All B2B marketers talk freely about the customer journey. But do they really know where the buyer starts and where they finish?
The idea is that it ends in a sale. But the route they take, and their starting point are largely unknown. The only way we can find this out is through data that we gather about them on the way.
However, we are certain about two aspects of the buyer’s journey.
1. From ignorance to enlightenment
The customer (or prospect, at this stage) wants to make the best possible decision on what to buy and who to buy it from. This takes information, and the journey is chiefly a learning experience. The prospect is travelling from a point of (relative) ignorance to one where he or she has enough knowledge and understanding to buy effectively.
2. From stranger to customer
Again, the start point is relative, but this is how the vendor sees the journey. We want them to be increasingly familiar with our brand, aware of our strengths, and even to like us a little along the way.
These two journeys are, of course, linked. If a vendor can satisfy the prospect’s need for information, it will gradually cement the impression in his or her mind that the vendor is a company they can trust to give them a return on their investment.
The need for information is not constant or predictable. As we mentioned, every prospect has a different start point – not all are equally expert when they set off – and they often take different routes. But as they go, they will have a series of informational needs. What are the latest developments in this area? What are other companies doing? Does it fit in with my overall strategy? How much does it cost? How would it be implemented? The prospects want answers, whether from their peers, from independent experts or vendors. Meet these mini-needs with information, and you will be perfectly placed to meet the overall need that they began with – by selling them your product.
In search of the perfect customer experience
The way to meet those needs is to present the right information at the right time, whether making it easy for prospects to find it, or carefully choosing your moment to reach out and pro-actively offer your help. Yet these touchpoints are not one-way operations; information travels both ways. In fact, every one is a mini-transaction – except that the prospect is paying with data and attention instead of hard cash. So as we progress along the buyer journey we gather data that helps us to better predict and meet their information needs later down the line.
But how do we ensure the right kind of information at the right time? And how do we make use of the data we gather?
The answer is to ensure that all parts of our demand generation machinery are working together. Not just the technology, but the data, people and processes in perfect alignment. The different layers support each other, and when they are working effectively together, the end result is a customer experience that supports the prospect in the best possible way.
We call this holistic approach full stack demand generation
All B2B companies have a marketing technology stack, some more advanced and integrated than others. But most are still failing to extract the value they expected to derive from these investments and struggle to deliver the truly joined-up experiences their customers are now expecting.
This is why we argue for a vertically-integrated approach to demand generation – from the data that underpins all activity to the design of the digital and human interactions that create a great experience. Without a complete understanding of the different layers that support our customer interactions, we cannot provide the best customer experience. Opportunities will be missed, prospects will slip through the net, and investment in marketing technology will appear starkly unjustified.
See full stack demand generation in action
What are the components of the full stack?
The six layers are interdependent. A failure to understand the role of one layer will lead inevitably to overall weaknesses of the structure. The full stack can only solidly support the customer if it is carefully constructed as a whole.
Layer 1: Marketing Strategy
The over-arching strategy directs what happens in the rest of the stack. What are the business and marketing goals, and how will they be not only achieved, but also measured? This is the blueprint followed when planning and managing the other layers.
Layer 2: Human Conversations
Whether conducted by live chat or by phone, human conversations are the most visible part of the customer experience. Get it wrong and it can be damaging. But if business development reps are supported effectively by technology and data, they deliver an experience that is not only useful but memorable – and feeds more data back into the stack to refine later experiences.
Layer 3: Digital Interactions
What do prospects see when they interact with you online? You need compelling content, delivered through an intuitive user experience – with each touchpoint aligned with other channels to ensure data is leveraged and the experience is consistent and moves the prospect along.
Layer 4: Marketing Technology
What technology is going to shape the customer experience? How will you leverage the significant investment in marketing automation platforms, content management systems and CRM. Considered, carefully implemented and above all coordinated.
Layer 5: Data & Analytics
Technology is nothing without the data to direct it. And data itself is nothing without the tools and expertise to turn raw information into crucial insight. How does the data flow into the applications, and drive meaningful, timely communications?
Layer 6: People & Process
What skills are required? Are these best outsourced to a third-party, or should you keep it in-house? What impact does this have on your training and talent strategy? What operating model will you use to direct them, and what tools and templates will they need?
Full stack = complete confidence
Taking a full stack approach ensures that every piece of the puzzle will work together – which is why you need a demand generation partner who can advise on every layer. You need more than just a technology specialist, and more than just a marketing agency. But once you have the full stack working together, you can have confidence that your demand generation will be working to maximum effect and driving greatest value from your technology investments, along with the certainty that you’ll be able to measure results and scale success.