Every year, the Customer Buying Journey becomes a hotter and hotter topic of discussion within the business world. And while we, as one of the earliest proponents of and educators on the buying journey, are thrilled to see it catch on in such a big way, we also can’t help but notice two worrying aspects surrounding these conversations.
First, much of the readily available information being written and shared on the buying journey only gives a surface level explanation of this incredibly deep, rich, and integral subject matter. Second, the amount of expertise required to gain a truly comprehensive understanding of the buying journey is being woefully underestimated.
That is why we want to use our two-decades worth of buying journey research to create the best possible resource for mastering Customer Buying Journey. This article will serve as the third in a three-part series, giving in depth answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this essential business concept.
1. What is the Customer Buying Journey?
2. How Do You Map the Customer Buying Journey?
3. How Do You Manage the Customer Buying Journey?
Now, it’s time to wrap this series with how to apply this learning thus far.
What Does it Mean to Manage the Customer Buying Journey?
In part one, we discussed how today’s buyers are faced with unprecedented choice and information during their buying process. These two factors have changed the landscape of every market, as with more choice and information comes significantly more control in the buyer-seller relationship. Prospective buyers no longer depend on the seller to get offering information – and in some cases, don’t need to contact you at all to complete a buying journey.
While these circumstances may make sellers seem helpless, taking an Outside-In™ approach and managing the Customer Buying Journey leaves as little of the buying to chance as possible.
Once an end-to-end buying journey has been properly mapped, it becomes evident that specific markets, when acquiring a particular offering, buy in remarkably similar ways. Because of these similarities, sellers can create ultra-effective, repeatable strategies to manage these journeys towards more favorable outcomes.
In practice, this means forgoing an internal focus on a sales process in favor of comprehensive selling activities that support the prospect’s buying activities at each step of their buying journey. It cannot be overemphasized that these selling activities must be based on how your customers truly buy, not how you think or wish they would buy.
What is the Role of Sales and Marketing in the Buying Journey?
The new role for sales and marketing is to positively influence the Customer Buying Journey. Using the customer-centric strategy outlined above, these departments should aim to not only help the customer navigate their buying process as to not get lost or caught in the friction along the way, but also to keep the seller relevant across the entire journey.
Exerting such positive influence can be best summarized by the Selling Imperatives. These are the four, and only four, ways to impact the Customer Buying Journey:
Initiate: to motivate a buyer to start a buying journey
Expedite: to motivate a buyer to move through their buying journey quicker than they otherwise would
Complete: to motivate a buyer so that the probability of them completing their buying journey, and buying from you, increases
Augment: to motivate a buyer to invest more than they otherwise would as a result of their buying journey
How Does Organizing Around the Buying Journey Help My Business?
Though almost everyone has a generic idea of what their buyers goes through (from part one, the flawed “Awareness,” “Consideration,” “Decision” archetype), high-level journeys cannot help you create meaningful business strategies. Certainly, you need 1.) enough of a brand presence that prospects can become “Aware” of your offering, 2.) good enough features you will be “Considered,” 3.) a logistical way to purchase and deliver the offering anticipating a “Decision.” But once you’ve covered the bare minimum… then what?
You can’t complete a sale if a customer doesn’t complete a buying journey. Pseudo-steps and cookie cutter sales processes will not give you the insight or approaches to address and resolve underlying concerns slowing or stopping the journey. They will not show you how to have higher-value interactions, more productive conversations, and build stronger relationships within your unique market. Only organizing around a deep understanding of how your customers buy (and why they don’t) can help you accomplish those goals.
This is why deeply understanding the mind of the buyer remains the ultimate source of competitive advantage. It might take time and energy, but the majority of organizations have not yet leveraged it to the fullest possible extent.
What are the Results of Taking an Outside-In™ Approach?
If you are a numbers person, we’ll cut straight to the chase. Our clients see a:
12-20% increase in revenue
10%+ decrease in selling costs
15-35% increase in productive selling time
12-27% increased win ratios of late-stage opportunities
17-120% increase in average order size
What Types of Organizations and Industries Benefit Most from an Outside-In™ Approach?
Though it may sound like an exaggeration, any organization, regardless of size or industry, can benefit from taking this Outside-In™ approach.
Let’s say that you just founded a brand-new medical device start up and have successfully launched your first product or service. While you’re seeing an encouraging number of sales based off the innovative nature of your offering, what happens when you’ve passed the early adopters and enter the early majority? This is a problem we’ve seen many smaller, entrepreneurial clients face. A genuinely excellent value proposition suddenly meets unforeseen resistance.
On the opposite end, let’s say you are an established software firm with only a handful of competitors. Though you have a healthy amount of repeat business keeping you afloat, there is growing pressure from the board to increase market share. Yet despite improving your features and lowering your prices, you seem unable to break the loyalty of your competitor’s customers. What next? This is a familiar situation for our larger clients.
Both of these organizations are facing hidden friction in their respective customer’s buying journeys that cannot be pushed past by simply reinforcing value or cutting costs. Yet this is an assumption we find in every industry, with every kind of offering: “if the value is high enough and the price is right, the customer will buy.” But as customers ourselves, we know this isn’t true. Every one of us turns down great offers at great prices that could demonstrably improve our lives. This dated belief about value and price far oversimplifies the often complicated, external reality of buying.
How Can I Start Influencing the Buying Journey Today?
While many understandably want to jump ahead to the selling, these strategies should always start with the buying. That means speaking with customers to map your specific market’s end-to-end buying journey. Though some firms feel these projects should be handled in-house, if choosing a third party, we believe there’s no better company to help than Market-Partners Inc.
While there are certainly many things you already know about your market, even the most successful organizations develop incorrect assumptions and biases – sometimes overlooking the critical subtleties of the buying journey. Seeking expertise in mapping a buying journey is one of the highest return interactions your organizations can have. Market-Partners Inc. is so much more than just a fresh set of eyes. With over twenty years’ worth of experience, our clients repeatedly share that how we bring fresh insight to their sales and marketing departments. This is because we not only have the right models and methods to swiftly deliver deeper customer research than anyone else, but can bring it to life in an actionable and resonant way for any organization.
Looking for Even More on the Customer Buying Journey?
As a result of more than twenty years of research that included in-depth conversations with several thousand buyers, Martyn Lewis of Market-Partners Inc. has uncovered, defined, and documented exactly what goes on in the Customer Buying Journey.
In his book How Customers Buy …& Why They Don’t, he makes the argument that anyone wanting to sell anything in today’s business world has to start by gaining a profound knowledge of their market’s buying journey, and he provides the ingredients and recipe for mapping and managing the very DNA of a specific market’s buying journey.