Marketers have long hung on to the idea of the marketing and sales funnel.
Marketers have long hung on to the idea of the marketing and sales funnel—the notion that effective marketing starts with a large target group and then qualifies those prospects until they turn into a few clients down through the small end of the funnel. Once you’ve made the sale, you’re done. But that’s not a great way to turn sales into more sales.
The marketing funnel approach is broken. So many buying decisions are made long before marketers become involved.
Today, we have to understand how the buyer wants to buy, and make sure our businesses intersect along that path, long before a prospect even knows he or she is looking for what we sell and long after we’ve transacted that sale.
Here’s the thing that the marketing funnel neglects to address: when it comes to lead and referral generation, a happy customer is your best tool.
You must take a different approach to sales, one that gives equal attention to building trust and delivering a remarkable experience. You need to set your business up to create the kind of momentum that comes from a beginning-to-end customer journey.
In order to apply this framework to your business, you must have a baseline measurement of how your business interacts with prospects and clients currently. By understanding how your prospective customers make buying decisions, you can construct a customer journey that guides prospects through the logical progression of buying behaviors.
Audit your touch points
The first step is to take stock of the ways that your business comes into contact with customers and prospects. Experience tells me that some of these ways are planned and scripted, while some are not. Some happen by accident, while some simply don’t happen at all. However they happen, you need to know about and review them.
For example, a very common gap exists in the transition from the sale to implementation. Marketing and sales got the order, but what happens next?
Another very common mistake is to believe that all you have to do is run ads and respond to requests. In fact, many potential buyers want hand-holding, nurturing, and follow-up in order to know you’ll deliver on your promises.
One of the hardest things for many business owners to do is to put themselves in the shoes of prospects who are considering buying a product or service. When you have more insight into these touch points and what your prospects’ and customers’ expectations are, you can adapt your business activities to meet them.
Map the customer journey
Once you have audited all of your potential touch points, it is time to map them out. You should even try to draw it out, so with each step you know from where the customer came and where the customer is going. You want your journey to make the most sense to as many potential customers as possible, and you want it to be clear so you and your team will always know what’s next. Not every customer will fit neatly on your path, but the more defined that path is, the better prepared you will be.
Be sure to focus on your customer after the sale. People expect more than just the funnel these days; you must adapt your way of thinking if you want to grow.
This article was originally published on Inc.