These last few weeks have taught us something about the customer journey: it’s ever-changing. What we thought was true a month ago has been completely altered, reevaluated, and, really, blown up! What we once couldn’t imagine, we now see as harsh reality. It’s difficult to navigate as the paths meander and end.
Yes, our plans have changed--by necessity. Members are in a different place than they once were, so it may seem that we must narrow our thinking. Truth is, we should expand it. Associations can and should explore new paths because paths haven’t ended...new ones have formed. And the best way to understand what is newly possible is through creating a customer journey map. Because context is everything.
You get it… Like everyone, you’re a consumer of products and services. And you’re consuming different products and services today than you might have considered even a mere week ago. Each day, choices are made, your interest is piqued or lost, the landscape around you shifts, and your needs change. So, how did that journey play out? What moved you from awareness to interest? From interest to consideration? From consideration to intent? And finally, from intent to purchase? What were the moments that prolonged your decision and what were the moments that expedited it?
If you’re an association marketer, acquiring new members and retaining your current members probably keeps you up at night. And probably now, more than ever. Or perhaps, in more typical times, your insomnia is a result of stagnant conference registration, or a new non-dues revenue initiative that is struggling to gain the traction you’d hoped for. You know that just like you, potential members are on their own multitude of journeys from awareness to decision, and all you can hope for is that your association’s value is somewhere on their radar. And that you won’t get lost or forgotten in the cacophony of messaging bombarding them. So, you’ll have to discover and account for every touchpoint on their path and, ideally, adapt your marketing efforts to serve them appropriately. Creating a customer journey map will allow you to build out effective CX strategies in each stage of their journey and get them to, “Yes!” It will also align every team within your association in a unified, experience-focused approach for developing long-term and lucrative relationships. Because, really, that’s how you remain essential--particularly in the strangest of times.
“Okay, so where do I begin?,” I hear you cry. Let’s break down the stages!
Phase 1: Awareness:
At this point, the prospect knows nothing about you. Your name might not even mean anything to them, let alone your value proposition. Important: This is NOT the time to be selling them, anything. At. All. No one really enjoys being sold to when they have no idea who you are or what the problem is that you’re purporting to solve. The only objective in this phase should be delivering useful and helpful content that engages and delights, by way of blogs, white papers, video, slideshows, op-eds, PR, etc. You’re also not likely to garner a particularly lengthy engagement at this stage, so it’s imperative that you prioritize your values for your target audience by identifying the primary pain point your association can alleviate for them. Use your data to help you decide what that actually is, and not just what you “think” it is. Find out what previous content has elicited the highest click-through rates, shares and amount of time spent engaging. Be sure to use your buyer personas to guide your tone, platforms for communication, content, and delivery strategy.
Phase 2: Interest:
You have their attention. The hardest part is over, but it’s not time to call it a day, ‘cause we’re just getting started. Once a viable prospect knows who you are and understands what you do, they’re going to want to know more. Mapping the customer journey means you know what you want them to know next. If a user makes it to awareness but does not dive deeper, data and user tracking technologies will allow you to re-target them with that “next best touch” by putting additional content in their hands, wherever they are. Whether through social media, digital display, or triggered email marketing automation, the right data and technology integrations mean you can nurture them along their journey in meaningful ways.
Phase 3: Consideration:
At this point, they’ve engaged with your content and have visited specific pages of your website that would suggest they are considering making a purchase decision. It’s likely they have a pretty good idea of what your association offers and what problems it can solve. So, what barriers are hindering their decision? The thorough persona work you did at the start of this process will really come in handy here. Use what you determined from your buyer personas and your interactions so you know what aspects of your service offerings will likely cause each persona to hesitate or waver in their resolve to move forward. What questions or concerns can you anticipate they have at this phase, and what answers and assurances do you have, to quell these incertitudes? Continue to use content and strategic communication to keep your association relevant and top of mind, while naturally overcoming any barriers by establishing trust and reinforcing your value.
Phase 4: Intent:
It’s go time! If you've put the effort, energy, and attention to detail into this then it’s bound to pay off. When done correctly, your customer journey has guided a prospect seamlessly from being completely unaware to being an optimistic new member, attendee, or buyer. The process should have accounted for, and smoothly addressed, all their concerns and led them to you as the obvious solution. You’ve done great work and, hopefully, they’re ready to commit. Whether they have shown intent by submitting a contact form, or by simply visiting the final page where a transaction would occur, users in this phase are considered “on the fence” and content should be tailored to address any final barriers, or present them with incentives such as early bird discounts.
Phase 5: Sale (aka Conversion):
Congratulations! Your carefully crafted customer journey has paid off. You’ve acquired a new member. Or, they have registered for your (now virtual?) annual conference. Perhaps they have enrolled in your CEU program. No matter what success looks like for you, in many ways the journey has just begun.
Finally, remember that your members are not stagnant and your journeys shouldn’t be either. Nothing has taught us that more than this recent global challenge. As they and the market evolve and new opportunities for engagement emerge, it’s imperative that you adapt and adjust your customer touchpoints and the strategies employed in each. This may seem daunting, but the initial lift will most likely be the heaviest. Once you’re organized and streamlined to collect and segment your data, the rest falls into place. Use consistent, relevant, and authentic communications tactics to maintain longevity and demonstrate value. Because, in the end, it’s not what you say to members, it’s what they say about you.
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