Walk a few miles in your customer’s shoes

I did a great exercise with a corporate client this week, that I thought would work equally well for any small business. It’s simple, it’s quick and it can shed …

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28th September 2007 at 9:40 am

I did a great exercise with a corporate client this week, that I thought would work equally well for any small business. It’s simple, it’s quick and it can shed real light on the kinds of different marketing messages you can think about developing. . .

Map your customer journey

It’s called mapping your customer journey to see where and when your communications touch him or her – and it allows you to think about the desired effect each layer of communication needs to have in order to be effective.

Start with a big sheet of paper and draw a vertical line down the left hand side. Draw your customer at the top and put a number 1 at that end of the line. At the bottom of the line put a number 10. This is your customer’s journey. At 1 he knows nothing about you. At 10, you’re successfully selling to him and starting to figure out how to manage an on-going relationship with him.

Now split the remainder of your sheet into two big columns. In the first, brainstorm all of the communications (planned and unplanned) that currently touch your customer as they move along their journey. To give you a starter, there’s probably stuff like your web site, maybe brochures and mailers, emailers, letters that you send out. Towards the bottom there may be meetings, bespoke presentations and proposals. If you’re marketing hard, there may be some PR and events stuff in there. And don’t overlook the face to face contact you have, through meetings and networking etc – as your very own talktrack can be one of the most powerful elements of your marketing mix.

If column number one is looking busy. Well done you! But if it’s looking a bit sparse – it’s time to fill in column 2. The way you’d like things to look in a perfect world. To help you figure out what kind of activity might fit where, along the line, imagine this. . .

As your customer travels along, you need to move him through the following stages:

Awareness: If he’s never heard of your product or service, he surely won’t buy from you. So how can you get your name known, for the right reasons?

Interest: How can you begin to engage him? How can you connect with his needs as a consumer and make your product or service offer relevant in his world?

Desire: How can you convert that engagement into an active want or need for your product or service? How can you present a compelling arguement that makes purchase an imperative?

Action: Wanting simply isn’t enough. How can you drive the action that makes Mr Customer pick up the phone or walk into your shop with wallet in hand, ready to do business?

Fill in column 2 and you have your communications wishlist. Of course some elements of this mix could be quick wins, others are unlikely to be conceived and delivered in the short term. But simply completing the exercise should deliver a healthy perspective on your customer mindset and the different jobs your marketing has to do.

(The Awareness/Interest/Desire/Action model, was one of the first – and only – models drummed into me as I trained to be a writer. I’m not sure where it originates, but even in structuring a single piece of advertising text, it still works well. Thanks AIDA, you’ve served me well!)

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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