This is where digital marketing begins and ends…
With a Customer Value Journey that strategically builds a relationship with new prospects and converts them into loyal, repeat customers.
This Journey is the process every prospect goes through to become a new customer.
It’s how strangers become buyers and, eventually, raving fans of your business.
The hard truth is that marketing is not a one-step process. There are eight stages you must account for on the path to purchase and promotion.
But, I have great news. If you understand this digital marketing strategy (a.k.a. the Customer Value Journey), then you can intentionally engineer your business in such a way that it moves people predictably through the stages in this template.
In other words, you’ll no longer wonder if you’ll be able to generate leads. You won’t have to cross your fingers and hope for customers. When you understand the Customer Value Journey, even reviews and referrals will become automatic.
The Customer Value Journey is the strategic foundation of everything we do here at DigitalMarketer. It’s the master template upon which every other digital marketing discipline and tactic is built.
It’s so important, we confidently make this bold statement:
The job of marketing is to move prospects and customers seamlessly and subtly through each phase of the Customer Value Journey.
“The job of marketing is to move prospects and customers seamlessly and subtly through each phase of the Customer Value Journey.”
In this chapter, we’ll start with a high-level map of the Customer Value Journey. Then we’ll dive into each of the 8 steps, talk about the tactics you’ll need to move people along the Journey, and review case studies so you can see it in action.
An Overview of the Customer Value Journey
So, now that you understand why it’s important… here’s what the Customer Value Journey looks like:
Click the image above (or click here) to download your writeable copy of The Customer Value Journey
Now let’s walk through the 8-step process of crafting your digital marketing strategy:
Step 1: Awareness
Before someone can buy from you, they have to realize you exist—right?
Well, that’s Step 1 in the Customer Value Journey.
This step is pretty self-explanatory: It’s where the person becomes aware of you. After all, nobody is born knowing who Apple or Amazon are. At some point they have to become aware of these companies if they are to become a customer.
The same thing is true of your company.
Examples of Marketing that Generates Awareness
There are any number of ways a prospect could become aware of your company, products, and services. Here are three possible scenarios:
- A father of two sees an advertisement for a new children’s summer camp on Facebook.
- An office manager searches Google to find a new coffee supplier.
- A college student watches an Instagram video of her friend raving about a new brand of noise canceling headphones.
Facebook ads are the perfect vehicle for driving awareness. In this example, browsers are introduced to a home security company:
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Awareness
To improve awareness of your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 2: Engagement
Your prospect is now aware of you—they know who you are—but you’re still in the early stages of a relationship with them. They don’t yet know you, like you, or trust you.
So the next step is to start developing relationship with your prospect.
Step 2, Engagement, is where you start conversing with your prospects. You engage them through some form of content that provides entertainment, information, or both.
Engagement is something that must continue throughout the Customer Journey. It’s not something you do once and move on.
Examples of Marketing That Generates Engagement
Engagement typically comes in the form of content or community. Here are a few examples to get the ideas flowing for your company:
- A grandfather of five receives an email newsletter from his financial advisor detailing several ways to save for a child’s college tuition while reducing taxes.
- The owner of a boutique wine store becomes active in a Facebook community for wineries and other wine retailers.
- A new mother watches a YouTube video from Johnson & Johnson showing her how to give her baby a bath.
Let’s look at another example of engagement from Modcloth, an etailer selling women’s clothing. This is an entertaining and educational piece of content for one of Modcloth’s most lucrative customer segments—people attending weddings:
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Engagement
To improve engagement in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 3: Subscribe
At this point, your prospect knows who you are and has engaged with you in some way or another.
However, if you failed to get that person’s contact information, odds are high you’ll never hear from them again.
Because people today are inundated with marketing and content, creating a scarcity of attention. Just because someone reads one of your blog posts today does NOT mean they’ll remember to revisit your site in the future.
Instead, you need to get that person to progress to Step 3 in the Value Journey, which is to subscribe.
Here, the person gives you their contact information and, in doing so, grants you permission to contact them again in the future.
“Just because someone reads one of your blog posts today does NOT mean they’ll remember to revisit your site in the future.”
