In paid search marketing, we consistently see marketers talk about the different levels of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, decision, or, top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel.
Unfortunately, this way of thinking is most of the time inaccurate.
The issue with the process is that the consumer’s buyer journey is not linear. If anything, people bounce back-and-forth from awareness to consideration multiple times before coming close to a final decision, especially as we enter uncharted waters during the changes in our world.
To better grasp customer journeys, map out the actions, motivations, emotions, and thoughts of the user. What key messages need to be given to the user to get them to take action?
What PPC insights can we use to help them get there?
This thought process has further implications for how we create ads and how we nurture potential advocates of our brands and products. Let’s dive in.
Why are linear funnels wrong?
Can you think about a time when you were looking to solve a problem and you took a route like the one in the image above? I sure can’t.
Decision-making is a roller coaster of decisions and emotions.
- You have to understand your unique problem.
- You have to perform research on multiple brands.
- You have to align your problem with those brands.
- You have to go back and make sure this is the most cost-effective way to solve your problem.
- You go back, look at the brands, and see if you missed any big players you should’ve considered before.
- You walk away from your laptop frustrated and confused.
- You go back and make a brash decision and hope for the best (or maybe that’s just me?).
For marketers to fully connect with users at scale and sell them their products at the right point in time, it’s critical to understand these decisions at every stage of the customer journey.
How are marketers getting it wrong?
It is less about how marketers are getting it wrong, but more about how marketers may be missing a necessary step in their advertising efforts.
If you do not comprehend your target audience’s journey, then you will miss out on potential customers down the road.
So, what is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a visualization of every step a potential customer takes in completing a desired action with your company.
Customer journey maps allow you to pinpoint exactly where you need to interact with potential customers to ensure that they are aware of your brand — at every step of the marketing funnel.
Why is this critical?
Customer journey mapping allows the full understanding of customer interactions with a business. Take important events, actions, motivations, emotions, thoughts, messages, and pain points, and create a comprehensive visual that connects all of them together rather than one standard method, as shown above.
Think of customer journey mapping as a relationship development tool: how do you learn about your target customer and ensure that you know everything about them to make them feel safe by choosing your business?
Understanding your customer journey
To fully grasp your customers’ journeys through the buyer cycle, especially in these times of unforeseen crisis, you must understand specific interests and qualities about them.
There are various ways to work through these questions and identify all gaps in the necessary information to effectively market to the right audience at the right time.
Let’s lay some groundwork
Before you begin, get organized, and set your objectives. What are you trying to accomplish?
These objectives should take into account several different things:
- What are you trying to learn about your customers?
- What do their buying decisions show?
- What kinds of answers do they need?
- What does your customer know/not know?
- How long does it typically take for a customer to make an informed decision?
- Are decisions made through an informed, based on a hunch, or impulsive process?
- What personality traits does your target audience typically have?
- What demographic is your customer typically in?
Once you have gathered these lists of questions, create goals shaped around them.
Ultimately, you will take these questions and apply them to the next step: creating the target audience personas.
By gathering deep insights into your objectives, you can better understand goal setting in the future.
Target persona set-up
Target personas are outlines or breakdowns of realistic versions of your ideal customers.
To successfully create target personas, understand the basics of what drives that target audience to your website, including:
- Job title
- Age & other demographic information
- Decision maker
- Biggest pain point
- Biggest need
- Position in the sales funnel
- Trigger points
Get creative with obtaining this kind of information through various analytics platforms such as Instagram Analytics or Google Analytics. There are surveying tools you can use to send basic informational surveys to your current customer base such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics.
You can find more information about personas in this article.
For a basic example, if you run a cloud operations company whose target audience is chief technology officers for enterprise businesses, your target persona may be as follows:
Breaking down potential next steps
Once you identify a few target personas, break down each step, based on their actions and motivations, emotions and thoughts, key messages, and funnel conversions.
Actions and motivations
As we previously discussed in creating target personas, the actions and motivations are what make up every step of the customer journey.
Once you have compiled a group of potential actions and motivations for a customer to take different steps with your company, list them out in the order of least to most likely to make a purchasing decision.
For example, if you sell software and determine that your audience is motivated by price and ease of integration into their current operations, mark those as most likely.
If you have also found that some customers learn about your brand through education revolving around your software’s functionality, then you would mark that as least likely.
