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The 9 Steps of the Customer Value Journey

By Andrew on August, 28 2020

Welcome to our step-by-step guide for defining the customer value journey and understanding the phases that attract, engage, convert, and retain your customers. This short handbook provides all the insight you need into the customer value journey, where you’ll learn how to grow your audience relationships from initial brand awareness to active engagement and turn visitors into customers and brand advocates. We’ll also outline all the ways you can excite, surprise, and delight them on the road to establishing a genuine, lasting loyalty.

Understanding these steps can help your marketers improve their conversations with customers, as well as inform and improve their content and messaging. It helps your sales team understand what’s influencing your customers. And, most importantly, it helps your customer success team keep your customers happy. 

 

Below we take a deep dive into how to position your brand and the actions you can take along the customer value journey as you go from introducing your brand to establishing repeat customers and active, loyal brand promoters.

1) AWARENESS

It all starts with creating awareness.

 

But what exactly does this mean? At its most basic, this means showing up in search results. This is the very beginning of the flywheel where you’re targeting customers at first blush and casting a wide net to garner as many impressions as possible.

 

Advertisements, blog posts, events, word of mouth, and organic content, including “earned” content written about you and “owned” content you’ve written about yourself (learn the ins and outs of creating content here), are all productive tools in getting your content in front of people. 

 

You’re proving that your brand exists as a provider of solutions to your audience’s problems. The goal is to proactively offer answers for the questions they haven’t even thought to ask yet (learn more about our Answering Customers Questions methodology here), so your brand needs to show up in search engines, be served in ads to your target customers, and/or come up in conversations so that customers can discover you.  

 

This is your very first chance to establish your brand as a solutions provider. Think about the best channels for your brand. What are the most common ones your audience will be using? How can you introduce yourself?

 

If the customer value journey is a car, this is the gas in your tank before you hit the road.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

Awareness

2) ATTRACTION

Attraction is best framed as a bridge between Awareness and Engagement. Even though all of the customer value journey steps are interconnected, evoking an interest is an absolute necessity to graduate from discovery to active engagement.

 

What makes your audience want or like your brand? This is where you need to formally entice your customer to learn more about you and what solutions, products, or services you provide. Being seen or making an impression is one thing, but to engage them you absolutely need to have attractive content that convinces them you’re worth the time.

 

Your messaging, tone, and the design of your ad or content are hugely important here. This is where style comes into play and, when done effectively, elevates your content from the Awareness stage to certified Attraction.

 

The engine of your car has started.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

Attraction

3) ENGAGEMENT

Engagement occurs when an “unknown visitor” clicks on your ad, likes your post, or follows a link to your website for the first time. They’re aware of your brand and interested enough to take an actionable curiosity in what you offer. This is the first step in them showing an evidential interest in your brand. 

 

Like every stage, you need to be keenly aware of how you’re conveying value to your audience and answering the questions they may not even realize they have. That’s the secret sauce to ensure their interest is maintained and their willingness to devote time and thought to learning more about what you can offer them.

 

Make a more active effort to further their engagement by introducing a call to action, like a prompt that invites them to subscribe to your channel or newsletter, receive more information, schedule an appointment, or fill out a contact form.

 

This is the first gear in building a relationship between your audience and your brand and continuing to establish intrigue. They don’t even know it, but they’re already well into their customer value journey and closer to converting from an active visitor into a paying or subscribing customer.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

Engagement

4) EXCITEMENT

The essence of this phase is being able to not only meet but exceed expectations.

 

This requires going above and beyond by providing them with a service, solution, or information that allows them to begin solving problems before they’ve even signed a contract. It’s a crucial aspect of your relationship-building effort, and is often the difference between a one-off customer and a customer who becomes an advocate and promoter for your brand.

 

Building an informative relationship upfront is the surest way to help them realize your long-term value. Right now, you’re simply providing a tasty appetizer pro bono that inspires them to take a look at the rest of your menu.

 

Trust elements -- like customer testimonials, on-page videos, and strong reviews on sites like Yelp and Google -- are a critical part of this stage. It’s in the larger interest of building genuine excitement around your value proposition and more effective momentum with your audience as a result. You’re conveying that you truthfully and thoughtfully understand their problems in a way other brands don’t and are invested in providing them solutions.

 

A genuine and mutual emotional investment is what’s going to really kick your customer relationship into a faster gear.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • High-Value Gated Content (ex. a free SEO audit)
  • Customer Testimonials/Case Studies
  • Third Party Ratings and Reviews
  • Freemium Offers
Excitement

5) CONVERSION

You’ve successfully invited your audience through your door, not by promising them the moon, but by building a sincere relationship based on answering their questions, solving their problems, and creating inherent and intrinsic value. By doing so, you’ve established your brand as a source of positive influence and created a high-value and low-risk entry point for your audience.