Most often, this transaction is an exchange, sometimes referred to as an “ethical bribe.” You promote a valuable offer, but instead of asking for money, you ask for the prospect’s contact information. And when they give it to you, not only do you give them access to the content, product, or service you promised, you also add them to your subscriber list.
Examples of Marketing That Generates Subscribers
The biggest criteria for your free offer is that your target audience finds it valuable. Here are some examples from a variety of industries:
- A young professional signs up for a webinar presented by a local realtor about the best practices of purchasing a first home.
- A college girl fills out a form on a blog to receive a free sample of a new face cream.
- The Human Resources manager at a mid-sized accounting firm signs up for a demo of a new application he can use to manage the hiring of new employees.
In each case, the prospect fills out a form, provides their contact information, and is sent information about how to access the offer.
- The young professional is sent the time and URL of the webinar.
- The college girl is sent a thank-you email telling her the face cream is in the mail.
- The manager is contacted to schedule his demo.
But it always starts with a form. For example, here’s how Salesforce generates leads with a whitepaper offer.
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Subscribers
To get more subscriptions for your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 4: Convert
If the subscribers you gain in Step 3 of the journey remain engaged, some of them will be ready to increase their level of commitment. They like the information you share and have begun to trust you, so they’re ready to invest in one of two ways: either with time or money.
This is a critical stage in the Customer Journey and one that frustrates many business owners. The key to success in this stage is to employ what we call “entry-point offers.” These offers are designed to give the new prospect tremendous value without forcing them to put too much “skin in the game.”
At this stage, to ask for a significant investment in a complex product or service would be asking too much, too soon. You’re still in the early stages of relationship.
In fact, it’s too early even to concern yourself with profitability. That’s right: in this stage of the Customer Journey, you might lose money on the prospects you acquire as buyers.
This is, perhaps, the most important lesson you must learn so it bears repeating:
The Convert stage of the Customer Value Journey is about acquiring buyers or ramping up the commitment level of the leads you already have. It is NOT about profitability.
The most valuable businesses in the world all understand that the costliest marketing activity your business undertakes is customer acquisition. It’s the reason Sprint is willing to buy you out of your Verizon cell phone contract and give you a free phone. It’s the reason GoDaddy offers domains for $2.95, and it’s the reason VistaPrint will sell you 500 business cards for $9.
The goal is to acquire a new customer. Profits come later.
Examples of Marketing That Generates Conversions
There are two types of entry-point offers: those that require a commitment of time, and those that require a commitment of money. Here are some examples:
- The VP of Operations at a large company purchases a high-dollar management consultant’s book for $8 on the consultant’s website.
- A daughter of elderly parents schedules a walk-through visit at the local retirement home.
- A man takes advantage of a $20 teeth whitening service at his local dentist.
Notice the price point of each of these offers: from $8 to $20.
Your goal here is not to make a huge profit. It’s to get customers, to shift the relationship between you and your subscribers. Because, as you’ll see, once someone is a customer, it’s much more likely that person will purchase higher-ticket, more complex products and services and do it more frequently.
Remember, one of the costliest (in time, money, resources) marketing activities your business will undertake is the acquisition of customers. The good news is that once you’ve acquired them, you don’t need to pay to acquire them again.
Here’s an example of an offer from GoDaddy that does a great job of acquiring new customers with extremely low-priced domain registration services:
Getting that initial conversion was the hard part. Now they can build the customer relationship to create profits down the road.
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Conversions
To improve conversions in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 5: Excite
At this point, your new customer has had a transaction with you. A small transaction, sure, but a transaction nonetheless.
Your job now is to make sure the transaction is a good one, that the excitement of the purchase develops into good will and trust.
The reason for this is simple: if the person doesn’t get value from this transaction, they won’t move on to the next stage and purchase more expensive things from you.
So, how do you make sure your customers have a good experience?
First, we assume that whatever the prospect purchased or gave up valuable time for is outstanding. Great marketing will only increase the speed at which your business fails if you don’t have outstanding products and services.
Second, the prospect must get value from their last transaction with you. The Excite stage of the Customer Value Journey is something you must return to again and again. And every time, it should create excitement.
That being the case, whenever a customer or prospect does what you ask them to do (attend this webinar, buy this product, hire me for this service), you should engineer your marketing to maximize the chances they’ll get tangible value from the experience.
