This sponsored post is produced by IBM Silverpop

Do you know what your customers’ path to purchase looks like? If your marketing department is like most others, you may have it set up like a city street where your customers move from Point A to Point B in an orderly procession.

It’s not that simple in the real world, especially for complex or high-consideration purchases like appliances, luxury travel, or sports gear. The path is more like a cross-country road trip instead of a bus ride across town, fraught with rest stops, potholes, missed exits — and maybe even a breakdown along the way.

What’s on the Journey?

The “journey” includes not just every place your customer comes into contact with your company, employees, and brands but also retailers, partners, review sites, and more. Mapping this journey means understanding all of those stages — such as researching, buying, and loyalty — as well as the obstacles on that path.

Once you map out this journey, you can determine the kinds of content that can get customers past the roadblocks so they continue traveling with your company.

This can be a complex process, especially for companies with multiple brands and product lines, each with its own marketing program.

But mapping your customer’s journey can revolutionize your digital marketing program and deliver a better experience for your customers, as well as your own bottom line.

4 Elements of ‘Customer Journey’ Marketing

It’s become one of the hottest buzzwords in the industry, but “customer journey” marketing is really the next step up the evolutionary ladder from lifecycle and 1-to-1 marketing. Below are the key elements of this approach:

  1. It’s customer-centric, not “customer-focused.” What’s the difference? Customer-focused marketing centers on what you want to say to your customer in each marketing message. Customer-centric marketing views every piece of your marketing plan and programs from your customers’ perspective instead.You understand how your customers research, buy, and maintain post-purchase relations. Your messages reflect what you’ve learned as well as the obstacles that prevent them from moving on to the next step.
  2. Email leads an omnichannel approach. Different stages might require different messaging strategies, including both content and channels.Even though you might run your company’s email marketing program, you may find it’s best to communicate with customers at one specific stage via a strategically timed push notification from a mobile app.”Call centers, SMS, direct mail, in-store experiences or direct contact can also factor in at different points on your customer’s journey.
  3. Blend broadcast messages with behavior- or preference-driven automated messaging. You’re well on your way if your marketing programs include onboarding for new subscribers, browse- or cart-abandonment emails, post-purchase messages, and continuous re-engagement programs. All of these map to key points on the customer journey.Broadcast messages continue to play an important role, but if you rely solely on promotional marketing messages, you’re missing out on the finer points that can move a customer close to the purchase point or help that customer return time and time again. Communications that incorporate your company or brand personality and vary the message from “Buy this” to “Here’s some insider information that can help you make the right purchase” are also useful. Reflecting the omnichannel approach, these messages could be emails, strategically timed SMS texts, or app or Web push notifications.
  4. The customer journey includes auditing all of the messages customers receive from every department or division in your company. Ideally, you’ll map the customer journey across all your company’s brands and departments to reveal how often and in which channels customers are receiving messages.This key insight could lead to a company-wide messaging overhaul, especially if your organization includes many different brands, each with its own messaging strategy. Even if you have just one brand, you’re likely doing a mix of calendar-driven broadcast messages and automated messaging like reminders and updates. See how your communication strategies overlap. What is the customer experience like if you send an irrelevant broadcast message on the same day as one of your welcome or onboarding series emails? It might be OK, or it could provide a less-than-stellar experience out of the gate.

Matching the Journey to Messages

Mapping the customer journey uncovers the trigger points along the way, using the data and signals customers are sending you to respond with helpful messaging.

Your goal is to know which messages you’ll deploy at each stage of the journey — and from which channel. With this information you can build a campaign brief that maps out whether a single message, a series of messages in multiple channels, a specific program or track would work best, as well as the implicit and explicit data you need to determine the specific appropriate content required.

For more information on designing the customer journey, check out IBM Journey Designer, part of the IBM Marketing Cloud.

Loren McDonald’s role at IBM Silverpop is to educate clients and prospects on best practices and emerging trends in email, mobile, and social marketing and marketing automation. He has 30 years of experience in marketing, consulting and strategic planning. McDonald has held executive marketing positions at companies including Lyris, Inc., EmailLabs, USWeb/CKS, and Arthur Andersen. He has written more than 500 articles and blogs, is a frequent speaker, and is author of the ebook “Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Email Marketing.” He has won several awards, including the eec 2011 Marketer of the Year and the 2005 American Business Award’s (The Stevie’s) Marketing Executive of the Year.

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