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Marketers everywhere are scrambling to develop content and leverage the myriad of channels as a way to reach and connect with prospects and customers. Just like Sales, Marketing is responsible for managing a predictable, reliable demand generation pipeline with a plan that ultimately produces higher value opportunities and maximizes revenue.

Here’s the kicker, if we focus on producing content without taking the customer buying process into consideration our efforts may be for naught. Content delivered in the right channel at the wrong time can be a wasted touch point. It’s critical to synchronize mix and content with the customer buying journey and lifecycle.

Improve Customer Engagement and Experience By Syncing Content, Touch points and Channels

Synchronize your content with the customer buying journey to optimize Marketing.

Content Marketing and Customer Behavior

It’s often been said that today’s customers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to selecting a supplier. Certainly customers have more choices, more control, and more ways to connect and access information. As a result, marketers need a new way to attract and retain customers. Enter content marketing. Content marketing aims to create and curate relevant and valuable content that will change, enhance, and drive customer behavior. The basic idea of content marketing is to deliver information that makes your buyer more intelligent. As a result marketers everywhere are scrambling to develop content and leverage the myriad of channels as a way to reach and connect with prospects and customers.

Here’s the kicker, if we focus on producing content without taking the customer buying process into consideration our efforts may be for naught. Content delivered in the right channel at the wrong time can be a wasted touch point. Content marketing is not the same as running a campaign. Content marketing looks more like publishing, where you serve as the architect of useful and compelling information that will inform, educate, engage and entertain customers and prospects. Content marketing is part of the marketing mix, not a substitute for it.

An essential part of the equation is to match marketing content with the customer buying journey and lifecycle. Too few marketers have mapped their customer’s buying journey, moved from profiles to personas, and clearly understand their customer’s lifecycle. Because it is more cost effective and profitable to keep a customer than to acquire one, then it is important to know both the buying journey as well as the customer lifecycle.

Start with the Customer Lifecycle and Buying Journey

One common definition of customer life cycle is “the progression of steps a customer goes through when considering, purchasing, using, and maintaining loyalty to a product or service.” The key point is to recognize that the lifecycle defines an ongoing relationship and continuous dialogue.

Forrester defines the customer life cycle as, “The customers’ relationship with a brand as they continue to discover new options, explore their needs, make purchases, and engage with the product experience and their peers.”

We believe that the traditional approach to the pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Demand, Action —or the more modified version of this pipeline — Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase —is outdated. Why? Because customers are no longer passive recipients or a sidelined spectator.

In today’s environment, customers are actively engaged in the buying process, leveraging a mix of vehicles from search engines to customer generated blogs and reviews, from online communities to social networks, and from broadcast to personalization designed to create engagement and enhance experience. Therefore, how we approach, define and leverage the pipeline must also change.

Marketing and Sales teams have tried to tackle the change by jointly defining what a qualified lead is. This is working for some companies but not all. Why? We have to change how we think about the customer engagement process, not just our terms.

One of the best ways to change our thinking is to alter the language we use to define and describe the customer buying pipeline.  However just addressing our thinking is not enough in the complex, multi-touch, digital marketing world we live in. In addition to shifting the paradigm it is critical that we store all of the information coming in from our customers and prospects so we can track and measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts, and the best place to do this is in your CRM system.

Perhaps this six step idea of how customers engage will strike a chord with you and will more accurately reflect how Marketing can measure its contribution. These six steps are:

. Contact

. Connect

. Conversation

. Consideration

. Consumption

. Community

These may seem like a new twist on an old idea, but language matters. These labels aren’t about what we do TO a prospective customer, but rather what we do WITH them. These revised labels suggest collaboration between the buyer and your company. Another key difference from the traditional approach is that these labels are behavioral in nature. This makes it easier to define what behaviors for each measurable stage you want to be able to affect and measure.

Six Customer Engagement Behaviors: The Six C’s

Together, these steps create the string or series of behavioral events most prospects exhibit on their way to becoming and remaining a customer. Let’s briefly examine each of these.

Contact

While awareness is an important factor, what really matters is establishing contact. Prospects may be cognizant of your company and its products and services but until they demonstrate some degree of interest, you may be wasting time and money. Making contact means you need more than a vague idea of the market or customer set, you must have actual contact information. For some organizations, they are just beginning to build their contact database. For others, they have an extensive existing contact database they may be adding to and maintaining.

For most companies, though, this information is stored in their CRM systems, which if set up properly tracks every single customer or prospect you are engaging with.  CRM systems, such as salesforce.com, are the basis for all Sales and Marketing campaigns so when getting ready to contact the people in your database you need to make sure you have a well thought out lead and contact lifecycle built to capture all this contact information.  If your response lifecycle is constructed properly you can “count” the number of people who gave you their contact information and permission to contact them.

Connect

With contact made the next thing is to connect. What is the difference between a contact and a connection? A contact is an observable signal of hello from a person; it doesn’t mean they are eager to get to know you better. A connection suggests at least the virtual exchange of a handshake and the establishment of some type of rapport. You can approach measuring Marketing’s impact on creating connections in much the same way as we measured contacts: the number of connections made, the cost to acquire and maintain, and the rate of conversion from connection to conversation. We’ll be able to use a version of these metrics for each step.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell how deep a well is by measuring the length of the pump handle. That is, just because the connection has been made, doesn’t mean you have a customer or even someone who is inclined to engage in a conversation beyond the casual and polite visit to borrow a thing or two or yack about the weather. It’s about becoming a follower — downloading material from your website, signing up for your newsletter, participating in your webinars, etc. This is why the conversation stage is so important. This is the first stage that truly signals more than a passing interest.