Examples of Marketing That Creates Excitement
Your goal in the Excite stage of the Customer Value Journey is to make sure your customer gets value from their transaction. Here are some examples:
- A married couple buys a Keurig (coffee maker) and uses the free coffee servings and Quick Start Guide to have an amazing cup of coffee within minutes of opening the box.
- A new user of the Spotify music streaming app goes through an instructional walkthrough teaching her how to build a playlist of her favorite songs.
- A young man reads through 3 eye-opening blog posts recommended via email by his newly hired Life Coach in advance of their first coaching session.
This stage is all about ensuring that your marketing is giving your customer opportunity to get value from doing business with you—and to enjoy that value right away.
It could be as simple as an email onboarding campaign, like this one from the productivity app, Evernote:
Evernote is a cloud-based note-taking app that you can use to sync notes between your computer, phone, and tablet. It has a lot of useful features, but Evernote knows that, in order to really hook new users and turn them into long-lasting customers, they have to make sure new users are successful with the app.
That’s why Evernote sends you these educational emails when you sign up for a new account. The emails contain tips that help you to get more value out of the application, making you more excited about it and more likely to use it.
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Excitement
To improve consumption in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 6: Ascend
At this stage of the Value Journey, you’ve sunk time, money, and resources into acquiring leads and customers and making sure they get value from doing business with you.
It’s entirely possible that, until this stage, you have yet to turn a profit. In fact, if you’re in a competitive market (and who isn’t?) you may be losing money on the front end of this process to acquire customers.
That’s perfectly acceptable, and here’s why:
You’re investing in your future profits.
Always remember that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing one. That first sales isn’t about profits. It’s about converting a prospect to a customer, so you can begin a long (and profitable) customer relationship.
Buying customers on the front end is just shrewd business, but only if you can monetize those customers on the back end.
The Ascend stage of the Value Journey is where your customer will be ready to buy more and more often. If your business has a core offer, this is the place to make that offer. Then once your customer purchases that core offer, it’s time to present them with other relevant offers.
You’ll notice that the Value Journey worksheet represents the Ascent stage as a ladder. That’s no accident. This is really a ladder that will hopefully lead to multiple purchases over time.
Examples of Marketing That Creates Ascension
Examples of ascension might include:
- A dating couple rent a convertible in San Diego and pay extra for satellite radio and GPS.
- A new dad buys a digital camera for $2,495 and adds a lens kit, camera bag, and tripod to his purchase for a bundle price of $699.
- A woman with a brand new Mercedes buys an unlimited car wash package for $40 per month instead of paying for each car wash individually.
Here’s how Southwest Airlines creates ascension by making an offer that will improve your experience and increase the value of your transaction:
When you execute this stage properly, your customers will thank you for these offers. Southwest airlines customers who want to board the plane early are happy to pay an extra $15 to avoid hectic boarding.
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Create Ascension
To improve ascension in your company, the digital marketing tactics you need to master or hire include:
Step 7: Advocate
You now have a happy customer who has made several profitable purchases from you. The next stage in the Value Journey is to create marketing that encourages your most loyal customers to advocate for your business.
An advocate is someone who speaks positively about your brand.
An advocate is what you might call a “passive promoter.” They won’t necessarily promote your business in an active way, but when asked about you, they will respond favorably.
Examples of Marketing That Generates Advocates
These final two stages (Advocate and Promote) are often thought to be outside of the control of marketing, but that simply isn’t true. You can create marketing that intentionally generates more advocates and promoters.
Here are a few examples:
- A woman enters a contest to win a new lip gloss from a beauty company by shooting a video review detailing how much she loves one of their lipsticks.
- Upon request, the Warehouse Manager at a produce supplier company writes a glowing review of the local courier service she uses to transport fruits and vegetables locally.
Designer Shoe Warehouse knows the value of the Advocate stage in the Customer Journey. This email is designed to activate advocates by asking for a review:
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Advocates
Getting advocates is important because it helps generate awareness, trust, and credibility with a wider audience—which helps you to get more customers and grow your business.
To get more advocates in your company, the marketing efforts you need to work on include:
Step 8: Promote
Promoters differ from advocates in that they are actively seeking to spread the word about your brands, products, and services.
