Why Do You Need A Customer Pathway?
You’ve no doubt heard a lot of buzz words thrown around when it comes to marketing your business and generating leads…
Sales funnel… marketing funnel… customer pathway…
You know they are all important, but what are they exactly and which should you focus on first?
In my experience, your sales success is directly linked to the quality of your Customer Pathway.
So, let’s dig a little deeper into the concept of Customer Pathways, so you can get to work attracting your dream customers and growing your business.
What is a Customer Pathway?
The Customer Pathway describes the journey a customer makes from the first time they become aware of your business right through until they are no longer a customer.
If you already have customers, you already have Customer Pathways in your business, whether they are strategically mapped out or not.
Customers go on a journey and have experiences with your businesses regardless of whether you have planned these specific experiences.
But most businesses don’t really plan this. It just happens.
It is true that whether you use GPS to reach your destination or arrive there by sheer luck, you have still been on a journey.
But just think about how much easier life is when you plan your route! You will arrive at your destination more quickly, avoid roadblocks and traffic jams, and generally have a more pleasant trip.
The same goes for your customers. If they have a smooth, consistent, pleasant experience with your business, they are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend you to other people.
The gold for your business lies in strategically planning the experience you want to create for your customers.
How Is A Customer Pathway Different From A Marketing Funnel Or A Sales Funnel?
A funnel is only the first part of a customer’s journey.
It’s designed to strategically move people from being aware of your business, to being familiar, to considering purchasing from you, to making that elusive purchase.
That stage of the customer journey is shaped like a funnel, and includes three core elements:
- Familiarity – when a potential customer becomes familiar with who you are, what you do and how you can help them.
- Desire – a potential customer or client loves the sound of what you offer and know that they need it in their lives!
- Action – when a potential customer finally takes an action to transform from a ‘potential’ to a ‘paying’ customer.
When correctly set-up, a funnel performs exceptionally well at attracting and converting new customers. But the journey ends there.
So what happens to your customer (and potential repeat sales) then?
We all know that it’s easier to resell to an existing customer than it is to find another one. So, how can we create remarkable experiences for our customers?
The Customer Pathway addresses that missing piece of the puzzle.
In contrast to the funnel, a Customer Pathway looks more like an hourglass and comprises five different elements, which we’ll get into shortly.
Why Do You Need A Customer Pathway?
We all want to create awesome experiences for our customers, and when we do that successfully, our businesses flourish.
Here are just some of the lovely side-effects we can experience when we have satisfied, loyal customers:
- They leave us incredible feedback about our business (known as social proof), which helps give others confidence in our business.
- They purchase from us again and again as repeat customers, which are the most valuable customer type.
- They share how much they love our business with everyone they know, and refer them to us (known as referral marketing.)
A Customer Pathway ensures we look after our existing customers and create fantastic experiences for them so that all those things happen.
The Important Lingo You Need To Know…
Selling to a new customer takes a lot more work than selling to an existing customer.
Research tells us that the probability of a new customer making a purchase is around 5-20%, while an existing customer is far more likely to buy a repeat purchase, with a 60-70% chance.
With that in mind, we utilise a variety of sales techniques during specific stages of the Customer Pathway.
Here’s a brief intro to the lingo used to describe these techniques:
When you persuade customers to purchase an upgrade or a more premium version of your product, it is called upselling. This strategy allows us to sell a more high-end or value-added version of a product that the customer is already planning to buy.
This is technically similar to an upsell, with one key difference. When purchasing online, an order bump happens before a customer clicks the “Buy Now” button, whereas upselling is more commonly seen following an initial sale.
During the checkout sequence, there may be a pop up offering similar or complementary products to those in their virtual basket. Or, a check box with a one-time offer to tick/untick.
Just as it sounds, a down sell is the reverse of an upsell. This is an effective strategy to use when a customer has declined a product or service (maybe they have clicked the close button on a web page, for example), and you offer them an alternative version of the product at a lower price, or offer it on a payment plan.
This increases your chances of a successful sale and gets them into your funnel and onto your Pathway. That way, you can continue their positive customer journey and acquire a new, loyal customer.
Cross selling involves promoting an additional related product or service to the initial purchase. This technique can build brand loyalty and encourage more spending at the time of purchase, or over time.
How Can A Customer Pathway Help You Grow Your Business?
The growth of your business is reliant on attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. This is the precise function of a Customer Pathway.
