According to the wisdom of Pam Didner, the customer journey is best approached by B2B marketers not from the customer's perspective, but from consideration of the touchpoints they as marketers actually have control over.
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Otherwise, she says in Marketing Smarts Episode 510, it's easy to become overwhelmed and confused. "All of us have thousands of paths or options of journeys that we go through before we make a purchase decision," she explains. "The thing that you need to look at as a marketer is what is in your control and how can you craft the journey that you can guide people through."
It starts by asking questions. "You ask....what do they do? They probably search, they probably talk to people, they probably just go ask around. For every possible way, you write them down, this is what they would do. Then you ask, what would they do next?"
No matter how many touchpoints you start with, there's almost always a convergence point, and that is where you focus your efforts, Pam says.
She also dives deep into the metrics of success, passing the baton between Sales and Marketing, and letting go of what you can't control.
Listen to the entire show now from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode. And if you prefer to read instead, the full transcript is available below.
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George Thomas: I am super excited, as always, because we are having a conversation that B2B marketers need to have. It's about the customer journey; but not only is it about marketing, it's about marketing and sales, upstream, downstream, force, friction, all the things. Of course, we are talking to one smart cookie, Pam Didner.
Pam is a marketing consultant, writer, speaker, and author of two books, Global Content Marketing and Effective Sales Enablement. Her forte is creating successful global marketing plans that meet local marketing and sales teams' needs. She also specializes in sales, marketing, and internal and external communications consulting, keynote presentations, corporate training and workshops. She contributes articles to The Guardian, Content Marketing Institute, and more. And we get to talk to her today. We're actually interviewing Pam today because she is awesome and because she is going to be at the B2B Forum this year.
I have a special offer for you as a listener so that you can participate live in this Marketing Smarts podcast. Here's the deal. This Fall, the MarketingProfs B2B Forum is in Boston. I'll be on the main stage hosting conversation about Web 3.0 and what it means for B2B marketing. The B2B Forum is the place to go to hear about what's next and what's now in B2B marketing. In addition to being part of the live recorded podcast, you'll learn all about how to create marketing programs that do two things, drive your business forward and help you do work that you love.
You don't just sit back and consume either. We have hands-on opportunities, so you'll walk away with an actual plan to implement when you're back at work. Sounds great, right? Plus, you get to talk to real people just like you, other B2B marketers with similar challenges and goals. You don't get that on any old webinar. I would love to meet you there. See the agenda now at MPB2B.marketingprofs.com and use my code MYPALGEORGE for 20% off.
Now, without further ado, Pam Didner, one of our speakers, is about to give us some great information on B2B marketers, the customer journey, and sales. Let's get into the good stuff.
Pam, I'm super excited that you're here with me today. The Marketing Smarts listeners are even more excited that you're here, because we get to dive into a topic that I think, and I know you agree, sometimes people map this out, but most times they kind of half map it out. So, we're going to give them a conversation that lets them be them and fully map out this conversation that we're having today.
Let's start with this question. It's kind of funny, it's kind of creepy, but what about the customer journey keeps you up at night?
Pam Didner: Great question. As you can tell, I don't sleep that much because I've been thinking about that question forever. I'm kidding. The key thing, the thing that gets complicated is customer journey means different things to different marketers.
For CMOs, it probably means the possible paths that our customers and prospects will come to our site. For content marketers, it's probably the channels that will come to read my blog. For email marketers, it's probably, I send a lot of emails out inviting people to come and they are showing up at my booth. That's their customer journey. The customer journey even may be what the marketers will do after the event, so you create some sort of journey that guides your attendees through.
As a marketing team, you need to be on the same page about what customer journey really means so that you can move toward the same direction, achieving the same goal.
George: I love this because you're alluding to a thing that pops up in my brain. Many times, when you Google customer journey, it becomes a very much marketing talk, marketing track. I like this idea that it's not just marketing. It shouldn't really be about your business, but it's about the customer. It's called the customer journey. It's sales, marketing, service, it's all of those things.
Let's back out here for a second. Foundational question to put us on the right track for the rest of the conversation. What the heck is the customer journey pertaining to B2B marketers, and what do they need to know about these things as they move forward?
Pam: If you think about it, the customer journey, like I said before, I was like, I need to understand every single possible path that people are going to come to my website. For example, when I buy a flat panel TV. I went to Best Buy first to check out all of that, they have more varieties than Costco. I go there and I talk to a sales rep that probably knows Samsung, probably knows Sony, probably knows all the brands so much better and gives you feedback. Then, I also go online to read the reviews for different models. Then, in the end, I went back to Costco to make my purchase decision because it's probably the cheapest. That sounds so sad.