In some cases, the promoter simply had a great experience with your company and wants to share their story with friends and family. In other cases, they promote because you’ve created an incentive for them to do so.
This puts your message in front of a new audience, the fans, followers, and friends of the promoter. And because this new audience is hearing about you from a trusted source who they already know, they’re much more likely to become customers themselves.
Examples of Marketing That Generates Promoters
Intentionally creating more promoters is important because it creates an army of paid or unpaid salespeople spreading the word about what you sell.
Here are a few examples:
- A man who runs a podcast about fishing earns a 20% commission every time one of his listeners buys fishing equipment using his affiliate link.
- A woman attends a conference for free because she arranged for 5 of her colleagues to go as well.
- A marketing agency partners with a marketing automation software company to resell their software for a commission.
As you can see, promoters help you get more customers at a lower cost. So even when you reward promoters, it’s a win-win.
A good example of this is Dropbox. When it was just starting out as a new company in a new industry, they realized discoverability would be key to their success. So they initiated a referral program that gave its users a strong incentive to promote the service to others.
Simply by inviting your contacts to try out Dropbox, you could increase your own online storage space from 2 GB up to 16 GB. This was such an attractive offer, thousands of new users recruited their friends and family, helping turn Dropbox into a software giant (valued at $10 billion in 2014).
Digital Marketing Disciplines That Generate Promoters
To get more promoters in your company, the marketing efforts you need to work on include:
How To Move Prospects Through The Customer Value Journey
Now that you know what the Customer Value Journey is, the next thing you need to understand is:
- How do you seamlessly and subtly move customers and prospects through each phase of the Customer Value Journey?
The short answer? You build marketing CAMPAIGNS that INTENTIONALLY move people from one stage to the next.
And those two words—campaigns and intentionally—are important here. So let’s unpack them one at a time.
What Is A Marketing Campaign?
First, let’s talk about what a campaign really is.
A marketing campaign has two critical components:
- A call to action
- A traffic source
The call to action is what you want people to do. If the marketing campaign you’re creating is aimed at the Subscribe stage of the Customer Journey, your call to action might be for people to download a whitepaper, checklist, or video resource. If it’s a campaign in the Convert or Ascend stage, your call to action might be to buy a product or service. If the campaign you are creating is for the Awareness stage, the call to action might be as simple as listening to a podcast episode or reading a blog post.
The traffic source could be digital clicks from ads, email, social media sites, or search engines like Google. Offline marketing could include direct mail, TV, or radio advertising, print ads, or anything else that gets the call to action in front of your prospects.
Now that you know what a campaign IS, let’s talk about what a campaign is supposed to DO.
The purpose of a marketing campaign is to intentionally move people from one stage of the Value Journey to the next.
A campaign might have the goal of getting people to sign up for your email list (going from Engaged to Subscribe).
Another campaign might have the goal of getting new customers excited about their purchase (going from Convert to Excite).
Once again, notice that a campaign is intentionally moving people through the Value Journey. And that word “intentionally” is important.
Intentionally Moving Customers Through The Value Journey
Anyone who has ever become a customer of a company has moved through the Value Journey, whether that company made it happen intentionally or not.
Sometimes, people move through the Value Journey on accident.
For example, imagine that you had never heard of Dropbox before. Then, one day, a friend tells you that he uses Dropbox to store all his files online, and he recommends that you check it out.
At this point, both you and your friend have progressed along the Value Journey. You have moved to Step 1, Aware, and your friend has moved to Step 8, Promote.
However, this progression didn’t happen because of anything Dropbox did intentionally. It resulted from a random comment or a casual conversation between you and your friend.
Contrast that with Dropbox’s marketing campaign offering extra space to customers who refer friends and family:
In this example, Dropbox is moving people along the value journey INTENTIONALLY by creating a program that is designed for that specific purpose.
This is an important distinction to make.
Once you figure out that you can move people intentionally through the Value Journey using marketing campaigns, you realize that you have the ability to grow your business by improving the areas where your customers are getting “stuck.”
At this point I’d like to point out that there’s one common mistake that many companies make when trying to move customers and prospects through the Customer Value Journey.
