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Your First Step in Lead Gen Begins With Knowing Your Customer

No matter who you are, if you’re reading this we have one common goal: The need to make your lead generation strategies more effective.

Regardless if you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, your goals are to:

  • increase engagement with your prospects

  • move them through the sales funnel

  • make sure you’re communicating with them throughout the decision journey

  • ultimately get them to buy

  • retain them as loyal customers

We’ve all seen these statistics…

  • 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales. (SiriusDecisions)

  • 57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier. (CEB)

  • 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. (SiriusDecisions)

While other articles debunk these and similar findings, you need to consider the concept:

Your customers are doing a lot of their own due diligence.

Does that mean they never speak with a sales person throughout the process? Probably not. However, I’d venture to guess that the conversations are happening less often, which means you have to provide the information they need, when they need it, throughout their journey.

Whether you’re looking at your customers’ decision journey through the lens of a sales funnel, following an established journey such as the one published by McKinsey, or creating your own based on your specific target audience and vertical markets, bottom line, you need to have one.

There are many articles on lead gen and customer journeys, but in this article my goal is show the links between buyer personas, the journey and lead gen. I believe you need to have detailed buyer/customer personas to understand their journey in order to have an effective lead gen program.

Keep in mind, creating or mapping your customer’s journey is not something you can do overnight, even if you’re starting with a template. You’ll need to invest the time and resources to make sure the journey you establish is the right one for your audience. And, if you have multiple verticals and/or multiple audiences, it may be necessary to develop specific customer journeys and in turn, multiple personas.

So where to start?

My suggestion is to begin with your buyer/customer personas. Why? Because if you understand the personas of your customers, then you’ll understand their needs/wants/motivations and behaviors when it comes to your brand and product/service categories.

Also, depending on whether you’re targeting B2B or B2C, these segments will have a significant impact on both the persona and journey map you develop.

Building an effective persona involves a deep understanding of your customer or prospect, as well as the challenges the face in the market they serve. And, in most situations, you may have to turn to market research to help you uncover the insights needed in building your persona, which includes surveying existing, past and prospective customers.

When thinking about creating a B2B persona, take the following into consideration: business goals, age, job title, level within the organization, department, business duties and responsibilities, business challenges, new initiatives, issues or concerns, buying behaviors/criteria, motivations (rational and emotional), need for your particular solution and barriers versus the obstacles you need to overcome.

You must understand the motivations or triggers for your customer’s decisions throughout their buying journey. What is the hierarchy of the purchase decision? What role do they play? Does your primary contact make the decision or do they need to go up the ladder for the final decision? Or, do they conduct all of the research and develop the recommendation only to turn the final decision over to purchasing?

If you have multiple target customers with different job titles in the same or different departments you need to influence, you should have a persona for each. And, don’t forget to factor them into your customer’s decision journey.

Now what you ask?

Based on what we’ve discussed, it’s time to begin developing or mapping your customer’s decision journey. The first question to ask yourself is, how aware are your prospects of your brand, company, product or service? If you’re unknown, then you need to start the journey at the beginning, building awareness for your brand.

For example, if you’re selling in the B2B space, your prospects may start by identifying brands that meet their specific need. Then research those brands and move a select few towards consideration and evaluation before issuing an RFP.

If you’re in the B2C world, then you might follow a simpler path, focusing on building awareness/discovery, credibility, interest, consideration, evaluation and trial or buy, and then of course loyalty and advocacy.

Personally, I’d recommend having fewer steps in your journey or sales funnel. The more steps means more time for your prospect to move from awareness to purchase.

The following is just one example:

Your Customer Journey and Lead Generation Strategy

Now that you have a handle on your target customer as a result of developing various personas and have mapped out your specific target customer’s decision journey, the next step is to understand which channels of communication and touch points are best used to generate leads.

Since we understand, as a result of developing the buyer’s persona, how they like to consume information, you can now develop your communications strategies to make sure you’re providing them with the right information at each stage of their journey.

What is their preferred method of communication? Is it email, pdfs, videos, case studies, white papers, testimonials, reviews, articles, or a combination of these? Is email best at the interest or attracting stage and white papers at the evaluation or converting? Keep in mind, in addition to the channels, the depth (details) of information needed in the early stages will be different than in the later stages of the journey. So plan accordingly. The type of information that can be delivered via 140 characters is much different than a 90-second video.

Another suggestion is to ask yourself the questions your prospect might be asking themselves at the various stages. This will help you think through the types of information that might be needed. For example, during the Discovery stage, what are your competitors doing to drive engagement and build awareness? Or, at the Consideration stage, ask yourself how helpful has your company been in providing information and how easy were you to work with compared to your competitors? I’m sure your prospects are asking the same questions.

Now think about the various stages, but in terms of touch points and information you need to provide.

The following is a sample of a B2B journey:

The following represents the findings from a survey conducted among 100 CMO’s. They were asked, how much of their budget do they allocate at each stage of the funnel and what channels or touch points do they use at each stage.

Now that you have your journey all mapped out, the various touch points and the communication channels you’re going to use, how do you start the process? How do you generate the leads?

While there are lots of thoughts on this, the following are nine ideas that you might implement in your lead gen program if you’re already not doing them.

  1. Optimize Your Website for lead generation

  2. Ensure that social media buttons are visible on your website, blog, etc.

  3. Offer limited edition eBooks and white papers

  4. Use landing pages to focus a specific message, product or offer

  5. Conduct webinars on topics relevant to your niche

  6. Be consistent in your content marketing and blogging

  7. Leverage the power of video

  8. Have a strong call-to-action (CTA)

  9. Implement lead scoring using predictive analytics

Time to Begin Your Journey

Marketing has never been more challenging than in today’s world. As I wrote in a previous blog, Marketing’s Silver Bullet, I can’t think of a silver bullet that solves all of our marketing and communications challenges.

There is no one-size fits all when it comes to developing your lead gen strategies and defining your customer’s journey. It takes time and a lot of hard work to develop an effective strategy and campaign. And, it’s never a ‘one and done’ proposition, as the market is constantly changing.

Generating leads requires that you’re communicating with your prospects at the right time in their decision journey or sales funnel with the right information to help them continue to move forward. Know your customer. Their needs, wants, motivations and pain points and make sure you’re delivering the information by using the channels and tactics that not only help you reach them, but engage them too.

If you’ve not begun your journey, now’s the time. Go ahead, take the first step.

And, if you don't want to take this journey alone, we can help! Click here to book an appointment online to explore your needs or here to email me.

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