Connection is perhaps the most important stage to track when measuring you marketing.  From a metrics perspective the connection is all about who responded to your campaigns – how many hand raises each campaign produced, how every Marketing campaign contributes to the Sales pipeline of your company, etc.  For this to be as effective as possible tracking the results of these connections in salesforce.com (or whatever CRM solution you use) is very important because it keeps Sales and Marketing on the same page and gives everyone context for the conversation that is about to start.

Conversation

Now we’re talking! That’s the best way to describe the conversation stage. There’s a flow of information back and forth between prospects/customers and you. Both parties are engaged. This is where the rubber meets the road. You cannot acquire a customer that requires a considered purchase without a conversation or series of conversations. Once the conversation is in play, the next step is consideration.

Consideration

We must understand the difference between a conversation and consideration. Just because we have a conversation in play with a customer doesn’t mean you have a qualified opportunity that is seriously considering purchasing from you. Consideration involves customers/prospects applying careful thought to your offer and company and weighing their options. Different marketing vehicles, such as customer references, case studies, and third party white papers, will be deployed at this stage to help the customer/prospect build preference and predisposition toward your offering. At this stage it is possible to determine whether you have an opportunity worthy of sharing with sales.

Time is money so in addition to measuring the time it has taken to move a contact to this stage you can begin to quantify the value of the opportunity as well. We can measure Marketing’s financial contribution to the pipeline.  One of the best ways to quantify Marketing’s contribution to the pipeline is by leveraging weighted campaign influence as opposed to traditional Marketing ROI.  Weighted campaign influence enables marketers to attribute multiple campaigns to every opportunity but also assign different campaigns certain weights, because it is highly unlikely that every campaign touch played the same role in creating an opportunity.  Check out Full Circle CRM’s description of campaign influence to learn a little more about this metric.

Consumption

Even though the opportunity has now moved to the domain of Sales, Marketing still plays a role in converting the opportunity from consideration to a contract to consume or an actual consumption of the product or service. And upon consumption, Marketing can now measure the overall conversion rate, and time, the cost from contact to customer, the cost to acquire, and Marketing’s “win” rate (how many of the Marketing opportunities closed and how this rate compares to the win rate of non-Marketing generated deals).

Leveraging your CRM solution to track your company’s Marketing funnel is a great way to concretely track this.  For example, you can set up reports on your Sales, Telesales, and Marketing funnels inside of salesforce.com to see the results of the handoff between Marketing and Sales as well as the volume, conversion rates, and velocity of leads generated from your campaigns.  You can see where Marketing is effective and where it can be improved.

Community

It would be a shame to stop investing in a relationship that has just begun. A customer is your most important asset. Customers are also your most important advocates. In the world of customer generated content, blogs, social networks, and product reviews, marketing organizations need to focus on developing their customer community, the final C in the pipeline. There are numerous ways to build this community, such as using Facebook and LinkedIn or other social networks to create a means for your customers to engage with you and each other. Hopefully these six key measurable stages for developing, implementing and measuring Marketing’s contribution to the opportunity pipeline offer you a valuable approach for understanding how to measure the engagement of your customers. It also enables a more collaborative conversation with marketing and sales. With a new year on the horizon, now is the time to revisit how you frame your pipeline.

See part one of this conversation at the Full Circle CRM Blog

 

Customer Engagement Stages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you use this concept or another, the premise of the customer lifecycle is the same: capture potential and existing customers’ attention, preference, purchase, and loyalty.

As marketers, we can and must understand the customer buying journey and use the customer lifecycle as the basis for every marketing investment decision we make that is designed to acquire, retain, upsell, cross-sell, and create customer advocates. If you serve more than one market or region, and your product requires a consultative approach, it’s very likely that you will have multiple customers and will therefore need to map multiple buying journeys and lifecycles.

Only by understanding the customer the buying process and lifecycle, can marketers make better decisions about the additional marketing investments of time, people, and cash on existing customer-targeted efforts. Armed with this foundation, you can develop content that delivers high quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers in the right channel at the right time to drive profitable customer action.

Examples to bring this point home. Let’s say you currently market and sell a technology product to IT buyers and decision makers in the federal government. Your research suggests that there may be a strong growth opportunity in the Emergency 911 system – a quasi-government system. If you didn’t map the customer buying journey, you might assume that the buying process for the Emergency System was the same as for any other government agency. And you might also assume that the profile of the IT buyer at these sites would be the same as the IT buyer at the agency. Only by mapping the buying process would you learn that these are two very different personas and two different buying processes with different marketing content implications. White papers and trade shows may be far more important in the early stages of the agency buying process, while webinars and videos of the system in use are more important in the early stages of the buying process for the emergency services sites.

Like this approach?  Learn more in our free white paper Don’t Waste Your Bullets white paper for more about the Six C’s of Customer Engagement.

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