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We will need a map on this journey

Building a data-driven growth engine doesn't start with data or tech, but with a deep understanding of the customer and their journey.
Gary Schwake
In this roundup, we've collected several great resources on how customers buy and how you can leverage a deeper understanding of modern consumer behavior.
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How does your customer buy?

This is one of those questions that we all think we can answer easily. But when we talk with mid-market CMOs and other leaders (especially in B2B businesses), the answer is typically presented in terms of the traditional sales funnel. Leads > Sales > Opportunities > Various Stages of Selling > Closed/Won. But in reality, this is your selling process—it doesn't tell us anything about how how the customer buys your product or service.

As you know by now, we at Yield are big on fundamentals. Mapping the customer journey, from the customer's perspective, is critically important to the success of any data-driven growth engine. It sets the North Star against which all other decisions are made.

Mapping the customer journey, however, has gotten incredibly complex. The articles and posts below provide several key elements to help you get started. Trust us, it is worth the effort.

The Evolution of Consumer Behavior in the Digital Age

• Author: Bill Hsu, CEO and Chief Data Scientist at Humanlytics

What is this about?
We constantly talk about the future of growth and technology, but knowing our history gives us important context for how the customer journey has evolved. Bill Hsu provides one of the most concise overviews of the shifts in buyer behavior as a result of digital.

Why does it matter?
Intuitively we know that the buyer journey has changed, yet we continue to design it as a linear, sequential flow. Why is that? Largely because it is much easier to program and match to our internal marketing & sales funnel(s). But that in no way helps us understand how the customer evaluates products / services for purchase and that is the key to unlocking scalable growth.

How can you apply it?
Bill presents a few key points that you can incorporate immediately:

  1. He references a model by McKinsey that describes a “consideration set,” a group of products / services that the buyer is evaluating to solve a problem. We tend to think of the buyer journey as focused on buying our product, but the reality is they don’t really care about our product at all, they are simply looking for a solution to meet their needs and are simultaneously considering a “basket” of alternatives. Therefore, consider how you can facilitate this evaluation to remove friction from the process.
  2. Another model, also by McKinsey, describes the “accelerated journey” of the buyer. Contrast this with the typical Marketing > Sales process, where we ask the buyer to fill out a form to access information (white paper) or request a demo. We then tell them that “someone from sales will contact you soon.” Does that process meet the buyer when and where they want to be? Start small by considering how you can push information that is traditionally delivered in the sales process out to buyers when and where they want it.

There is one major point on which we disagree with Bill, and that is to invest in “machine learning and artificial intelligence platforms … for non-technical marketers.” For 99% of companies, that is a pipe dream. Not because these tools aren’t available, but because they only work if you have a clean, integrated data layer. Be honest, it is not likely you have this. Start with the fundamentals.

According to Medium, this post will take about 8 minutes to read.

Read the full post by clicking here.

What Is Your Customer's Pathway? Mapping Customer Journeys

• Author: Eric Dodds, Founding Partner at Yield Group

What is this about?
If Bill Hsu’s article is 101 material for the customer journey, this article from one of Yield’s Founding Partners, Eric Dodds, is a 201 or 301-level course. He digs deep into examples of the complexity of the customer journey (including a real example from his last company), then gives a detailed explanation of the technical challenges of building a complete customer journey map with data. The overall picture can be overwhelming, but the article ends with practical advice for where to start today (hint: it’s a whiteboard).

Why does it matter?
Talking about the customer journey in theory helps inform the way we think about our work, but the true challenge in any organization comes when we try to turn that theory into reality to create a better customer experience. Your job as a growth leader is to understand the complexity of the journey, then bring together the data, teams and tools from across the organization to optimize it.

How can you apply it?
Eric offers clear, specific next-steps for anyone thinking, “We haven’t even scratched the surface on this stuff. Where do I even start?” He also gives a helpful overview of the most common ways we see companies use software to visualize the customer journey...including the trusty old spreadsheet.

This is more of a deep-dive guide than a blog post. All-in it will take about 20 minutes to read, so we’d recommend using the table of contents at the top to jump to the section that’s most relevant or interesting to you.

Read the full post by clicking here.

The New Customer Journey Maze: 5 Implications for Marketers

• Author: Kim Whitler, Former CMO and Assistant Professor at the Darden School of Business (UVA)

What is this about?
Kim references research by Gartner that reveals that the typical B2B buyer journey is not at all linear, but an “unobservable maze.” CEB (a division of Gartner) created a graphic on this maze that is so telling that we include it below:

Why does it matter?
"Sales is just another information delivery channel." This point is huge and supports one of our core beliefs that "marketing is eating sales." Why do we believe that? Because research shows that up to 85% of a customer’s decision making process is made before they ever talk to sales. If you are still relying predominantly on sales for growth, you are forcing your buyer into a process that does not align with how they prefer to find solutions and is therefore filled with friction.

How can you apply it?
A majority of organizations still operate marketing and sales separately and that will increasingly become a limiter of growth. Unifying marketing and sales is no small (or quick) task, but this article should inspire practical ideas on how you can take steps towards “customer enablement.”

If no one has ever mapped the journey across sales and marketing for a unified view, take the initiative and start the conversation. Further, if you’re on the marketing side, how can you provide more value to sales with data? If you’re on the sales side, what data could you provide to marketing to give them even more insight into the customer?

This post gets straight to the point, so you can get through it in 3-4 minutes.

Read the full post by clicking here.

Click here if you are interested in learning how Yield Group can help you accelerate revenue by helping you design, implement and optimize a data-driven growth engine.

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