Understanding the process your customers, and prospects, go through before deciding whether to buy your product or service is important because it helps determine how to communicate with them so they choose your company instead of a competitor. Customer data guides that understanding – so it’s essential that you base your decisions on accurate, up-to-date data.
Marketers have developed many models to explain the process, such as the funnel or AIDA (Awareness/Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). Both make the process easy to visualize because they make it nice, neat, and linear – and that’s one of the problems! These methods of journey mapping assume the buying process is a linear flow and that it’s the same flow for every customer. That just isn’t the case any longer. If you have ever worked in retail sales, whether in a boutique or a big-box outlet, you know that’s not what happens.
Some customers come into the store, or to your website, ready to buy. Others wander in, ask questions, leave, come back, ask more questions. Or they click around your website from a product page to an FAQ, to a different product page, to a comparison sheet, back to the product page. And then they bounce away. Maybe they will come back. Maybe they go somewhere else. Linear models usually don’t account for this activity.
How To Begin Your Customer Mapping
While simple models, like the funnel model and the AIDA model, make it easy to visualize the buying process, neither one will help you figure out when and how to talk to customers in a way that keeps them interested in buying. That can lead to missed opportunities where a timely and appropriate message – an email, a text, even a phone call or postcard – might keep them from wandering away.
Envisioning the customer process as a journey can help you understand what motivates different kinds of customers to buy, what turns them away and how to reach out to them to keep them on the path. The customer journey model is a series of touch points that represent the places where customers come in contact with your brand and can opt either to continue on or leave. It accounts for the places where customers get on the path, where they often drop out and where they can re-enter. It should be spherical map, considering all possibilities, and not linear.
Mapping out the customer journey takes time and a deep dive into your customer data, and internal departments, that lets you build reliable customer personas, along with the journey mapping, each of whom has an individual set of touch points and motivations. It takes time to build your customer journey, but your reward will be knowing your customers so much better than before. Your customer journey map will guide your communication choices, showing you when and in which channels you currently send messages that may need adjustments and which channels you should be sending messages that aren’t currently being used. Mapping can also help to assist in consistent messaging as often the messages are coming from multiple departments. If done well, your prospects and customers will be impressed with the communications and come back to shop again.
Factoring in List Hygiene & Email Change Of Address on the Customer Journey
To be as reliable as possible, journey mapping runs on customer data – who they are, where they found your brand, where they live, work, family size, household income, etc. Your inhouse data helps to determine whether they’re new to your brand, if they have purchased from you in past, what they have bought to date, and what they’re shopping for now. All of that data you have been collecting over the years goes into developing your buyer personas and mapping out your touch points. And that’s where journey mapping can break down. If your data is old, inaccurate or incomplete, you can’t build out accurate personas. Which may cause you to overlook some key roadblocks or pain points.
Your journey map guides your goal-setting and strategic planning. So, if your map is off the mark thanks to bad data, so will your goals, strategies, and the tactics. You could end up sending the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong customers – the exact opposite of what good marketing communications should do. More importantly, you’ll waste precious time and money and never really know why your program isn’t delivering the results you expect.
The solution: build in both a list hygiene and email change of address process throughout the customer journey so that your data is accurate and your strategies have impact. Here, we’ll look at three key points on the customer journey to show why you need accurate data to make reliable decisions.
1. Entry point
Your customer journey should account for many entry points (website, call centers, points of sale) to your path to purchase, like paid or organic search, social media or offline sources like print ads, TV commercials or word of mouth. Signing up to receive emails sends a clear signal that a customer or prospect has started down your path. It’s also the first place where you need to have good list hygiene ready to go. You don’t want to allow bad data to enter your database in the beginning of the data collection process. It can cause multiple email campaign problems and affect your sender reputation.
Need: Ability to verify that the person signing up for your email is giving you a valid, active and valued email address – not a phony or disposable address, not one with typos, not an address that they own but seldom check, not a spamtrap or a malicious address.
Why it’s important: Everything hangs on having a genuine, valued email address. Not just for sending marketing messages but for reaching out for confirmations, account information, alerts, personalized profile, and it also identifies if your customers are on or off the journey.
Solution: Real-time email validation that verifies emails as they are being entered. It’s as easy as adding code to your entry point and we do the rest. It rejects typo-ridden addresses and those from fake domains or one-time-use services, addresses of frequent spam complainers and other problematic addresses and gives the customer a chance to supply a genuine address in order to move forward.
Note: Double opt-in doesn’t solve the problem here because it can keep out people who don’t see your confirmation request, overlook it because it went to the spam folder, or got overlooked in a crowded inbox.
Abandonment, while on your website, happens in several forms. Moving from least to greatest intent:
- Customers jump off your website before beginning to browse your product page(s).
- They browse product pages, usually spending several minutes per page and clicking within the page on images, product descriptions, specs or comparisons and other information sources. Or they browse a product but discover you’re out of stock in the size, color or model they want.
- They put items in a cart but leave the site before checking out.
Need: Valid email addresses in the customer’s profile and the activity triggers to send an automated email inviting customers to come back, to keep shopping, to check out their carts or to resolve a problem. These triggered emails can be automated as part of the customer journey.
Why it’s important: You probably don’t need to chase after people who bounce away from your page right after landing on it because that’s a signal that your brand or products aren’t what they wanted. But, putting items in a cart is a strong intent signal closely tied to revenue.
Browse abandonment doesn’t need as aggressive a follow-up program as cart abandonment, but you should still reach out to see if you can answer questions or offer other information to keep them on their buyer journey with your brand.
Solution: Daily hygiene practices such as removing bounced and unsubscribed emails immediately along with continuous batch validation, which allows companies to run their data as needed. Also, real-time email validation can be used for exit-intent forms that invite abandoners to sign up for a waitlist or to have their carts emailed to them as reminders.
Many marketers have a reactivation strategy that’s a regular part of their journey communications. They identify potential inactives long before they go into radio silence and move them into a special drip campaign sequence, change their messaging frequency or content, even send messages from different channels, such as web popups or direct mail.
Need: Up-to-date email contacts to reach out to customers who have stopped responding but not unsubscribed, often sourced from our Email Change Of Address Service.
Why it matters: A database choked with unresponsive or bounced email addresses will not deliver the results you need and can make your customer journey inaccurate and unreliable. That, in turn, throws off your goals and strategies, wasting money and costing you opportunities.
Solution: A regular Email Change Of Address practice of taking the bounced and unsubscribed emails found from the list hygiene process and finding the active, current email for that contact. This will help stay connected to the customers you worked so hard to acquire.
It’s worth the time and resources to collaborate with all departments on a complete customer journeys and prospect journeys based on developed personas. This will help you attract prospects, retain the customers you have, get referrals from those customers and have a favorable brand recognition which can be leveraged in many ways.
Throughout the journey, you must make sure part of your mapping includes making sure your internal data is as up-to-date as you can get it. Through a data hygiene process and an email change of address process you are setting up your future campaigns for the best possible success.
This article first appeared on FreshAddress, the email address experts.