You can see the customer journey is very disjointed, but you are looking from a customer's perspective. When I work with my clients looking into a customer journey, I always tell them don't look from customer's perspective because that's going to confuse the heck out of you. All of us have thousands of paths or options of journeys that we go through before we make a purchase decision. The thing that you need to look at as a marketer is what is in your control and how can you craft the journey that you can guide people through.
For example, you have no control where I'm going to see the review. The only control that you may have is probably your Amazon product page, probably your website, probably your own community. If these are something that are within your control, you have to think through presumably if they go into review the comments, what can we do to make sure what we have in our control can serve up in higher ranking organically? When you are thinking customer journey, you have to think in terms of they're going to start doing research. If they start doing research, what are some of the sites that are within our control that we can manage? If it's within our control that we can manage, what can we do to optimize it?
When you are looking at a customer journey, think how you're going to guide people through the channels that you can manage. By doing that, you will feel so much better and you will feel like you are in control, and you are doing the things within your power to actually showcase your knowledge to your customers. That's what I want to tell B2B marketers. A lot of times, when we look at customer journey, we tend to think from the customer's perspective. I actually want to reverse that, think what we can control and do it better.
George: I love this. The way my brain works, I always am kind of painting a mental picture as I'm interviewing the guests, smart people like yourself. I'm immediately like the customer journey isn't a linear path, it's more like a bowl of spaghetti, however it's like this jungle.
When you started to talk about being the guide, I was like interesting. If you cut the path that you want them to take, if you see what you don't have control of, what you do have control of, and think about are there things that we can get partial control of and kind of build this path for them to go through the jungle that is buying the flat panel TV, that is buying the new tech software, this is actually a really interesting thing to start to think about.
I love that you were talking about you can control this, but what if you can't control it? Marketing Smarts listeners, I hope you're thinking about can I partially control it, because reviews and testimonials might not have to be on a third-party site, they might be able to be on your site, but they have to be handled in a right way. Pam, does your brain unlock a little bit on anything as I bring this up?
Pam: Yes. Don't you think that's also life in general? All of us, we get stressed out about our trip. Oh my god, we are going on a trip at the end of August. I was looking at airlines are losing people's luggage, this is insane. Then I start thinking about I should probably pack just carry-on, that's it, nothing else. Packing a carry-on is what I can control. But if I have so much that I need to pack, I need to check a bag. If I have to check a bag, that's not something that I can control anymore, so you just have to let it be.
Another thing that you can partially control, just like you said, is maybe you can put a Tile tag or an Apple tag, so at least you know where your luggage is because sometimes the airline companies don't know. I like what you can control and also partially control. Once you kind of do that, you just have to let it go. You have to let it go, otherwise you cannot sleep at night.
George: You have to have good sleep. I want to say one more thing, because I think there is exactly what you said, and then there's another element of thinking outside the box. Because if you had enough time, you could always ship some of your stuff to the hotel where you're actually going to be.
Pam: I love that. Now you turned the partial control into, well, it's not actually total control, but it's still partial control. Wouldn't you say? Because you are shipping that, you assume the parcel company is going to deliver that to the right hotel or the right destination, but at least you're proactively taking care of it.
George: Yes. I think it's still partial control. It's hopefully enabling people to think about things in a different way than we typically think about them when we're in the situation we're in. By the way, the situation that most of us are in is it's a marketing conversation around the buyer's journey. This next question gets really interesting to see where you're going to go. Not only why is it important... That would be the easy question because marketers would be like, "For me, it's important because of this." My question goes a little bit further and says why is the customer journey important to Marketing and Sales at the same time?
Pam: I'm going to use an analogy on this one. If you actually watch any kind of track and field races, especially 5,000 meters or 10,000 meters, you have runners that run a certain length and they have to pass the baton to complete the race. Somebody has to take a break, and somebody will get on, etcetera.
You have to think Sales and Marketing collaboration a lot of times is really like long distance running, especially 5,000 meters or 10,000 meters of track and field, because any kind of purchasing cycle, especially on the B2B side, tends to be long. You have to think of that as actually a marathon, not a sprint, and a lot of times it's passing the baton between Sales and Marketing.
For the longest time, if you look at the purchase funnel, the top of the funnel tends to be managed and owned by Marketing. The middle and the lower funnel tend to be managed by Sales. Again, you have to pass that baton. If you have a lead and it's a high quality lead, you pass that to Sales.
