By Diana Prodan

When I tell people I’m in marketing, usually the first question is: “So…it’s like Mad Men?”

Well, not exactly. Marketing has drastically changed from the Mad Men days. The show portrayed marketing and advertising as it was just coming into its own and at the very basic and linear level of the customer’s path to purchase. Consumers only had a few ways to learn about the products they were buying – television, print, word of mouth – and buying mainly happened in a brick-and-mortar store. The marketplace has drastically evolved since the Mad Men era, and there is an ever-expanding number and variety of channels, and an array of devices for consumers to use as they move along the path to purchase. We can safely say that the path to purchase is no longer a linear path – prospects don’t come in the top and out the bottom, but come in at various stages, and will often jump stages, stay in a stage indefinitely, or move back and forth between them. Consumers are moving through a messy journey before, during, and after a purchase. While the process isn’t the simple and linear method of the Mad Men days, it is possible to map the customer’s journey to identify influence and help us learn how to guide their behavior.

Here is a representation of what a modern customer’s path to purchase might look like:

path to purchase

Looks complicated, right? But the reality isn’t that complicated – what’s changed is instead of marketers feeding information to customers, customers are now finding the information on their own and it is the marketer’s job to pull that audience in by creating an experience that resonates with them.

While there is no step-by-step proven plan that will work for every industry and every situation, there are some best practices that can help companies better relate to their customers throughout their path to purchase.

Know and understand your audience

Is your current strategy to throw as much mud as possible at the wall and hope it sticks? Turns out there’s a better method. One of the greatest perks of the digital marketplace is the heaps of data out there to help you learn about your audience. The trick to really understanding your audience is to take this data and analyze it to help understand and predict patterns of consumer behavior. These days, data can tell you so much more than your typical demographics – through thorough analytics you can move past the age and gender of your audience to learn and predict patterns within their behaviors. From there, you can predict future trends, and use this to target your particular audience. So now, instead of throwing a bunch of information out there hoping it gets to your prospective audience, you are eliminating waste in your marketing budget by pinpointing your audience and targeting them with what they want and where they want it. A more in-depth look on the types of data and how they can help you target your consumers can be found in our article: Audience Targeting: It’s all about the data.

Take your content further and wider

It’s likely that your audience doesn’t fall into one narrow category, so why would you have your content fall into one narrow category? You should be catering your content towards what your audience is looking for and through the channels that they are looking. Write a blog, and then expand that idea into a high value white paper for someone who is more interested in the subject. Take some facts out of your blog and create a related infographic and short video that explains the concept visually. Create engaging content like assessments, workshops, and games that will keep people clicking, swiping, and sharing.  Create content that works across channels so your audience is reminded of how awesome and wonderful your company is no matter where they are and make sure all your touchpoints are linked seamlessly. While some paths to purchase are quick, some take much longer and marketers must nurture prospects for months or years before they turn into sales opportunities, so it is critical to stay engaged throughout the entire buying cycle.

Tailor your customer’s experience

Personalized marketing through emails, custom landing pages, and advertisements continues to be a great way to drive action and behavior through the customer’s path to purchase, but as personalization develops, customers will expect more to come out of it. As customers move closer to the point of purchase, businesses will need to have more knowledge about their particular interests and behaviors to improve communication. Customers expect emails and social media interaction to be relevant to their interests, and customers will increasingly expect custom information and offers.

Mobile is the new standard

Like it or not, the customer’s path to purchase is moving more towards mobile. I don’t know about you, but my own phone has more than 20 apps that allow me to directly purchase a product with the swipe of a finger – everything from dinner, to spa services, to flights, all at my fingertips. I’m not alone. According to a BI Intelligence Report, mobile commerce is expected to hit 20.6% of all ecommerce revenues by the end of 2016, and almost half of all ecommerce revenues by 2020. The numbers speak for themselves: your company needs to be mobile friendly. Not sure if your website passes the test? Check out our article Testing Your Mobile Experience to find out.

Make sure you can be found

All your audience, personalization, content, and mobile efforts may be in vain if your audience can’t find you when they need to. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your business get found online at the right time by the right people. SEO works behind the scenes to help increase performance and visibility organically, so your business will show up higher in relevant online search results. Working alongside SEO should be a solid SEM strategy. Focused pay-per-click campaigns, along with search retargeting campaigns, can grow your audience and bring customers straight to your door.

These best practices, along with other possible strategies specifically tailored to your industry, are often implemented together to create a full blown digital marketing plan that can easily improve your ROI.  At Advance Ohio, we already did the work for you: we know your audience and we have proven solutions to help your business reach its full potential. Contact us today to let us build your company’s personalized digital marketing strategy.