Here’s how it helps you, your customers, and your business:
- When we strategically design our ideal Customer Pathway, our customers are ensured of a consistent experience throughout their buying journey with us. This is because we are able to deliver the same service, in the same way, every time.
- Rather than letting our customers find their own way through our content, we have put a bit of thought behind it. We have discovered what they need from us in order to have the best possible experience, then fine-tuned our content and processes exclusively to our ideal customers.
- It reduces our stress or uncertainty. Instead of flying by the seat of our pants, we know precisely what we need to do next, when, and how to do it.
- As a result, our workload is reduced, because we can automate or outsource as many parts of the process as possible.
- Because we have created a measurable, repeatable system, we can scale our business using paid advertising and by growing a team to support the journey. The systems are already in place, making it easier to train and communicate expectations with our team.
This may feel overwhelming, but it actually becomes an intuitive process when you have the right support and knowledge.
Plus, it all happens in phases, making it easier to digest and tackle step by step.
Let’s take a look at the parts of a Customer Pathway
The 5 Different Elements Of A Customer Pathway
When building our Customer Pathway, our goal is to create a relatively linear journey. That path takes customers through the process of getting to know our business, building trust with us, making their initial purchase, and returning to make subsequent purchases.
So, let’s dig a little deeper into each of the five focal elements of our Pathway.
The Entry Point (Traffic Sources)
This is the point where people first find out about your business and enter your carefully constructed Customer Pathway.
Building a website and creating social media profiles are essential in creating your traffic and getting noticed, but are not sufficient on their own.
It takes consistent, directed action to build awareness and engagement around your brand.
In a nutshell, these are your marketing efforts, and they are a vital part of your Pathway.
The Trust Bridge
The goal of our marketing efforts is to go from another “face in the crowd” to being a recognised, trusted brand.
To do this, we must create content that inspires, attracts, and educates our dream customers, so they build familiarity and trust with our business.
Without a strategy around this phase, our efforts are inconsistent and unreliable. At best, we create confusion amongst our audience; at worst, we are just adding to the noise.
The exchange of money is based on trust: if you pay me money, you trust that I will provide you with the solution you are looking for – and vice versa.
So, for this element, we must get strategic about releasing content designed to build trust.
Consider why your customer should and would put trust in your purchase over your competitors. What makes you different? What’s your unique selling point?
From there, you can craft high-quality content to connect specifically with your dream customer.
The Conversion Method
Once we have our customers’ attention, we need to collect their information so that we can continue the conversation.
Statistics show that very few people will purchase from you the first moment they hear about your business. In fact, the stats show that 80 percent of transactions occur after 7-12 touch points.
So, how do you plan on creating those touch points without a way to keep in touch with your prospective customers?
This is addressed with our Conversion Method.
4. The First Transaction
The hard work is done: we have a customer who is familiar with our brand, who trusts us, and who knows exactly how we can help them.
Now, it’s time to make them an offer and convert them into a paying client!
But it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. There’s a definite art to this phase.
What will work best for you varies depending on whether you are a service-based or e-commerce business.
The aim of this transaction element is to solve their current problem for them with our offering, while simultaneously uncovering and educating them on the next problem they will need to solve, and offering the next solution.
It sounds kind of complicated when you read it all together. So let’s focus on the first step we need them to take – that leap of faith in making a purchase.
If our Customer Pathway is done well, this is a quick win for us that builds their trust and takes them through to the next stage.
The Customer Nurture Phase – Upsells / Cross sells
The customer’s journey doesn’t finish after the first purchase (at least it shouldn’t!) But, this repeat selling phase is often the least considered part of a Customer Pathway.
All that time and energy we’ve put into our Customer Pathway would be wasted if we just took the first bit of money and ran.
Instead, we proceed to the nurture phase. This is where we continue to provide an above and beyond experience for our customers so they will be attracted to return to us – and refer us to their friends!
We can also leverage the work we’ve done by using the selling techniques we talked about earlier: upselling, order bumping, down selling, and cross selling.
Have You Created An Awesome Customer Pathway?
As you can see, the customer pathway is a vital part of business success. If you have not managed to create one yet, now is the time to get strategic with your business and put some energy into this essential process.
After all, a nurtured customer is a loyal customer, and what more could we ask for to boost our business!
While the tips here will give you a good starting point, you might feel like you need more to create your perfect pathway. Luckily, that is exactly what we can help with at The Helpful Academy.
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About the author:
Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.
Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).