The concept of the sales funnel is well-ingrained in any marketer’s brain. We all ask ourselves how each initiative put into market is going to impact the bottom line. At the end of the day, we’re all beholden to the almighty dollar. But therein lies the problem at the heart of the funnel model. It’s all about US. How can WE make money? How can we get the customer to take the action that benefits us?
Here’s the thing – it’s not about us anymore. And customers know it. In fact, Forbes called 2017 The Year of the Empowered Customer, stating “86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel brands consistently meet expectations.” That staggering statistic shows the importance of expectation setting and a careful relationship building approach in this customer-centric world.
Shifting from the Funnel to the Journey
Shifting focus from a traditional sales funnel to a customer experience journey doesn’t mean moving away from impacting the bottom line. In fact, the journey is just the funnel tipped on its side and the ultimate goal is still to move people from one side to another. The difference is focusing on what the customer needs rather than what we want them to do – it’s about how we can enhance and guide the customer experience. Take the two examples below:
1. Traditional Funnel
2. Customer Journey
The funnel is very business focused (what action do we want the customer to take?) whereas the journey is customer focused (where are they and what do they need?). Ultimately, both models move the customer from one phase to the next. But the journey allows us to consider the customer’s experience from start to finish and align messaging to their sentiments. Understanding where the customer is in their journey and how they feel at that phase allows us to set and manage expectations to create a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
Optimizing the Experience
Once you’ve mapped the customer journey and understand how to create a message that addresses customer sentiment at each phase, it’s time to tip that journey on its end again. Analyze how your customers flow through this journey. Are there phases where people historically disengage? Are there phases, actions or behaviors that indicate ultimate conversion? Understanding these barriers and indicators allows you to narrow your focus and determine precisely where to invest time and money on program optimization.
For example, perhaps 75% of customers or prospects transition from phase I to phase II, but only 34% move from phase II from phase III. Something being communicated in phase II doesn’t appropriately address the sentiment to move people along. Analysis of content engagement, site behavior and other behavioral inputs can identify where to test new messaging to optimize conversion to phase III.
Go Ahead, Flip the Funnel!
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when beginning the process of creating a customer journey, especially when you consider all the factors that make the journey unique for individual customer segments at each micro-conversion or decision point. Applying an analytical lens to uncover gaps will help you focus on where to start.
- Identify journey phases
- Assign sentiment to each phase
- Define the business goal and associated KPI for each phase
- Align messaging with the sentiment and purpose
- Create programs to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time!
Gone are the days when it was unsettling to use browser behavior to influence a customer’s next action. Customers know we’re watching and they expect brands to use that information to create a relevant and engaging experience for them.
It may be the age of the empowered customer, but the plethora of data available can also empower marketers to be at the forefront of creating a connected customer experience, particularly in email. If you follow this process, you’ll be well on your way to building the elusive 1:1 relationship with your customers in the email channel.