Did you know that visitors interact with your brand six to eight times on average before they become customers? In fact, 57% of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. Because so much of the customer journey today occurs without a company’s knowledge or participation, it is critical that your business have a presence at each touch point, even when you’re not directly involved in the process.

Different industries use different terminology for defining the stages of the customer journey. You may have seen the stages of the journey traditionally defined as:

  • Awareness – The prospect is experiencing symptoms of a problem or opportunity
  • Consideration – The prospect has defined or given name to the problem or opportunity
  • Decision – The prospect has decided on a solution strategy and approach

But it’s important to realize that the customer’s experience with your business goes beyond the point of sale. In fact, happy customers are your greatest asset for lead generation, so your engagement with them should go far beyond the “decision” stage.

The Marketing Hourglass approach to the customer journey, on the other hand, takes the traditional model a few steps further and splits it into seven stages (more on these later). Before we address these stages, there are a few foundations you should have in place.

Know your personas

Trying to target everyone is a waste of your time. Instead, develop customer personas to better understand who your customers are. This should be the basis of your marketing efforts, as everything you do revolves around engaging with these personas at the right place, at the right time, and with the right channel. Knowing their wants, needs, and pain points should be top of mind throughout your marketing campaigns.

Create a value proposition

A value proposition is a promise between the customer and the business that should clearly state the benefit the customer will receive in contrast to competitive alternatives.

What can you provide for your customers that nobody else can? What makes you unique? Having answers to these questions and being able to portray them in your marketing efforts will help you capture the attention of your audience.

Establish goals

Before you begin any marketing campaign, you have to know what you want your efforts to achieve. These goals should be S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Goals will help you focus your efforts and will serve as a baseline to measure your marketing tactics moving forward.

Create your brand personality

As important as it is to know who your personas are, you also need to know who you are as a brand. What values do you want represented as you engage with prospects and customers moving forward? How do you want others to view you?

Along with your brand personality, develop brand guidelines that can be used across all marketing efforts, including colors, fonts, images, logos, and so on.

Once you have solid grasp on these foundations, you’ll be able to effectively apply them to each phase of the customer journey.

Guiding the seven stages of the customer journey

Know – This is the start of the journey, when an individual comes into contact with your brand for the first time. In this phase, it’s likely your visitors don’t know a lot about your business or how you can help them. It’s your job to be engaging and educational, and to get their attention.

Like – In this stage, the individual is starting to notice your brand and is deciding whether to learn more. As the stage suggests, you need to get this individual to like not only what you’re selling, but your brand as a whole. The more they like what they see, the more likely they’ll be to buy from you.

Trust – Rarely do people buy from companies they don’t trust. In this stage, people are trying to figure out if you’re trustworthy or not, so you need to ensure that you have reviews, testimonials, and client success stories available to them in the marketing channels they’re viewing.

Try – Once you’ve established trust, it’s time to share a plethora of content and information with them to further your credibility and authority within your industry. In this phase, you’ll want to share lead-generating materials with them that they can convert on (so that you can nurture them moving forward). In addition, give them a taste of what your brand is all about through means such as demos and trial phases.

Buy – You made it to the purchase phase, congrats! Remember, though, that your efforts don’t stop here. In this stage, you still need to give your new customer an exceptional experience. Make the purchase easy on them, nurture and delight them, and exceed their expectations.

Repeat – Now that you’ve turned the prospect into a customer, do it again. In this phase, review results and create upsell and educational opportunities to instill value in your customers, making them want to come back for more.

Refer – This phase is designated for turning client happiness into referrals. Create a referral program that makes it easy for current customers to recommend your business to others.

The way you approach the customer journey should always be evolving based on your successes and failures. Learn from mistakes, optimize top-performing areas, and continue to evaluate and learn. Get the process in its best place to engage with your target customers and grow your business.

Managing the entire journey can be difficult. To ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that the process is as streamlined as possible, consider using a customer relationship management (CRM) system that will help you keep all relevant information about both prospective and current customers in one place.

This article has been brought to you in part by SAP Digital CRM. Visit the SAP Store to find out how SAP Digital CRM can help you supercharge your marketing and sell more, and register for the free 30-day trial.

Blog originally published on SAP Digital.