 

At this point you’ve “identified” any of your unidentified visitors, either by establishing a direct relationship with them or by having them fill out a contact form on your website. The next step is to categorize them into one of your customer persona buckets and take them along the customer value journey again!

 

Restarting a known customer and the beginning of the customer value journey will provide invaluable insight into their pain points and provides a fresh opportunity for your brand to continue proving your value by attracting them to longer-term solutions.

 

One of the biggest hurdles of the customer value journey is behind you! You’ve earned a commitment from a customer and won their business by establishing yourself as a trustworthy solutions provider.

 

Next, it’s time to retain their business and earn their loyalty.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • Successfully Completely All Previous Steps
  • Quality CTA’s and Forms That Excite
Conversion

6) DELIGHT

This stage of the customer value journey is all about going beyond expectations.

 

Make the customer feel like you’re going above and beyond for them. Surprise them by doing something unexpected to express that you appreciate their business and value them as a customer. There’s nothing more unattractive than a business who seems to take your money and run. Instead, make a visible effort to convey that their business matters and you’re just as excited to have them as a customer as they are to be your customer.

 

This could be as simple as a “thank you” coupon that offers a discount on their next purchase or a bottle of champagne delivered to your new client to celebrate an exciting new working relationship.

 

No matter the gesture, it’s important to make one to prove your long-term investment in your relationship and their customer value journey.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • Over-Delivering
  • Going the Extra Mile/Including an Extra Touch
  • Being Sincere, Genuine, Considerate, and Thoughtful Before, During, and After
  • Thank You’s -- Either a Card, Bottle of Wine, etc.
Delight

7) ASCENSION

This is a necessary bridge to convert your audience into advocates for your brand.

 

Assuming your customer is happy with your product, solution, or service and the way you’ve conducted business, chances are they’ll be very interested in doing it again.

 

Ascending can really be boiled down into this: it’s about repeating the Engage and Delight steps of the customer value journey until you’ve established a strong enough bridge to lead them to the next steps. The primary objective is furthering their loyalty to your brand and retaining/sustaining their business with you.

 

Ask your customer about their experience and what helpful or positive feedback they may be willing to offer. They could very well be inspired to give back if they feel loyal enough to you for the services you provided. Ask for a review or testimonial that shares their experience of working with you. 

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • Personal Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Promotional Offers
  • Maintaining Your Professional Kindness
  • Following Through on Strong Work
  • Continue to Prove Value Along the Way
Screen Shot 2020-08-27 at 6.41.23 PM

8) ADVOCATE

Once your loyal customers are actively making references and spreading the word about your brand, you’ve successfully graduated them into certified Advocates.

 

They’ve no longer simply customers but active proponents for your brand and fans of your work. They made a great decision by working with you and received such wonderful value that they are compelled to show everyone what a great decision they made! They put a lot of time, thought, and money into doing business with you, and they want to be proud of the fact that they worked with you.

 

That’s an amazing and commendable place to have evolved your customer relationship, but keep this in mind: advocates will only remain advocates as long as you keep them moving on the flywheel. Only by continuing to bring them on the customer value journey from Attraction to Ascension can you continue benefiting from their active loyalty.

 

This may require a prompt or outreach as outlined in the Ascend phase of the customer value journey, but at a brand’s best, your customers will do this naturally and without your suggestion once enough consistent value is displayed and trust is built throughout the previous steps.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • Developing a Case Study of that Client
  • Creating a Customer Testimonial Video
  • Speaking/Hosting Your Event
Screen Shot 2020-08-27 at 6.38.54 PM

9) PROMOTER/PARTNER

The final step of the customer value journey. Ideally, the goal of this phase is for your brand story to become entwined in the customer’s story.

 

It proves that your customer feels so strongly about your brand that they see it as a necessary element to success for any business and could even go so far as wanting to make your offering part of their business. An example could be a customer or client incorporating your brand into their own business offerings as a partner or affiliate.

 

Bringing more and more customers to this final phase of the customer value journey is how you continue to grow and expedite your flywheel, and add even more loyal, advocating, paying clients to your roster.

 

Marketing Tactics Relevant to This Phase:

  • Referral Bonus
  • Partner Fees
  • Compensation (ex. additional services for each referred customer)
Asset 1promote-1

With those 9 steps in mind, you’re ready to make a more informed and concerted effort into marketing your brand as effectively as possible. Like everything in marketing, the nucleus of this guide is crafting a compelling brand story and treating every customer like a valuable character in that narrative.

 

The customer value journey is the lens that we should look through when considering every effort we make. Using this framework, you’ll build more genuine customer relationships rooted in mutual emotional connections that benefit both parties long past the initial sale.

 

Now get out there and start your customer converting engines.

Best Practices
Andrew
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