Emotions and thoughts
Next, place-specific emotions and thoughts that could influence one to hop from one action to another. This is our first step at trying to place specific emotions to specific actions.
For example, someone who is frustrated with the lack of a comprehensive solution (emotion/thought) may take action to learn more about your company’s solution that fits their needs (actions and motivations).
Next, determine what key messages you need to place that align with your potential customer’s emotions and thoughts.
These messages need to be action-inducing! Even further, incorporate your business’s unique value propositions and stand out in comparison to your competitors.
For example, a call-to-action supporting our target persona’s actions and emotions is “Learn for free how our comprehensive solution will improve operational efficiency”. Make it specific. Help them solve a problem.
Funnel steps and conversion points
Next, identify different points of the sales funnel where your audience can take action (either on your website or as a part of your sales and marketing efforts).
How are you going to get them to convert?
Take this opportunity to identify your most effective conversion points. For example, if you only use sales-heavy language, you may miss out on nurturing leads who may be weary to commit to a sale at that current moment.
Create gated content or even an email subscription sign up that gathers their information and keeps them engaged with your brand.
How do marketers react to the current environment
Right now, especially during the economic downturn, users might have different reasons they are buying — or not buying at all.
With economic uncertainty, the buying process is more thought out and conservative. By matching your advertising intent with that knowledge and being aware of specific user motivations, you can build deeper connections and improve sales.
With that being said, be empathetic and remember you’re speaking to humans. The messages you portray to your audience should match real feelings and hardships that they may be facing.
Even further, the content that you serve them needs to be aligned with the shift in the buyer’s journey.
For example, if you are a restaurant accounting software company, you may not be able to generate sales right now. However, you may be able to build your pipeline through relationship marketing and creating experiential content around “how to survive the economic downturn in the restaurant industry”.
Find ways to support your audience and you’ll find success.
Building it out
Creating your customer journey map example helps you identify potential places where you can create specific content and ad campaigns.
Create a visualization
There are four different types of customer journey map examples: current state, day in the life, future state, and blueprint. We’ve got options!
“Current state” visualizations illustrate what your customers do, think, and feel as they interact with your business. “Day in the life” visualizations illustrate what people do, think, and feel today, as well as how they internalize those feelings.
“Future state” illustrates what people WILL do, think, and feel down the road. “Blueprint” illustrates a current or forthcoming customer journey map but includes systems of people and technologies.
Depending on what journey map you create, ensure that it covers specifics that your business needs to cover.
For example, if you are creating a visualization that is based on the “current state”, ensure that each action, thought, and feeling the customer has as they interact with your business is matched with a step in your customer journey map. Once you have made your decision, add this information to your journey map to present a creative visualization.
Time for takeoff
Your customer base is constantly changing, and their needs, actions, motivations, and emotions change continuously. For example, if you target mainly B2B businesses for the past several years, and you are shifting into general software businesses, you may need to remap your customer journey to get in front of the right crowd.
Review this journey monthly and anticipate change, and it will change. Keep in mind, you’re building relationships, and they take time, effort, and a little empathy along the way.
Time to pivot?
Have you noticed a shift in your buyer journey? Are you noticing different user habits?
It may be time to pivot your targeting strategy.
Referring back to the previous example of restaurant accounting software — are there really many buyers in that industry during the shutdown? Probably not.
That doesn’t mean you cannot still market to them.
But for productivity companies like Slack and Zoom – how do you pivot?
It is all about maximizing your ability to target your total addressable market. Reach as many people that are looking for the solution your product provides, at the lowest possible cost.
The key, however, is to remain empathetic. For example, Zoom switched their messaging to “In this together.” They add clean messaging, that is empathetic, and right to the point.
Customer journey map examples
The path toward ROI
Customer journey mapping can take some time, yes, but pinpointing exactly what type of advertisements will reach and resonate with your customer can influence your ability to generate leads, improve sales, and advance brand equity.
Especially with the change in the current environment, it is important to maximize your ability to effectively market to your customers. You want to ensure that your message is met at the right place and time, or else it can negatively impact your brand equity.
Having that deep of an understanding of your potential customers is invaluable.
What other organizational & research tactics do you use to improve your understanding of your target audience? Share your favorite PPC methods, or let us know if you have any questions.
This article is a guest post by a representative from one of Optmyzr’s customers. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Optmyzr and its employees.