Best 5 Blog Posts: Traditional Sales Funnel vs. the Customer Decision Journey

sales funnel customer decision journey CDJ“Is the traditional sales funnel dead? Is it obselete? Is there even a structure to follow anymore?”

The old sales funnel may not be recognizable, but there’s still a framework for marketers and salespeople to use as a guide. It is important to understand that the thought process a potential customer goes through is no longer one directional and linear, but rather a web of potentiality.

To start off, here is a useful tool we’ve found:

The Customer Journey to Online Purchase

And here are our pick for top 5 posts on the subject:

You Can’t Own Your Customers’ Decision Journey, But You Can Try

The Dim Light at the End of the Funnel

The Sales Funnel is Dead

The Buyers’ Journey Demystified by Forrester

Social is Responsible for 57% of Your Sales Funnel

And finally, here is our take on it:

How Social Media Affects the Customer Decision Journey

How to Check Out a Business Online

business search through social mediaWhen you need to hire a contractor or seek a partner, how do you decide which companies to consider and choose a winner? Sure, you could do a Google search and Better Business Bureau check. And those are good places to start. Still it only reveals so much about a business.

A company’s website is another useful source. But it only tells you what the company wants you to know. Many company sites read like a marketing brochure or may not provide the information you want to know.

Social media, on the other hand, tells you much more about people and companies than you can get from searching, BBB and corporate websites. The caveat is that it only works for companies with employees who are active in social media. But when they are, you can learn a lot.

Social media involves two-way conversations. How a company handles queries and interacts in social media gives you clues about its culture, customer service and personality.

You can also listen to what people say about the company and its products. What are they saying? Is it positive? Negative? Informative? Educational? Is the company responding? How does it respond? What tone of voice does it use in its replies?

Here’s what to look for to learn more about a company on social media.

Review their connections. Look for common connections between you and the company. Contact those sources for insights into the company. Is the company connected to known and respected people in its industry? Does it connect with customers, partners and employees?

Find out what kind of work the company does for clients. Use this to see if the company is connected with people in that industry or field.

For example, a company claims it has SEO expertise with a focus on helping software companies. Look to see if the company is connected to SEO and digital marketing influencers, analysts, experts, and companies. Then check the other part of the equation, which would be connections to people in the software business.

Check out their followers. Now for the flip side, who follows the company? Are there names you recognize? What kinds of people follow them? Look for thought leaders, customers, employees, and partners.

Study their interactions. Some companies never respond when they’re mentioned in social media, and that doesn’t bode well for their customer service. At a minimum, companies need to monitor, listen, and respond in social media.

What kind of interactions do they have with others? Are they being ignored? Are they ignoring others? Do they command respect? How quickly do they reply? (The faster, the better. But within 24 hours on weekdays is good.) How do they respond to problems, complaints, and other negative comments? What’s the tone of their replies?

Verify their expertise and experience. How long have they been in business? What level of expertise do they have? Studying their comments and shared sources should give you an idea if they’re beginners, intermediate, or experts in their subject matter. You can also look to see if their employees present at conferences, get quoted in respected publications, and publish articles and papers.

Look at the content they share. What kind of content are they sharing? What’s the quality of the resource? It is mostly self-serving? Do the resources indicate they have a deep understanding of the topic? Is it hype, superficial, or meaningful?

Do they share personal things? Is it too personal or does it let you get to know employees better? Do they support nonprofit or charitable organizations?

Read their recommendations and reviews. Do they have recommendations and reviews that validate their areas of expertise? What kind of recommendations do they receive? Is it lukewarm, somewhere in the middle, or enthusiastic? Who do the recommendations come from? Are any from partners, clients, and employees?

Check out the LinkedIn groups they join. What LinkedIn groups are they in? Does it make sense? Look to see if they’re in groups related to their industry, the type of work they do, and their customers. If they belong to others, what are they?

Yes, companies can edit, and even delete, what they share online. Even so, social media creates an environment that encourages people and companies to divulge their true selves, their thinking process, and their personalities. What will people learn about you and your company?

Building Trust Online: Using Social Media

building trust online social mediaBeing transparent is another important part of building trust. And social media offers a great forum for that. But what does it mean? Why is it a good thing?

Transparency means showing others who you are – by being yourself, open and honest. Your actions and communications give people a clue about your honesty and integrity. It helps them decide whether they want to do business with you.

Social media is a fantastic tool for showing people who you are.

A face-to-face (F2F) situation can only provide real-time information about someone. To get a grasp on a person’s character in a F2F situation requires watching people act and react over time. Furthermore, people can be on their best behavior for the length of a meeting.

Social media, on the flip side, has a long memory in its history of people’s actions. It’s hard to fake or be on your best behavior in your social media interactions over a long time, which means you can get a very good picture of someone pretty quickly.

Getting to know you

Others can get a bit of history by glancing at your social media profile and updates. Use that to give people insight into who you are, and make sure they see what you want to show them.

