As a small business owner, you’re likely asking yourself, “how do customers learn about our business? what can we do to not compete on price? and how do we generate more referrals?” Knowing the customer journey of your business can help answer these questions.
The customer journey refers to the way your small business must address a prospect’s evolving relationship with your organization. It acknowledges that as a small business owner, you need to get someone with a need to first become aware of you then trust you enough to buy and refer.
Most small business marketers view the customer journey from a very traditional and outdated point-of-view with stages such as Awareness, Consideration and Purchase, but for years I’ve promoted and consulted on executing a more holistic and effective approach in this “customer centered era” we live in today: Awareness, Education, Sample, Purchase and Refer.
Before you can acquire a customer, he or she has to know about you. This is the initial introduction of your company, and as the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Go above and beyond in this awareness phase and show you’ve done your homework and know who your ideal client is by speaking directly to them and showing you understand their wants, problems, and needs. Be very selective in your marketing messaging here so articles, networking, advertising, public relations, social media, sales and even referrals do well here.
This phase is not to be taken lightly. I can’t stress this enough: You must know your ideal clients inside and out. Failing to do this will not set you up for success as you move throughout the rest of the journey.
If you were successful in grabbing your ideal clients’ attention, then they likely will go and do more research on your business. You must create a defined process for allowing people to learn more about your unique approach, your solution, your story and your organization. And if you don’t give them a something, you’ll get compared on price.
At this stage you need to you need to educate those prospects that want to learn more and social media participation, reviews, success stories, and customer testimonials play a role here.
People want to be educated not sold. They will sell themselves if you just commit to educating.
No one gets married without first going on a date. During this phase, you must create a way for prospects to sample your business, expertise, product, etc.
Now that prospects are wondering how your solution might work for them it’s time to demonstrate to them with downloadable documents, galleries, reports, ebooks, webinars and very detailed how-to information. You might also have an assessment, audit, seminar, evaluation, trial version or low-cost offer here.
Today’s prospects want a very tangible understanding of what they’re potentially buying, and they want it right away. Give them the opportunity to see a service/product in action very early on. Your job here is to essentially replicate the conditions of experiencing the full service or product in action.
For this stage, the focus is still on educating but from the standpoint of a new customer. How you orient your customer with your business once they say “yes” is a touch point that is often overlooked, but shouldn’t be. Think about what your customers now have access to when they say, “yes” in the form of content, resources, training, personnel, time, reviews, updates and events.
The customer journey is ultimately about referrals – happy customers. Generating referrals boils down to developing a formalized process. It’s important for you to systematically and automatically integrate referrals into the everyday interactions with prospects and customers.
A fully developed customer journey is a well oil machine, but it’s never really done and you can always go to work on adding to it and making it better.