So far we’ve answered the following questions about the customer journey:

What does customer journey mean?

Why is a “journey” better than a “funnel”?

In today’s article, the last in the series, we will focus on the buying process within the customer journey. To be as specific as possible, we’ll use a fictional scenario that presents real-world takeaways for your business.

The scenario

Here’s the scenario: You’re the founder of a midsized technology company. You’ve hired me (good choice!) to help define the buyer journey and implement processes that align with it.

Your company offers two types of software in the web security sector:

  • On-premise, enterprise software platform used by large companies
  • Freemium, software as a service (SaaS) used by solopreneurs

Although demand for your software is on the rise, you sense that something is wrong. For starters, many leads never convert into customers. In addition, very few SaaS users on free plans ever upgrade. Churn is also up lately, which doesn’t align with your high satisfaction ratings from internal polling.

You’ve long believed that a journey-first mentality would benefit your company, and now you’re on a mission to make it a reality. Unfortunately, each time you mention the buyer journey to staff, more questions arise. You seem to be in an endless spiral of pushback, and you’re not sure what to do next.

Key takeaway: Don’t be overwhelmed by all the questions. Regardless of your industry or business type, transitioning to a buyer journey mentality is a cultural shift that takes time and challenges your internal norms. The best thing to do is address these questions head-on and begin working through them. In fact, I have a few questions of my own to ask…

Do you have clearly defined personas?

Your marketing team has a considerable budget to manage. PPC ads, social targeting, email campaigns, and content marketing are just a few of their ongoing initiatives. And, although marketing is fairly effective at generating inbound traffic, they’ll never fully reach their potential unless they have clearly defined buyer personas.

When asked about personas, your marketers routinely say things like, “Oh, yes. Everyone knows that we have two main personas: solopreneurs and IT directors.” This is a good start, but it’s a far cry from “clearly defined” personas. As we previously discussed, personas need to be based on actual data — not just vague generalities. Challenge your staff to use in-house CRM data along with third-party data from public sources (such as Bureau of Labor Statistics) and trade organizations to build personas that are highly specific. At a minimum, your personas should include the following types of information:

  • Name (i.e. “Sam the Solopreneur”)
  • Demographics
  • Pain points
  • Goals
  • Favorite features of your software
  • Biggest Concerns about your software
  • Decision-making power
  • Ability to buy

The more specific your personas are, the more useful they become to everyone involved in the buyer journey. With clearly defined personas, marketing knows exactly who to target with ads and remarketing. Sales can build better battlecards and pitch decks that elevate buyer engagement. Customer success representatives gain valuable insight to streamline the onboarding process and better solve for the customer.

Key takeaway: You can’t take a buyer on a journey when you don’t have a data-driven understanding of who they are. Don’t settle for generic personas that provide minimal value.

What motivates your personas?

Understanding buyer motivation is a vital component for developing meaningful personas.

In fact, as an analyst at Forrester Research, Inc. recently pointed out, “B2B marketers must do a better job of tapping into the business purpose that drives the purchase of their product or service — especially when 62% of business buyers said they can develop selection criteria and finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content.”*

So, how can you understand buyer motivation for each persona? Here are a few steps for collecting and analyzing psychographic customer data.

Organize Customers by Persona in Your CRM

Your CRM probably offers several ways to organize customers by persona group. For example, in Insightly, you might use tags to group and filter your buyers. Such an endeavor requires an upfront investment of time, but it’s a necessary step for performing meaningful analysis.

Evaluate Closed Opportunities by Persona

Hopefully, your sales reps are trained to capture detailed information about each opportunity’s outcome. If so, running an opportunity state reason report can be a quick and easy way to understand buyer decision-making.

Survey Your Existing Customers

Surveys can be an excellent source of psychographic data. To elevate participation, promote the “voice of customer survey” through email and social media and consider incentivizing it with a discount or prize (such as a free t-shirt).

Analyze Data from Your Support Ticketing App

Your support ticketing system is another treasure trove of persona interaction data. Hiring a data scientist (you can use a freelancing site such as Upwork) is an affordable way to convert raw data into persona-level insights.

Key takeaway: Look for creative ways to gather psychographic data about your personas. You might be surprised by the amount of data you already have! You just need to look in the right places.

How do buyer journeys differ by persona?

At a high level, every customer – regardless of persona – is on a journey to find an excellent product for a reasonable price. That’s a given.

As you dive into persona-specific data, however, you’ll likely notice differing buyer interaction trends for each persona. This may lead you to ask even more questions, such as:

  • Are solopreneurs more likely to learn about us from organic search?
  • Do IT directors attend trade shows with the intent of identifying our type of software?
  • Which persona group is more likely to click on retargeted ads?
  • Does our social media content appeal to both personas?
  • Does our website adequately support both groups?
  • Which persona is more likely to watch and share our videos?
  • What is the fully loaded cost to support an enterprise client?
  • Does email engagement vary significantly by persona?
  • How can we use content groupings to identify top content by persona?
  • What downloadable assets do IT directors prefer?
  • Why do most solopreneurs sign up and use the product but never upgrade?
  • Which group is more likely to request a demo on our website?
  • Why do IT directors ask more questions during the sales process?
  • Who is more likely to use our documentation site and support portal?

Studying buyer behavior by persona is a key step in the mapping process. Although no two buyers follow the same exact journey, many follow a similar pattern — especially within your persona groups.

Key takeaway: Buyer journeys can vary greatly from persona to persona. Use more data to answer the tough questions.

Do your systems align with the buyer journey?

Persona profiles and journey maps provide minimal value if your team lacks the right mix of tools.

What systems are mission critical for aligning around the buyer journey? Obviously, there’s no way to mention every single system in this article, but here are three of particular importance in today’s digital buying experience:

Integrated CRM

Manually entering or uploading customer lists from your operational database isn’t a viable workflow. You need a CRM that offers out-of-the-box integrations and an API that enables the free flow of customer data in a secure and scalable architecture. A well integrated CRM, or better yet, a unified sales and marketing CRM, will allow you to act on customer data. For example, you can launch customized cross-sell and upsell campaigns based on your customer behavior data and insights.

Well-Structured Analytics Platform

Most companies have a web tracking system, but, in reality, too few know how to properly utilize it. Understanding unique visitors and pageviews simply doesn’t cut it anymore. You need a finely tuned analytics platform that tracks a variety of data points for each persona. Events, goal completions, device utilization metrics, multi-channel attribution models, and custom content groupings are crucial.

Retargeting Engine

Retargeted ads can be a cost effective way to keep the right message in front of your various personas. Using retargeted ads to offer an extended trial to abandoned solopreneurs could move the needle on this month’s recurring revenue (MRR). Or, you might encourage IT directors to register for your upcoming webinar. Simply put, retargeting can be a tremendous asset for nearly every stage of the buyer journey.

Key takeaway: Technology is a critical aspect of managing the buyer journey. That being said, technology isn’t a magic wand — so be strategic.

This journey never ends

As we conclude this series, I’d like to leave you with one closing consideration: buyer journeys are constantly evolving. In other words, understanding the buyer’s journey is a journey in and of itself.

Key takeaway: Smart companies continuously monitor their buyers’ perspectives, motivations, needs, and interactions and then rapidly implement new systems and processes to ensure an optimal experience.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!