True — like in F2F — you can monitor yourself by controlling what you share online. However, the more you interact online, the more likely you’ll reveal your character traits. Staying all business all the time will have the opposite effect because there’s little personality and authenticity.

Think about a potential business that interests you. Check out the company and employees’ profiles on different social media networks to learn more about them. Then study their updates and actions for more insights. As you do this, note anything interesting so you can apply it to your own profile.

What social media updates say about you

Your social media posts allow you to show the following things about yourself and your company:

  • You’re competent in your area of expertise. You know who is worth listening to in your industry and you share high quality relevant content.
  • You’re connected. You are who you say you are, and your connections to clients, prospects, partners and influencers prove it.
  • You’re respected. Your connections interact with you and mention you to others.
  • You care about quality. You share posts about delivering great customer experiences. You also help clients and prospects by answering questions or solving a problem.
  • You show you care by giving back. You share posts about the charities and non-profits you support.
  • You’re successful. You share good news on a regular basis, without it sounding like bragging.
  • You’re proud of your business. Invite your customers to learn about your employees, processes and pricing, answer tough questions and admit difficult truths. And never, ever lie.
  • You have a personal side worth sharing. You share posts about your favorite sports team, authors, hobbies, city and local events. People buy when they feel a connection to others. Talking about things outside of business lets people get to know your personal side. Little by little, others will relate to what you share. And those connections grow.

Joining online conversations backs up your company’s claim that you’re open to feedback and criticism. Customers value this trait. Yet few companies do this. Companies don’t need to be afraid of getting caught making mistakes. Customers forgive mistakes when companies handle them quickly and aptly. Acknowledging a customer implies your company is listening, an important step in gaining trust.

When your actions show you have nothing to hide, you differentiate your company. Be open, communicate regularly and hold your company accountable. Do all this in a professional way with a touch of personality and trust will follow.

How Social Media Affects the Customer Decision Journey

Social media affects customer decision journeyMarketing’s main goal is to reach customers at the right time when they’re ready to receive the specific message. For years, they have relied on the traditional purchasing funnel that begins with the wide end of the funnel where customers search for brands that offer potential solutions.

The company does targeted marketing activities as customers move along in the funnel to shrink the number of prospects and then the funnel ends when the customer makes the purchase.

Because of the growing number of product choices and digital channels and more well-informed customers, the funnel approach doesn’t work today.

Moving from the Traditional Funnel to the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ)

This new environment requires a different approach, one that’s less linear. McKinsey calls it the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ), and assigns the following four phases. (Items in parentheses represent the comparable phase in traditional funnel.)

  • Initial consideration (awareness and familiarity)
  • Active evaluation (consideration)
  • Closure (purchase)
  • Postpurchase (none)

The CDJ works with multiple channels, multiple locations and across multiple access points, such as offline and online through smartphones, tablets and web-based. Also, communication has shifted from one-way to two-way conversation, and social media provides an effective forum for these conversations.

That said, word-of-mouth plays a bigger role – and more so as post-purchase loyalty makes up the last part of the CDJ. There are two types of loyalty: active and passive. Active loyalists advocate for a brand and recommend it to others, often through social media. Although passive loyalists simply keep using the product, they’re open to marketing messages that could convince them to change.

With its journey ending after the sale, the linear traditional sales funnel doesn’t cover communication and loyalty. The CDJ does as it loops through buy, use, buy again and tell others, or starts over.

Using Social Media with the CDJ

Social media gives marketers a way to influence prospects and clients in every phase of the journey. But that doesn’t mean they should treat all phases equally. McKinsey reports that some phases are more important than others depending on the brand, industry and type of business.

Initial consideration

Marketers targeting customers during the initial consideration phase need to build awareness and familiarity. Rather than tackling all the major social networks, marketers identify the ones their target market uses.

During this phase, customers typically review brands and offerings to figure out their needs and features. Companies support that by sharing information, educating customers, making offers, holding events and implementing other activities that help the customer to connect with the company and get to know the company better.

After connecting, the company takes steps to stay in touch on a regular basis because repetition breeds familiarity and comfort.

For example, a marketing automation company using Twitter could tweet links to resources to help customers learn more about marketing automation. This could be links to the company’s blog posts, webinars and other non-company resources on the topic. They also share short tips on what to consider when buying marketing automation. Employees can also search for questions they can answer and act as helpful experts.

In LinkedIn, the company details its products and services on its company page. It can also invite targeted connections to sign up for an email newsletter to put prospects on their mailing list for regular communication. Take care to provide useful information without over-promoting the company’s products.

Active evaluation

During this phase, customers have a list of potential brands they want to evaluate. They’ll be looking for reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from colleagues. They also consider past experiences and their interactions with employees and representatives from the brands they’re considering. Social media excels here as it provides a forum for companies to interact with clients and prospects.

