Originally published in CMSWire
Written by Mark Smith
Customer journey management and orchestration started as a strictly B2C operation. Individual consumers tend to make their purchasing decisions independently, with little need or inclination to speak with a salesperson. Given this lack of direct interaction, the customer journey is often a black box for most B2C companies. As a result, organizations have invested in approaches and solutions that offer the ability to manage, orchestrate and analyze the customer journey.
Today, B2B buyers can and do increasingly treat many of their purchasing decisions as they would the purchases they make as consumers. They spend increasing amounts of time in self-directed research, and less and less time on the phone with a sales rep. In response, B2B marketers have begun seeking out approaches and technologies which help them to not only understand the customer journey, but also deliver an omnichannel, personalized, real-time customer experience that influences and directs buying behavior.
The Rise of B2B Journey Management
We’ve seen a dramatic rise in the use of customer journey management by B2B companies, as they address the increasingly self-directed shopping styles of B2B buyers. Forward-leaning B2B companies understand that customer journey management is critical to success, and the practice has moved beyond mapping customer journeys and running programs against them, hoping for the best.
That being said, B2B companies by and large still have a lot to learn. Accenture found 90% of B2B executives cite customer experience as a “very important factor” to achieving strategic priorities, but a full 49% admit they fail to deliver the relevant experiences their customers demand.
Getting Started With B2B Journey Management
Even though an increasing number of B2B organizations are using customer journey management and customer journey orchestration, they still lag far behind their B2C counterparts. Indeed, B2B companies made up just shy of 10% of all the journey interactions we tracked last year. So, for B2B companies still struggling to get their journey management initiatives off the ground, here are a few key steps to get started:
Map your as-is customer journeys: To set the right foundation for effective customer journey management, you need to set a baseline and map out your customer journeys as they exist today. This is a strategic practice, and it’s as simple as drawing out your maps on a whiteboard with post-it notes. Get the right group of stakeholders together and work through all of the different paths customers take when interacting with your business. Journey mapping software can help bring this visual representation to life, serving as a real-time window into customer behavior.
Design your ideal customer journeys: Once you’ve walked through the various journey permutations for your company, you need to take a critical approach and find pain points or touchpoints where customers are routinely falling off or running into friction. Where are experiences falling short of expectations? How can the process be modified, sped up or simplified? Falling-off points that affect revenue — subpar service, clumsy web experience, shoddy sales conversations — should top the priority list. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine the ideal next steps for every interaction they have with your brand.
Get your data house in order: Customer data is what fuels effective customer journey management. You already have a treasure trove of data about your customers, but it likely lives in silos across your organization. Don’t stop at mapping the data you have — identify data gaps, too. Where are you failing to collect relevant data? Social media, cookies, email tools and sales calls all present avenues to collect customer data and inform journey management. Are you collecting data where it makes sense?
Once you’ve mapped your as-is and your ideal customer journeys and taken stock of your data, you have the pieces needed to start orchestrating interactions. You can make informed decisions about targeting and messaging and, most importantly, use that information to make decisions on next-best interactions for every customer at any stage of the customer journey.
B2B companies that have mastered customer experience are shown to have stronger revenue growth, with Accenture reporting they generate twice as much return on customer experience investments when compared with their peers. B2B customer experience leaders also know that customer experience, and by extension, customer journey management, isn’t a one-and-done initiative. Journey management is a rinse-and-repeat process — you need to continually listen to your customers and adapt, optimizing over time. Through iterations, you can bring to life a truly personalized, and, from a business perspective, effective B2B customer journey.