How customer journeys can lead to the right destination
For many years the industry repeated the mantra: “B2B has its own rules”. This belief was long used to “protect” companies from emotions, advertising expenses and even digitalisation – and also robbed them of many opportunities. However, as digitalisation has advanced, the industry has watched the boundaries between B2B, B2C, and even B2B2C, blur more and more. The SME sector is expanding. Even the hidden champions don’t want to hide any more. Now they are proudly refining their brand profiles and are increasingly using the advantages of digital communication to do it.
Especially in the B2B sector, SMEs are still too rarely putting their digital opportunities to use. Because anyone striving for success needs to cover the relevant points in the customer journey – the touchpoints. This is where the right message and content needs to be placed at the right moment. Anyone who doesn’t do this will quickly reach their limits. Their potential customers disappear into digital nirvana: little feedback, declining follower growth and ultimately hardly any leads.
An awakening is what’s needed! But how do we figure out which touchpoints are relevant? And even worse: how do we know what people are looking for or what they need before they do? The solution lies in turning our own thoughts around. If we look at how the customer experiences the journey, it is pretty simple in the end: then we can think ahead for others. The path consists of just three stops:
- The touchpoints
- The need situation
- The situational content
Initially, it is important to filter out the truly relevant personas. In the B2B sector, these individuals are usually members of decision-making groups (e.g. project owners, management), or influencers (e.g. specialist staff, members of the purchasing department). Personas can be created based on functions or hierarchies – but it is usually more expedient to create groups based on personal abilities, goals and preferences. Employer target groups like students, job candidates, etc. should be viewed separately.
When doing this, companies should be careful to avoid combining several competing persona concepts. That usually does not work well and everyone involved becomes frustrated. The developed personas need to apply to everyone, whether they are in the marketing, sales, business development or product development departments. This is the only way to ensure that leads and customers receive consistent support across all steps of their personal journey.
Once the personas have been defined, we can view the world through that lens. When does their decision-making process begin? What is the role of this process? What do they need to know in order to do their job? What is in their own interest and in the interest of their objectives? What kind of attitude do they have? Each of these personas goes through various decision-making phases. These automatically make up the touchpoints that they (need to) use. In the context of a digital strategy, it is important to really include all touchpoints, including those that are personal, analogue, etc. because all of them ultimately work together.
An example: When it comes to larger projects, the “preparer” persona can be relevant. They collect information for a larger group of decision-makers and provide specialist support for this group as they make their decisions – but they themselves would never rush decisions. Their journey could be as follows:
Once we know the phases of the journey, we need to continue on to the needs of the personas. No, it’s not about “timeliness, quality, longevity”. As important as these things may be at corporate and brand level, they don’t attract any leads. Our personas only have an open ear if we give them exactly what they urgently need in this situation. Then we can be convincing at every step on the customer journey.
An example: A project manager finds your solution approach brilliant, but still needs a snappy package to convince her or his bosses. What is happening here? A situation arose that triggered a very specific situational need. And that usually has little to do with product-related needs.
Now the answer is very simple. We just need to consider the means we can provide to help our persona deal with their situation, which is often urgent. In our example, the solution could be to download a c-level presentation or the availability of a decision-maker video with the most important facts and benefits.
In general, we have gained an intricate set of personas, needs, touchpoints and content – a touchpoint map. The great thing about that: we can now be convincing at any point of the customer journey, independent of what path the journey actually takes. Because we’ve planned for all contingencies. And that brings us to the goal of our strategy.
If we want our digital strategy to be successful in the long term, the key is to prepare the customer journeys of our customers and prospects. Unfortunately, many studies show that this thinking is not widespread in the SME sector. But ultimately, success will prove that this approach is a good one that is close to your customers’ needs (and thus the situations).