Reverse-Engineering the Customer’s Journey

Question: How do you lead prospects from unique markets and industries down a buyer’s path to a purchase? Answer: You reverse-engineer the customer’s journey. It’s actually a straightforward process of delivering value along the customer’s path when you position your brand, products and services according to their vertical market.

In a previous article, I shared the value of building a customer journey map. In this article, the emphasis is placed upon how to reverse-engineer the process and insert lead magnets to drive interest, add high-value timed offers to build upon interest and take leads through specific conversion funnels for capturing new leads, engaging active leads and converting those leads into clients.

As with most of the articles here, this one has church buyers in mind, but the principles apply directly to any other vertical market.

Start With the Destination

Each potential new client has a preferred future state where they want to see themselves. This is not the same place you want them to be (which is purchasing and using your products/services). The customer doesn’t think like you do, seeing themselves as the buyer of gear; instead, they see how their problems are solved, pain is alleviated or new possibilities realized. This will involve technology, but the technology is not the tail wagging the proverbial dog.

The difference in perspective between how the client sees their preferred future and how you see their future is of utmost importance. Where a lighting manufacturer might see a replacement of fixtures as a nice user story case study, the client will see a new level of possibilities for their venue. And where a video manufacturer could see the integration of a complete production system using their gear throughout, the client will see how their system will operate seamlessly so that their production value is increased and ease-of-use is better for their staff. And so it goes, with each client thinking about how their lives will be better when they solve their problem or create the new opportunity to meet their needs. This has less to do with the features, benefits, options or the price of the technology and more to do with aligning your technology to their desired outcomes.

The animated GIF above illustrates how to think through the reverse-engineering marketing for the Customer Buying Journey.

Starting with the destination at the end of a buyer’s journey will properly position you, the AV manufacturer or systems integrator, for exceeding the customer’s expectation. Think like the client. Then, take it a step further and consider how many other clients from their vertical market will also think along the same lines. That’s the beginning of a truly effective customer journey map.

Pick Just One Conversion Journey

Thinking like a potential client continues as we reverse-engineer the entire customer buying journey, as not all leads are at the same place on the journey. There are three main conversion types for any client: conversion from self-educating to self-qualifying, conversion from passive to active in engagement and the conversion from interest to purchase.

In old-school marketing, the idea of a conversion rate was focused on many different steps. This led to measuring the conversion for email open rates, the conversion for email or advertising click-through rates and a bunch of other ‘conversion’ types. The reality is that while there is some minimal value in seeing these early patterns, what matters most is converting from a prospect to a lead, from a passive lead to an active lead and from a lead to a client. By focusing on those three main types of conversions, we help build out a customer journey with greater intentionality and an improved chance of higher conversion rates.

A customer journey map will include points along the journey for each type of conversion path. Early on prospects go from self-educating to self-qualifying. Prospects move from passive to active leads in engagement midway through their journey, and the conversion from interest to purchase is at the end of the buyer’s journey.

As we reverse-engineer the customer journey map, we add in lead magnets and high-value timed offers.

Lead Magnets

Converting website visitors, social media link follows, or even digital advertising click-throughs into a lead require capturing some bit of information about the person. Often, a lead magnet will create an incentive for the prospect (a person who you don’t have any identifying information about) to give you some way to contact them. In most cases, this looks like providing some artifact of value (such as a white paper, case study, or webinar registration) in exchange for at least an email address.

The purpose of a lead magnet is two-fold: first, identify the prospect so that you can communicate with them (using opt-in, with permission); second, begin building out a digital profile over time (this requires some level of marketing automation, which I’ve covered in previous articles).

During their buying journey, leads most often become clients when a threshold of trust has been built between them as the buyer and you as the solution provider. Lead magnets, therefore, are stepping stones to building trust and, as such, should be created and promoted as helpful educational content artifacts to address pain points and build confidence in your brand and your offerings.

Lead magnets succeed when they are designed specifically for a vertical market segment. For example, church leads will have different needs than corporate or education leads, so each lead magnet (and all subsequent marketing deliverables and artifacts) should be customized to each vertical market.

High-Value Timed Offers

Advertisers love to use timed offers, some of which can be quite annoying. However, the idea we’re talking about here is not to pressure a lead into an immediate action, but instead to add a sense of urgency for high-value opportunities.

For example, if you have a new product launch and want to help identify which of your current prospects and leads are in a buying mode, adding a timed offer for an optional accessory or additional component can often drive those near-term sales when the offer is of sufficiently high value. If they take you up on the offer and the product/service offered isn’t worth it to them, they will not likely continue on the buying journey with you but move on to a competitor.

Another example is for a webinar aimed at vertical markets. Around 80 percent of the content in the webinar is nearly identical for each vertical market. This is because your solution is designed to fit into certain contexts which often span many markets. The remaining 20 percent of the webinar content must be high-value, client-focused, vertical market designed. So in the case of a webinar, 80 percent of the slides are going to be the same, but 20 percent will focus on how a pain is alleviated, a problem is solved or an opportunity is created using specific examples of the vertical market. Having a vertical market expert on the webinar would further add to the high-value offer, so driving webinar registrations within a limited time can create scarcity, encourage sharing by leads to their peers or decision-makers and ensure the expert guest has an audience.

High-value timed offers must actually be of high-value (and value is more than price point) and the timed offer should be reasonable for the product or service offered to get approval and a purchase order submitted once the offer has been made, so plan your timed offers accordingly.

Build a Vertical Path

When you see through the client’s eyes and position your brand, products, and services according to their vertical market, the buyer’s journey is simplified and expedited, which becomes evident when reverse-engineering the customer’s journey.

Building a vertical market path will have significantly higher sales conversions. However, building a generic path using lead magnets to drive interest, add high-value timed offers to build upon interest and take leads through specific conversion funnels will yield lower results even with those best-in-class marketing tactics because the client’s story arc is missing. The pain points, problems to be solved and opportunities should reflect the buyer’s journey in their vertical market in order to maximize the ultimate conversion rate from leads to clients.