The Customers’ Path Is Not Always A Straight One

I am going to attempt to write this without using the word journey. It’s a word that I can’t stand, a buzz word that means very different things to different people and actually says very little. So, I’m going to look at the way you can succeed in marketing to your customers by understanding their path to purchase. The path is mainly targeting B2C, however, the concept is still extremely important in B2B and understanding how your buyers come to their decision. Remember that online is important, but it’s not the sole opportunity.

The Need

The first question that you need to ask yourself is “Is my product/service a planned or unplanned purchase?” For example, if you are a Mortgage Broker, then your customers are planning to buy a house, then want as much information as they can before making a decision. As a Mortgage Broker you have lots of stages to message your service to your customer.

So, what about unplanned? Well this is slightly different. I would segment this section into two, Impulse Purchases and Distress Purchases. Impulse are things like buying a chocolate bar at the till in your local Co-op or adding on that bottle of wine on a Friday evening when you pop in for some bread on your way back from work. Distress purchases are sometimes seen as unwanted or must buys. This could be a product or service. You need a plumber because you’ve got a leak, you’ve got a really bad headache and need an aspirin. These purchases may not come with the same level of research as the planned ones.

What’s the major difference between planned and unplanned? Time. As a marketer you would market these products in different ways and balance the presence at different ends of the path to purchase. Most of what follows is around planned purchases, so I hope its of use.

The First Bit of Research

Generally what’s the first thing you do if you’re planning a purchase? Google it. Online presence is usually the first step along the path. Shoppers look online to gain information and build a picture that sets their expectations. Quality, price, customer service, features and benefits amongst others are factors that these shoppers could be looking for. The marketing options online are endless, so be very strict in your approach when piecing together your online strategy. A quality website with clear call to actions, PPC, re-marketing and third part advertising are all foundations that lead to strong campaigns. If you don’t get your message and presence correct at this stage, then it’s going to be tough to gain it later on (tough, not impossible). Get it right!

Research Done, What’s Next?

So for all of you operating a e-commerce site with no physical presence, this still relevant. Just because your business is carried out online doesn’t mean the marketing opportunities stop when the customer logs off. Let’s not forget, due to mobile technology, your potential customer is always online. The next step is very flexible, but as business owner or marketing managers, you will know the answer. How are your customers travelling around? There obviously a lot of means of transport; car, train, bus, pushbike, skateboard, Segway, unicycle or good old fashioned walking. Knowing this will give you more idea on where to focus your attention. Let’s say they drive. This opens up radio, billboards, bus stop signage amongst others. If your customers mainly use public transport, what about train station advertising or publishing an advert in the Metro. Knowing as much information at this stage will focus your spend and attention giving the best possible ROI.

They’re outside, Should They Come In?

As I mentioned, if you have an e-commerce site, it’s a little different, so you may switch off here! This could be your office, a retail outlet, a warehouse or even a restaurant. At this stage it is vital to get your messaging right, after all this person could be coming in to make a purchase or sign up for your service. A-boards and posters are examples of mediums to get your messaging out there. Give those people stood outside a reason to step in and become customers.

They’re in, What Do We Do Next?

The message from online, and outside the store/office/warehouse must continue inside. Depending on industry, space and layout, these messages can vary greatly. It’s a great opportunity to communicate your identity, personality, the benefits of using your business. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How would you want to feel when you’re inside? Valued, in safe hands and even more important, in the right place! POS, posters, stationery are all mediums for communicating your message. One of the most important items that you have at your disposal is a brochure. This is what your customer is taking away and will be the tangible memory of your business. Design, print, colour, make sure it’s the best it can be.

They’ve Left, But will They Be Back?

Not all meetings and visits of course lead to sales. Maybe they want to go and visit another Solicitor, Retail Shop or Car Showroom, so what do you do to get them back? Hopefully they have left with a top quality brochure but also there are other options available. Re-marketing, social media and email marketing are all good options. At this stage it’s all about driving traffic back to your website and getting footfall into your office or the telephone call to book your service.

Understanding this process is vital to all marketing success. All business and industries have different paths and different options available to them. Combining this strategy with great, consistent creative is a great way of building marketing success.

Thanks for reading,