The #1 Mistake Marketers Make When Creating Campaigns
Once a business understands the Customer Journey, they can get so excited about the possibilities that they try to move people all the way from stranger to promoter in one step, in one campaign.
This is impossible.
You cannot possibly create one campaign that makes people aware of you, engages them, gets them to subscribe and convert, excites them, ascends them, and then turns them into advocates and promoters.
Instead, you need to create multiple specific campaigns that are designed to move people from one stage to the next. (Or in some cases, a campaign can probably move people through 2 or maybe 3 steps at once.)
The best way to explain this is with a few case studies.
Value Journey Campaign Case Studies
Case Study: DigitalMarketer
- Campaign Goal: Aware to Engage
- Content Needed: Branding Video
- Traffic Source: Facebook Ads (Video Views campaign)
- Call to Action: End the war between sales and marketing… watch this video!
When we create a new campaign here at DigitalMarketer, we always start by looking at the Value Journey map and identifying any steps where we need help. In this case, we realized that while we were doing a good job of generating awareness through Facebook ads, we didn’t have a good engagement campaign in place.
So we decided to create some content (a branding video) whose goal was to get people engaged with DigitalMarketer:
But as you know, just creating a video isn’t enough. We also had to decide how we were going to get people to watch the video. So we chose to run a Facebook ad campaign (with video views as the goal) to generate traffic to the video. This made up the “Traffic” portion of our campaign.
Here’s what one of those ads looked like:
Because the goal of this campaign is to get people engaged with us, our call to action was very simple: “Watch this video!”
It’s important to note that we didn’t try to convince people to sign up or buy anything (at least not right away), because that wasn’t the goal of this campaign. The goal was to generate engagement, and it succeeded very well because it was focused 100% on simply engaging people.
Case Study: ModCloth
- Campaign Goal: Engage to Subscribe
- Content Needed: Blog Post
- Traffic Source: Facebook organic traffic
- Call to Action: Sign up for ModCloth’s good news and great offers!
Here’s an example of a campaign with a different goal. In this case, the clothing company ModCloth wanted people who were already engaged with their content to subscribe to their email list.
The content needed for this campaign was pretty straightforward: it’s a blog post. When you go to the ModCloth blog, you’ll see many helpful blog articles like this one:
Because ModCloth has a lot of engaged Facebook followers, they were able to use free organic Facebook traffic as their traffic source. (Remember, you don’t always have to pay for traffic.)
So we have content and a traffic source. Now, what’s the call to action?
Well, you’ll notice that while you’re browsing the blog you’ll be greeted with this popup:
Now you might not think of this as a campaign, but it totally is. It’s a specific call-to-action: Sign Up for ModCloth’s Good News & Great Offers! And anytime someone fills out this form, they move on to the next stage in the Customer Value Journey.
Often the best marketing campaigns are the simplest.
Case Study: Honest Company
- Campaign Goal: Engaged to Subscribe to Convert
- Content Needed: Email Copy and Creative
- Traffic Source: Google Adwords
- Call to Action: Exclusive Offer! 25% off your first order
Here’s an example of a campaign that moves people through two steps in the Value Journey: from Engage to Subscribe and then to Convert.
Let’s go through this campaign from the beginning. The traffic source here is Google Adwords targeting the keyword “buy organic diapers.”
Here you can see the AdWords ad:
When you click on that ad, you arrive on a landing page that asks you to subscribe.
Once you opt in, they’ll send you the following coupon in your email (about 24 hours later, assuming you didn’t already make a purchase):
I want you to pay close attention to that call to action: Exclusive Offer! 25% Off Your First Order. Notice that this discount only applies to your first order. That’s because the goal of this campaign isn’t to generate repeat purchases; it’s to get someone to make their very FIRST purchase. It’s a time-tested and effective tactic for turning someone into a new customer.
The Customer Value Journey is the foundation for all the tactics you’ll learn in this Guide. Whether you’re learning about content marketing, digital advertising, or analytics, or any other topic, keep this concept in mind.
Don’t worry, though. We’ll review it several times so it stays fresh on your mind. And by the end of this Guide, it will likely be cemented into your thinking.
Now that you understand the Customer Journey, it’s time to talk about the #1 tactic you’ll use to engage people at every stage: Content Marketing.