We have replaced the marketing and sales funnel with the buyer journey. After three years of re-framing funnel references to buyer journey terms, using key slides consistently in presentation after presentation and sharing outside-in thinking on the customer/buyer journey, we have injected the idea into our lexicon.
And still, there is a long road ahead to fully develop and apply this newer, customer-centered approach to how we market and sell.
We have room to grow in terms of actually analyzing and using journey maps in practical ways. Journey maps can inform the work of several departments within the enterprise. That means it’s key to get buy-in across these groups to create and apply journey maps. Otherwise you risk losing the department IP wars that often spring up as groups look to establish their own way of doing things. That one detail – journey maps used across departments – can mean complex budget negotiations between groups as you decide who maintains the research and creates any derivative materials.
One of the reasons the sales funnel persisted for so long is that it was so generic that no one owned it inside the enterprise. Of course, being generic meant that it wasn’t particularly useful at understanding any customer who wasn’t ready to buy that day.
Integrating the buyer journey in the organization is its own journey. I certainly don’t have it all figured out. Here are some learnings that may make ingesting it in a big organization more successful:
Use research to create a shared understanding of the problem: Buyers are researching solutions earlier and earlier. That means the span of time when they begin research to actually buying something is likely longer than you think. Customer research can reveal this along with the various drivers that help folks make progress in their journey.
Start with simple concepts to articulate a new view: We all know that the influences on a final buying decision and the steps that buyer can take can get crazy complicated. Remember how simple the funnel was? It’s important to introduce a new view that is simple and only tries to make 3-4 initial points (the diagram above is one example of a purposely over-simplified view).
Identify practical and simple applications: No one needs a new academic exercise within the company. How will the journey be used? Organizing a content strategy in marketing? Defining a channel strategy? Informing the user experience of the Web sites? Structuring a sales approach? Pick 1-2 tactical applications and start with those.
Share the IP with no strings attached: Whatever research, slides, frameworks, spreadsheets that come out of journey development and planning, be liberal in sharing them with anyone across the company. The benefits of everyone having these materials outweighs the risks of them misusing them.
Make an efficiency argument to solidify a common approach: Once there is enough familiarity with the buyer journey and at least a couple of success stories (“wow, it really helped us organize and prioritize our thinking around creating marketing content”), try to make it a standard tool/toolbox across the company. It really will save you money and boost your relevance with customers.