I’ve spoken before about the concept of an Ideal Customer Journey – a system for mapping out a customer’s entire relationship with your business from first touch to fulfilment and beyond. This is the blueprint for your business, allowing you to track the route a customer takes through your marketing & sales funnel all the way through fulfilment and on to becoming a repeat customer, ensuring they’re getting the best possible experience at every point.
When it comes to mapping an Ideal Customer Journey, there are certain principles that apply to all businesses. You need robust reporting at every stage, so you’ve got the data you need to evaluate your processes and drive improvement. You want to use automations to streamline routine tasks and raise efficiency.
However, this doesn’t mean that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to designing a customer journey. On the contrary – your relationship with your clients will look very different depending on what you’re trying to sell. The first step to mapping your Ideal Customer Journey must be to ask yourself, “What kind of business am I running, and what does this mean for the shape of my customer journey?”
In this article, I’m going to walk you through five of the main classes of business that we’ve worked with at The Business Catalyst. Chances are you’ll find that your organisation slots into one of these categories:
- Ecommerce businesses
- Brick and mortar businesses
- Professional services
- Info businesses
- Consultants and coaches
In ecommerce, you’re looking for an extremely rapid sales process. People want to find the product they’re after, stick it in their basket, pay, and get on with the rest of their day – often within thirty seconds or less!
The more friction you introduce to this smooth process – dense text, complex interfaces, intrusive pop ups – the more likely customers are to get frustrated and tab over to a competitor. You need to get the crucial information people need to make purchasing choices (prices, colours, styles, product specs, reviews) in front of them in the cleanest and simplest way possible.
Often, ecommerce businesses are so obsessed with bringing in new customers that they forget to cultivate a relationship with their existing ones. It might seem like online shoppers are easy-come, easy-go, but people develop habits very quickly, and there are all sorts of things you can do to encourage them to keep coming back to you – subscriptions, post-purchase offers, regular maintenance, abandoned shopping cart sequences, refills and much more.
Bricks and mortar businesses
These are businesses which still rely on footfall coming through their door, and their priorities are shaped by the realities of local competition. If you’re a vet, a dentist, or a gym owner you could have a competitor just one street away, so you need to do everything you can to set yourself apart from them and deliver a 5-star customer experience.
Success in this sector is all about creating relationships. You want your customers to feel like their needs are being understood and cared for, and any issues they have must be dealt with quickly and smoothly. At every step of the journey you should be thinking not just, “Have we done what we need to do to move that customer on to the next step?” but also, “Have we given them an amazing experience that’s going to keep them coming back for more?”
The key to nailing this is to have a great workplace culture, with vibrant, well-trained staff who have fully bought into the values of your business. It’s the job of these staff to relate to your customers, to earn their trust and confidence and to make them feel welcomed and reassured, so make sure you’ve given them what they need to execute their roles to perfection.
Clients of professionals like lawyers and accountants are looking for a degree of expertise and experience that they neither have nor wish to acquire for themselves. I don’t want to do my own tax return – I want to be sure that my accountant has the know-how to maximise my tax efficiencies and handle compliance whilst also understanding business growth.
This means putting in the work at the nurturing stage to develop your customer’s confidence. They need to feel that you know them and their problems, and that you’ve got the experience, authority and credibility to tackle them without breaking sweat.
It’s also important to understand which market niche you’re addressing. I am – not that I like to admit it – twenty years older than my business partner, and so the two of us would be looking for something very different in a financial advisor.
I’m going to want someone who understands my future requirements and can take care of pensions and retirement, while my partner might be looking for longer term investments such as property and assets. If you’ve got skills that suit a specific niche, make sure you’re signalling that to prospective customers early in the process
Info businesses sell information products like skills guides and how-to manuals as well as online training courses.
These products require a serious investment of time as well as cash, so customers will want to know up front that it’s going to produce the results they’re after. Be clear about who the course is for and what the deliverables are – then deliver on them! If I sign up to a watercolour course, then I’d want to feel like Monet reincarnated by the end of it!
Good reporting is crucial here. If you’ve got a twelve-minute video, but most people are only watching the first four, then you need to know that this is happening, and then figure out why. If people are dropping out, is there a way to prompt them back in? Or is there a problem with the content?
You also need channels for people to raise queries while using the product, and then to turn those queries into further engagement. Online forums and communities can be a good way to do this, allowing customers to motivate each other by sharing success stories and answering each other’s questions. It’s also crucial to have clear avenues for customers to purchase future products or to be referred into consulting or coaching services for a more hands-on experience. Speaking of which…
Coaches and Consultants
As I just suggested, many coaches and consultants will underpin their programs with online courses and information products. If you don’t, you should absolutely consider it, because this can be a great way to drive custom to your core business.
Coaching and consultancy are often high-ticket items, so your marketing process has to be all about inspiring people to commit to a long-term relationship. By the same token, the client needs to be the right cultural fit to work with you over a period of months or even years, so you need to make sure they have the right information to pre-qualify themselves.
This can make for a lengthy sales process, so you need to make sure that you’ve got beautifully presented promo materials that will inform prospects about your culture, values, and mission. It can also be useful to work in a trial period of twelve to sixteen weeks, rather than obliging customers to commit to a relationship that isn’t working. In the long run, this will only be bad for your reputation as a coach, so it’s better to give clients a way to bow out gracefully if things aren’t clicking.
As you can see, there is no single one-size-fits-all Ideal Customer Journey! Best practice will vary wildly from business to business, so before you start taking tips on how to upgrade your customer journey, make sure they actually apply to the type of product or service you’re trying to sell!
At The Business Catalyst we’ve got years of experience working with all the different categories listed above, so no matter what field you’re working in you can be sure our recommendations will be tailored to your requirements. Get in touch today to find out more or book a discovery call!