentive to purchase again, and much of this can be tailored through social media, blog posts, email blasts, and other targeted information with a strong call to action. At the same time customer loyalty is one of the best marketing tools out there, and with online reviews driving public opinion, customer opinion matters. A smart plan is to incentivize this process by encouraging writing honest reviews, creating affiliate programs, and other tangible rewards to spread the word.

The term “journey” implies a beginning, middle, and end. However, today’s customer journey doesn’t truly end with a purchase and standard follow-up. Instead, a more-accurate perspective is to think of the customer relationship – planting the seeds, building the trust, and sticking together over time. And just like any strong relationship, it takes an investment and strong communication to succeed.

Forward Push can help you with your customer’s journey. We offer social media management, email marketing solutions, website design, and content creation for local SEO. Call us now or fill out the contact form to start your journey to new customers. 

By Marc Apple