THE BLOG
05/06/2016 03:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

4 Tips To Help Understand The Marketing Customer Path

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Marketing to customers is an ever-changing art. It's almost like a chess match with people and businesses on the other side of the chessboard, only you can't see them... yet. This can be incredibly challenging because your prospects are constantly bombarded with messages everyday coming from varying digital and traditional methods. The hard part is, they are on multiple devices viewing many screens at once. This is not an excuse anymore. Every company is faced with the same challenge and they must figure out how to overcome it and move the prospective customer to a deeper level of engagement in order to have a chance to earn their trust and loyalty as a real customer. Although there are more options today than ever before for the marketing team, those options have made a their job more difficult to say the least.

38% of marketers don't have an attribution model in place. Yet, 28% measure conversion as the last touch point. - 2015 State of Digital Marketing Report

Simplify The Customer Path
I want to simplify one area which will help provide a clearer picture of the customer path and why it's critical to understand. This will help your sales and marketing team because they need to talk about what's working and what's not? My suggestion is to start simplifying by asking a few questions first.

1. How long is your average sales cycle? In order to simplify the customer path you must first understand how long the sales cycle is now and how long it needs to be for optimum efficiency. A customer "turn" in some industries is the time it takes from first touch point to becoming an actual customer. Do you know how long yours is for your business? If you are unsure, do some industry research, ask your sales team, and review the data they already have in the CRM. This is a good place to start. It will at least give you a starting point.

2. Define your conversion? A conversion needs to be clearly defined so that you know when it is happening in the customer path. As a marketer, I like to consider a marketing qualified lead (MQL) a "conversion." That is when the prospect moves from an uninterested state of mind to interested. This occurs when they provide specific information in a web form about who they are, what they are looking for and how you can help them? This is critical for you because you now know how to solve their problem. This also helps the marketing team define what the prospect's motivations are.

3. How many touch points are needed to reach a conversion? Once you have clearly defined your sales cycle and your conversion, you need to plan how many touch points are needed to reach your conversion. This is different for all industries. Here's an example: For high school students who want to attend college, the sales cycle can be years. College educators know this and plan their marketing process and touch point process accordingly. On the flipside, Starbucks knows the sales cycle can be minutes. Their touch points are designed more around in-the-moment emotional needs that need to be met and sales promotional strategies instead of needs that to be satisfied over a long period of time. Short-term sales and long-term brand building are different and need to be thought about before touch points are decided.

4. Where in the customer path should a conversion occur? This is where the rubber meets the road. If you get this wrong, the sales cycle will be broken and it will not be running at optimum efficiency. Get it right, and sales will be flowing at levels you will most likely not be ready for and you will be scrambling. That's a good problem to have. Based on your previous answers, determine "where" these need to occur in the customer path? How many touch points are needed? And what the message needs to say? In this process, you will need to review where you conversions are happening now and where the peak conversion should occur? You may want to draw an outline of your customer path, it will help you see the big picture and potentially see breakdowns and opportunities. This can also be a great place to discover innovation where you didn't expect it.

Finally, don't forget to get a complete grasp of what the next touch point in the customer path is and what it needs to accomplish? This will be completely determined by how long your sales cycle is. If you have a short cycle, you will want to move toward an in-person visit, web-demonstration, a phone call or another means that is helpful to move the prospect closer. Don't forget to fully research the prospect before you contact them. It is always best to be completely armed with company information, user data or else you may appear un-informed about how you can provide solutions. If the prospective customer sees that you are not knowledgeable, then the customer path will probably end immediately.