Four Ways to Adapt to the New Customer Journey

Four Ways to Adapt to the New Customer Journey

Once upon a time, the customer journey used to have a clear beginning, middle and end and most customers followed a similar path. Times have changed, however, and the “traditional customer journey” no longer exists.

Today, the path a customer takes to get to your business is unpredictable. The steps between awareness and purchase are many and varied, and they often loop back on each other. People might come across you on their phone at 3:00 a.m., dismiss you while reading reviews on their laptop, only to rediscover you again while scrolling through their news feed on their tablet, and so on.

So the question remains, how can small businesses adapt and continue to succeed given the unpredictable nature of the new customer journey?

1. Be Everywhere Your Customers Are

Easier said than done, but still essential. You need to be where your customers are looking to interact with you to even get them started on the journey to choosing your business.

But don’t get preoccupied with being everywhere all at once. With options ranging from the digital (email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, paid search, etc.)  to more traditional mainstays, such as print, radio, television, and outdoor display ads, actually being everywhere isn’t realistically an option for a majority of small businesses. What you need to determine is which channels yield the highest returns with your audience and focus your efforts and budget there.

2. Test, Test, and Test Some More

How do you know if what you’re doing is working, or if something needs a change? Adopt a test-and-learn mentality that allows you to invest in your most successful endeavors, as well as kill off the initiatives that aren’t working. Don’t get too attached to individual strategies, let them prove their worth, and when they stop working, ditch them and move on to testing another approach.

3. Have a Connected Mindset

This is often the most difficult and involves working across platforms and mediums to arrange all the parts of your digital marketing so that they work together, instead of separately.

If you update your logo, it needs to be reflected everywhere your logo appears, not just on your business card. When people visit your website, you need to retarget them with ads on social. If someone were to leave you a review, it needs to show up on your website.

Since people will interact with your business across many touchpoints, and they determine their own path to purchase, your business needs to be able to share the relevant data across all your marketing channels to get the best return on investment.

4. Keep an Open Mind

This is a quickly changing space, and there are a lot of transformative shifts underway. Remember, just because it’s worked for you in the past, doesn’t me it is going to work for you in the future.

An always-evolving mindset is crucial to keep up. Be flexible and let the results drive your decisions, the numbers don’t lie.

Your Business Might Be Online Without You Knowing It

Your Business Might Be Online Without You Knowing It

Your small business may have a big footprint online

Lots of small businesses still rely entirely on “traditional” advertising, using old-school marketing like print directory ads, direct mail, coupons – and yes, business cards and letterhead. Plenty of small businesses continue to get new, local customers using tried-and-true methods that have worked for years…so it could be easy to think there’s no need to take your business into “the digital age.”

But you might be surprised to know that even if you haven’t started adding digital — a website, pay-per-click search ads, or online display ads — to your marketing plan, there’s a very good chance that your business is already online.

Really… and that could be a problem.

If you don’t have a plan to take over ownership of “autogenerated” online listings, profiles and reviews for your business, you have no idea if the information about you is correct. You’re missing opportunities to accurately inform your customers, win new customers and spread the word about all the great work your local business does.

Search engine listings

Google, Bing and Yahoo can all create business listings for your business. Search engines pull data from multiple sources to automatically create listings – and they don’t always update them. If you’ve recently changed your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, or even overhauled your menu…you may have autogenerated listings that give your customers the wrong information. Nothing will send your customers to a competitor faster than a wrong number, or trudging out for an in-store visit an hour after you’ve closed!

Social media

Facebook can automatically create Pages for businesses that haven’t created their own. If no one else is managing this Page, you can request to claim it (and you can merge it with an “official” Page you set up too). But who knows what’s appearing on that automatic Page before you found it, or while you wait to verify your ownership and claim it?

And don’t forget about the negative perception an empty, autogenerated Page can create. Your customers may wonder:

  • “Are they still in business?”
  • “Is this the right Page? Or is their other Page the ‘official’ one?”
  • “If they aren’t managing their social media presence…will they respond to emails? Will it be hard to work with them on my terms?”

Review sites

And we do mean “sites” plural. From Yelp to Google+ and so many more, there are plenty of places for happy (and unhappy!) customers to leave reviews for your business. Without access and a plan to address bad reviews, thank customers for good reviews and publish positive reviews on your own, can your business afford to let bad reviews sit online for all to see?

Perception plays an important role here too. Online reviews are more popular – and more trusted – than ever:

  • 91% of consumers read online reviews of local businesses*
  • 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations*

Don’t forget your domain name

If you haven’t claimed yourbusinessname.com yet, there’s a chance that someone else can (or already did). And once you’re finally ready to make the leap to online marketing, you may have to pay more than you expect to buy that domain from them – or settle for a runner-up URL.

Get your business online on your terms

Whether you’re seeing listings, social profiles or reviews for your business that you don’t control, or you’re not seeing them yet, there’s no time like the present to make sure you control your business online. While offline marketing may be driving enough business to you today, you can’t afford to let the negative impact of “out of control” online profiles hurt your business tomorrow.

*BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey, 2016