Messaging. For the entire customer journey.

The marketer’s goal is to connect with prospects and customers at moments when they are most open to influence. That goal is unlikely to ever change. But the funnel metaphor we’ve used to represent the customer journey is due for an update, given that few journeys today are ever that linear.

The funnel metaphor is simple enough: the customer considers many brands at the wide end of the funnel, and over time narrows that consideration set down to make a final decision at the narrow end of the funnel. There are variations, but they basically include these stages.

Customer Journey

With today’s proliferation of brand choices, digital channels and savvier consumers who are experts at pre-decision research, the decision-making process is rarely linear. I’d say it’s more three-dimensional and temporally non-deterministic, but fortunately for all, my partners won’t let me complicate things that much. So, let’s go with this visualization to represent the stages of today’s customer journey.

customer journey stages

Make the message shareable

At any stage in this journey – and this cannot be overstated – today’s consumers can reach for a computer, tablet or phone, get information and opinions in seconds and/or broadcast their own thoughts and feelings to tens/hundreds/thousands of engaged consumers. Therefore, the goal of your brand today shouldn’t be to just influence the customer across their journey. Instead it should be to empower those customers to influence others on your brand’s behalf, at any and all stages of their journey.

Make the message more relevant 

To be relevant to customers across all of these stages, it follows that messaging should be stage-relevant. It should acknowledge what customers are thinking and feeling at every prioritized touch point of the journey. Equally important is that your brand’s messaging and voice make it easy for people to talk about you – to champion your brand by passing on your message to the rest of your potential customer universe.

Choose the most efficient messaging approach 

Depending on the complexity or simplicity of the customer journey and brand offering, sometimes stage-agnostic messaging will suffice for guiding communications. That means the messages are relevant across the entire customer journey. But, more and more, we’re seeing a need for messaging that is more finely tuned to to the customer journey.

A stage-specific messaging platform provides richer guidance to brand authors by parsing out messages based on the various stages of the customer journey. For instance, messages at the Consider stage are likely quite different from those reaching consumers in the Experience stage. The most effective messaging platform is layered with stage-specific messages.

Does that mean your brand messaging platform needs a separate layer for all six stages of the customer journey? Not necessarily. Rather, stages of the customer journey that represent the greatest potential or need for influencing audiences should be prioritized, while others may not require a separate layer of messaging.

Three steps towards messaging for the journey

  1. Do the research to establish your customer’s journey. Determine which touch points they are interacting with at specific moments. Find out what they need to know at those critical moments to advance them along the journey toward making the purchase decision.
  2. Establish the need for stage-specific messaging to determine which stages require a separate messaging layer. For instance, how can you influence customers who have who’ve abandoned your brand? What’s the most compelling message for those people? How can you get them to speak well of your brand, even after abandoning it? Conversely, if your brand performs exceedingly well during the Experience stage, it may not need a corresponding specific messaging layer.
  3. Create brand advocates. Whether your messaging is stage-agnostic or stage-specific, ensure that anyone reading or hearing your messages at any stage can champion your brand by passing those messages on to potential customers. This should be the acid test for all of your messaging.

Stage-specific messaging takes more work, but the formula for dividends is actually quite simple: let your messages demonstrate your brand’s understanding of what customers are thinking and feeling at various stages of their journey. Use their language in your copy so they can easily share it, and they will thank you by championing your brand and spreading the word.