The thing is, it gets complicated in the world of digital; it's no longer that clear cut that people actually come directly on the top of the funnel down. Sometimes they are doing their own evaluation, they come in and talk to you when they are in the middle of the funnel already. With that being said, there are times maybe marketing people need to engage at the same time as the salespeople.
For example, let's say you're ready to buy a flat panel, but you don't know which one to buy. You will talk to salespeople, but at the same time Marketing probably will serve up some email to you and try to convince you that you should purchase or you should take a look at these elements when you make a decision. It's like passing the baton, going back and forth. That's why it's also important for the sales team to understand the customer journey, as important as it is for the marketing team.
George: I love this idea of passing the baton, but also where my brain went while you were talking there is being able to meet them where they're at. Not necessarily where you're at, but where they're at, and looking for those people who are just super shooting into the middle or bottom of your funnel, and not being that marketer that is stuck in looking at the sky for the leads that are magically falling into the top of your funnel, but all around a 360-degree compass. The other thing when you heard you talking is it's like a bit of a dance between Sales and Marketing because there might be multiple handoffs.
Pam: Exactly. It's a tango.
George: Everybody likes a good tango. Continuing on, I know at this point we have probably two different audiences listening right now. We have people who are like I have a customer journey in place, it could probably be a little bit better. Then we have the other folks that I want to serve for a hot minute that are like, "Well, shoot. I know my customers go on a journey, but I don't necessarily have a journey, a path that we are guiding them through."
When we think about that, how can B2B marketers get started to put a system in place for their customer journey so that their marketing and sales teams can have these handoffs, have this dance, and the customer is like "this was the greatest adventure that I've ever gone on pertaining to flat panel TVs," or whatever else you're buying?
Pam: In general, this is what I would tell any marketer. When they are trying to build the customer journey, you have to think like you peel the onion, one layer at a time. It's really that you are trying to answer questions, and this is how you need to answer the question. You need to ask yourself, first of all, how do people know your brand, or how do people find your product? "It's organic search," or, "It's probably the content I created," or, "I do a lot of events."
You kind of have a list of questions. You need to have a starting point somewhere. You can even go one step earlier and say what kind of question do they usually want to address before they start looking for a product, so you can start asking questions. Then you ask when they try to answer that question, what do they do? They probably search, they probably talk to people, they probably just go ask around. For every possible way, you write them down, this is what they would do.
Then you ask what would they do next? Interestingly enough, based on my exercise of how I do it, there is always a converge point. They will do search, they will talk to people, and they will start trying different products; they will try to get samples. There is always some sort of converge point. It's not like there's four paths, becomes 20 paths, becomes 48 paths, and oh my god, I cannot solve this problem. What I'm trying to say is when you do this, there is always some sort of converge point, to the point that they are like, "Okay, now I've reached a point that I can evaluate multiple different vendors. What should I do next?" Then once I start making that decision, "How do I get my teams up to speed?"
These are questions you can ask, and you can create a draft of what that journey will look like. My advice to all of the B2B marketer is start asking questions. Once you answer that, you say why, what will they do next? You listen, you build what that journey may look like based on the knowledge that you have. That doesn't mean it's 100% correct to start with, but that's a good starting point.
George: I think that's a key point, that last point you made. You're probably going to modify this over time. It's not a one and done, it needs tweaked.
Pam: Exactly. You hit the core. That is true.
George: The other thing out of that section that I definitely was pulling out is you were talking about how there's this convergence. Immediately when you said that, and I don't know why, but the word epiphany. This epiphany moment happens where the light turns on, they know there's almost this singular direction, even though it has been multiple roads that potentially could have gotten them there.
Then I put my marketing hat on, and I thought this is why our conversations and our content probably lean into needing to have insights. Insights lead to epiphany. This journey, this map that they're going to be going through to get to that convergence, we have to have those things in place to actually get them there.
This is an amazing conversation. It's really an interesting angle talking about the buyer and our teams and what we need to do. Inevitably, somebody is going to get started, they're going to map this out, they're going to realize they need to tweak it, they're going to start getting sleep because they're going to do all of the things that we've talked about thus far.
One of the things that I like to do is I like to look out for the hurdles that people might hit. When I say hurdles, I mean like 20-foot pit, spikes and snakes at the bottom of it. Not just that little jump over hurdle, there's nothing scary about that, but the oh my gosh this might wreck your plan type of hurdle. Maybe we should call it a pothole, maybe that's not big enough.
At the end of the day, what are some hurdles that you've seen companies run into when they start mapping this customer journey in their marketing and sales efforts?
