The Customer Value Journey: A Roadmap from Prospect to Promoter
The Customer Value Journey is a blueprint for creating a predictable flow of customers. It defines the step-by-step process of converting total strangers to high-value customers and brand promoters. Modeled after human relationships, it includes additional steps not found in a traditional marketing funnel. Not only does this lead to a more natural sequence of interactions, it helps aligns organizational and customer interests around shared success, leading to happy customers, advocates, and promoters. For these reasons we believe documenting the Customer Value Journey is arguably the most important step in formulating a sound marketing strategy for businesses.
What does a Customer Value Journey look like?
We know in human relationships if you go directly from “Hi, how are you?” to “Would you like to spend the rest of our lives together?” your chances of success are next to nothing. In fact, it’s likely to trigger a pretty swift and undesirable response. If you are lucky enough to earn a date but spend all your time talking about how great you are and how much the other person needs you, what are the odds you’ll get a second date? Why would it be any different in a business relationship? It isn’t. Understanding the steps along the way in a human relationship or a business relationship will help you to be purposeful in meeting your potential prospects where they are, with what they need. Below are the stages of the customer value journey intended to guide your ideal customer on their journey from unaware prospect to raving promoter.
Stage 1: Aware
The Aware stage describes how qualified prospects first hear out about your brand, products, or services. You want to make an impression and earn a click or visit. This may be through paid advertising (e.g, paid search, display, social boost, billboards, bus wraps), organic search, a referral, and so on.
Stage 2: Engage
With awareness efforts driving views and clicks, Engage focuses on earning a prospect’s attention and trust. Often this is accomplished through content marketing such as blog content, an FAQ, a relevant case study on your website, or posts on social channels such as YouTube, LinkedIn or Facebook.
Stage 3: Subscribe
By the time you reach the Subscribe stage the prospect has determined your content is relevant and is willing to hear more from you. You’ve earned some measure of trust. It’s time to ask the prospect for contact information (and permission to reach out via further marketing) in exchange for something of more value. This could be in the form of a blog subscription, a content download, a newsletter, or perhaps an on-demand webinar.
Stage 4: Convert
Here the prospect is making a commitment of time or money in exchange for a product or service. In a business-to-business scenario, this may be a commitment to attend an informational meeting, a consultation, or a product trial. Known as an entry point offer, the product or service can range greatly in value. The goal of the Convert stage is to set up an opportunity to Excite your prospect.
Stage 5: Excite
Excite is your opportunity to demonstrate to your prospect how your product or service changes from a nice-to-have to something highly desirable or essential. It’s the slide in the deck that prospects want to see again and again, the product demo function that they can’t bear to lose after 30 days, the ROI calculator they ask you to share with their executive team. These “Ah-Ha” moments are where the real breakthroughs happen on both sides of the relationship, so becoming purposeful about this stage of the journey is critical to marketing and sales success.
Stage 6: Ascend
Now that the value of your product or service has been affirmed, your customer will be eager to ensure your essential product or service are available to them. Often depicted as a ladder, the Ascend stage outlines your core or flagship offering along with additional relevant offers you deliver value after the initial sale. The goal of the Ascend stage is to grow customer value and satisfaction.
Stage 7: Advocate
Throughout the journey so far you’ve been building trust, delivering value, and nurturing long term customer satisfaction. If you’ve succeeded you should have a happy customer. And these happy customers likely know more potential happy customers and would be willing to vouch for you. The Advocate stage formalizes the process of building customer advocates willing to share their positive experience with others, increasing awareness, trust, and credibility with a larger audience.
Stage 8: Promote
The Promote stage focuses on building brand promoters who are actively marketing to their audience on your behalf. This may involve rewards, affiliate, or referral programs, or just making it easy for happy customers to toot your horn. Whether compensated or not, brand promoters generate referrals from a trusted source, often lowering your customer acquisition costs.
If you’re familiar with other customer or buyer’s journey frameworks such as the HubSpot FlyWheel, you’ve probably noted the difference in the number of stages. We appreciate and find value in this level of granularity. Why? It allows marketers to be more intentional and accountable throughout the journey. Aligning measurement at each of these stages using a Growth Scorecard gives your organization more actionable insights for predictable growth.
Drive customer success
The Customer Value Journey places particular emphasis on customer success, not just sales outcomes.
The unique Excite stage forces organizations to define and quantify the “Ah-Ha” moments where customers understand the value of your product or service. These moments transform your offering from a “want to have” to a “must have.” It’s not about convincing someone that you have what they need, it’s ensuring your offering meets their needs. This reflection often involves updating products or service offerings.
The Ascend stage focuses on the journey beyond the first sale, when customer value to your organization is multiplied. At face value, this might seem limited to increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). The funny thing about CLV is that a key ingredient to increasing and sustaining high-value customer relationships is to deliver more value to your customers.
Finally, including stages for building advocates and brand promoters makes these powerful trust-building activities first-class citizens of your growth marketing operation. That trust leads to increased awareness, engagement, and conversion through referrals, case studies, and testimonials.
Promote sales-marketing alignment
The Customer Value Journey also helps break down walls between sales and marketing and align these teams, and better alignment can lead to business growth. The process of creating an effective Customer Value Journey involves stakeholders from throughout your organization. Sales, marketing, product/delivery, and support are all essential constituents. This helps establish shared goals as well as buy-in on the process of attaining those goals. One of the outcomes of the process and the documentation is a shared vocabulary, which helps cross-functional teams avoid arguments about the definition of terms such as subscriber, lead, and conversion. You can further reinforce the relationship between teams in weekly Growth Scorecard meetings, where key performance metrics are reviewed.
Ultimately, the system of documenting, reporting, analyzing, and making decisions as a team using terms everyone understands empowers your team to perform better.
Create a marketing plan driven by your Customer Value Journey
The Customer Value Journey is one of the essential components to our marketing strategy framework. And likely the most important. If you would like to learn more about how creating a Customer Value Journey can benefit your organization, a good place to start is by taking our free Growth Audit. It will help you quickly identify gaps in your current marketing and provide guidance on which stage of the journey you should focus on first.
*As a trained and licensed DigitalMarketer Certified Partner, we use the DigitalMarketer framework, which includes the Customer Value Journey, Customer Avatar Canvas, the Growth Scorecard and other tools and resources.