Traditional marketing still applies, but marketers have to work harder to influence the consumer-driven touch points of word-of-mouth and reviews. Another important activity is monitoring social media for mentions of the company and its competitors. Responding to these conversation starters – positive, neutral and negative – allows the company to engage with the public where prospects can learn from those interactions.

Closure

Social media doesn’t have a role in this phase especially for B2B and services-oriented companies as the conversations from the previous phases will lead to closure.

Post-purchase

For this phase, marketers expend energy in building loyalty and continuing efforts to expose the customer to the company. Loyalty is about engaging, creating great customer experiences and showing they matter to you – all while making it easy for customers to share.

One way to do that is create a LinkedIn group or customer service forum to build a community where customers can help each other with the product or service, share experiences and post enhancement suggestions.

Collecting reviews and testimonials is also a factor in this phase. LinkedIn company pages let people post testimonials by product or service. When the timing is right, the company can request testimonials from customers. For instance, after you’ve delivered your product or completed a service, send an email to clients asking about their experience with your product or service and what you can do to better serve them. Add a link to your LinkedIn products page where they can post it. Or use it as a quote in a blog post and other places online.

Putting the CDJ Approach to Work

Marketers need to evaluate their touch points to determine which requires more focus. No longer is the focus on the beginning and end of the funnel. Companies doing that will miss opportunities to connect with and influence clients especially in postpurchase phase.

Remember different phases have different levels of importance based on the company and industry. This along with their lead generation strategy, companies determine where they should spend more or fewer resources in supporting the customer’s journey to maximize social media and build trusted relationships. Marketers must map their process and messaging to each stage of the CDJ to ensure they reach the right customers, address pain points, and do it in the right phases to influence them to take the next step.

Buyers are more informed and have more control of the buying process. Social media connects you with those buyers allowing you to provide them with what they need in their journey.

Need help? There are so many more ways you can empower your CDJ with social media than we covered in this blog post. If you’d like more information on nurturing and generating leads with social media, schedule a 20-minute consult. No cost, no obligation and no pressure.

Social Media Tools for Financial Advisors

Many financial advisors remain understandably leery about using social media especially in the face of regulatory compliance. However, they may be losing out on opportunities. According to the Cogent’s research report, “Social Media’s Impact on Personal Finance and Investing,” one-third of affluent investors use social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Time to Change Opinion on Social Media?

Furthermore, the report states that nearly 70 percent of investors have reallocated investments, or started or change relationships with advisors based on content found through social media. And FINRA has issued several notices clarifying the rules for advisers using social media. Advisors will be hard-pressed to find reasons not to investigate social media. Don’t know where to start? Begin with Three social media guidelines for financial advisors.

One of the more important factors is the ability to archive all online conversations. Social media management firms, social CRM and message archiving technology from the following companies will help advisors satisfy the requirement. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Actiance

Actiance’s compliance management platform helps manage organization’s real-time communication, collaboration and social networking to ensure they meet regulatory requirements. Actiance includes audit trails, real-time content review and secure archiving for all communications channels.

RegEd

RegEd Arkovi Social Media Archiving platform archives email, social media communications and YouTube, including profiles, company pages, comments by everyone — not just the employees, likes and so on. RegEd supports Google Apps, Office 365 and offers on-demand audit reports and search exports. The company also has various compliance and risk management tools and training.

erado

Designed for FINRA and SEC compliance among others, Erado’s suite of products review content in real time and near time, and capture, archive, secure and encrypt electronic communications, such as email, social media activities and instant messaging. The company also helps with developing a corporate compliance policy and provides disaster recovery services.

hearsay

Hearsay Social Compliance Solution captures and archives all social communications across devices, locations and access points. The platform continuously monitors all content in real-time for instant remediation. Hearsay’s dashboard consists of pre-approval workflow, real-time alerts, supervision and approval trails and infraction resolution.

smarsh

Smarsh hosted email archiving and compliance platform captures and archives every email and internal message, and includes search, supervision and on-demand export features. Smarsh’s Virtual Compliance Officer for electronic message supervision activities is integrated with the company’s hosted message archiving platform. This tool searches all communications and takes action based on customized policies.

socialware

Socialware software and services helps organizations use social media securely and stay within compliance on the corporate network and mobile devices. Socialware Compliance lets organizations define and automate social media compliance policies and create workflows and processes.

Before You Invest in Social Media Tools …

Most of these companies state that technology also needs people, processes, policies and strategies. Organizations can’t rely on technology alone for complying with regulation requirements and benefiting from social media and other communications. Any company that says otherwise is probably one to avoid.

Social media has one advantage over other modes of communication: online technology. Because of this, everything said and done in social media is stored. This makes the data searchable, trackable and reportable. Again, technology doesn’t cover everything. Financial advisors need to be educated and incorporate social media strategy into the business strategy.

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  • Why this Blog?

    I have been running a marketing and PR firm since 1994. I love marketing and I love helping people grow their businesses. This blog lets me share what I've learned about marketing to help you generate more leads and sales for your company.
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