Pam: There are two things I want to address on this one. When you start asking questions, you'll come to realize you actually don't understand your customers as much as you thought. Then you have to somehow start and you have to go research, then you have to go find information, and then you have to come back.
When you are doing that kind of exercise, it's usually days and weeks, and then you need to be disciplined about coming back with additional data. Sometimes you have to make assumptions, and that is okay, but you cannot make too many assumptions because the more assumptions you make, the less realistic the journey is. You have to have some sort of data to support it. That is number one.
Number two is you should create what I call as-is and to-be. The things that you are creating initially are very likely to be as-is, the way you understand it. But in a digital world, there are always things that can be automated or that you can do it slightly better. You have to look at that and you have to think through what is to-be like. To-be really requires you to think a little forward, and you have to think in terms of how you can automate certain processes and steps.
That is out of a lot of marketers' comfort zones, including myself, because we don't think that way. We are creative, we're about copywriting, we're about creative concepts, we're about demands, we're about writing a great post. Thinking through what can be automated in terms of that customer journey can be challenging.
These are the two things that I just wanted to call out and share with everybody. To be disciplined and that you are going to go out and gather information. Then the second thing is what is as-is, what is to-be.
George: I love these two different phases that you can wrap your brain around. You can almost step into one and then step into the other and do what you need to do. It's funny because in that first portion that you were talking about without data it might be a fairytale, not a journey, like you're totally mapping out something that nobody is doing because you think, instead of it is, the data. It also came to my brain that you have to be a collector to be a navigator. When you collect that information so that you can be that guide, so you can be the navigator of their journey. We've talked about hurdles, we've talked about all sorts of ways that people can get started with this conversation. I like to stop, pause, look at the mountain, that zen moment that we may or may not ever reach, and ask the question what does customer journey success look like? How do we know we're at least headed in the right direction, doing the right things, paying attention to it, how do we know what success looks like?
Pam: There are only two. Conversion rate—if you do it right, your conversion rate should be higher compared with what you have done in the past. The other one is higher deal closure rate, that means you are actually closing more deals. To me, I would not measure by sales revenue, I would measure by number of deals closed.
A lot of times, customer journey is about frequency. If you're going to close one customer at $10,000,000, or you're going to close 100 and each one of them is $10,000, from my perspective, if the customer journey is done right, you actually increase that conversion rate. Of course, if every single one is $10,000,000, that would be fantastic, but I would focus on the frequency instead of the dollar value.
The only two things, from my perspective, that you can measure are the conversion rate and the higher deal closure rate.
George: There you go, Marketing Smarts listeners, metrics that matter when you're trying to see what success looks like for the customer journey.
Pam, before we close out, you've already been 20 minutes of adding mad value around this conversation that we're having today, we have a couple more questions that we need to get through, but I always like to give folks the opportunity to just bust any myths. Is there historical thinking or something you've seen in our space, what is a myth around the customer journey that you need to debunk?
Pam: Like I said, when you are thinking customer journey, everybody has a different definition. Focus not on what the customers do, but focus on what you can do within your control to guide that journey. That means focus on some of the marketing channels that you use and you're going to guide the prospects and customers through the journey you think would get them to the point that they would say they will be happy to purchase your product, assuming your products are solid. Focus on what you can control is what I will share with everybody as number one.
The myth is you don't really have to do thousands of customer journeys. A lot of people will say, "Everybody has their own journey and they're all very different, therefore we cannot manage that." Like I said, they might all have different touchpoints when they do the research, but there is always a convergence point, and you need to find out what that is.
George: I love that. As the wise sage around this conversation, what are some final words of wisdom? It can be about this conversation, it can be about life in general, I'm really letting you go with this one. What are some words of wisdom that you would want to share with the Marketing Smarts Podcast listeners before we send them back to their regularly scheduled day?
Pam: Customer journey mapping is like a relationship, it's complicated. You will not get it right the first time. It's like a relationship with your spouse after you get married. The first several months is the honeymoon period, but the next 10 years really you have to work at, you have to work on your relationship to keep that passion going. Same thing with the customer journey. You aren't going to get it right the first time, and that is okay. Keep working on it.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
Also, I have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Jay Schwedelson on new B2B email marketing techniques that work right now, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on August 25, 2022
Pam Didner, marketing consultant, writer, speaker, and author of two books: Global Content Marketing and Effective Sales Enablement. Her forte is creating successful global marketing plans that meet local marketing and sales teams' needs. She also specializes in sales, marketing, communications consulting, keynote presentations, corporate training, and workshops. She contributes articles to The Guardian, Content Marketing Institute, and more.
LinkedIn: Pam Didner
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