Back in 2013, I co-wrote a book with my friend and fellow Canadian marketer, Sam Fiorella, titled “Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing”.
Recognized by Nielsen BookScan as one of the top 100 business books in America at the time, and picked up by various universities to be part of their marketing/business curriculum, it was very much a book for those looking to go beyond the state of the “influence market” then - social scoring platforms like Klout and Kred.
It was also not a read for the faint-hearted, delving into topics like ontology, text analytics, and dyadic relationships, amongst other technically-minded topics.
That was a deliberate decision on Sam and myself’s behalf - we wanted to create a book that made you think, and wasn’t something you’d skim on a weekend and then never pick back up again.
After all, this was a framework to really help business owners what true influence marketing looked like, and why it was an important cannon in your business’s arsenal.
Looking back on the book today, as well as the state of current influence marketing, it’s clear to see the book was ahead of its time, and that much of the premise and frameworks discussed within are more than a little relevant today.
The Disruptive Paths of the Decision Making Journey
In marketing, we talk of the customer journey (or the customer life cycle). In straightforward terms, it’s simply where a customer is when it comes to making a purchase from us.
Now, this is a simplistic view, but it covers the main stages of a potential customer becoming a paying one. Each stage has its own nuances and, as marketers, it’s our jobs to identify where a prospect is so we can “head them off at the pass”.
1. Awareness: Do they know about your company, your product, your service? Do they know how to buy from you?
2. Research: Now that they’re aware of you, how can they research your company? Where do they normally research, online or offline? Whose opinion do they trust when researching?
3. Consideration: So they’re aware of your business, and they’re satisfied with their research about you. What’s their next move? Is the intent to buy, or visit first? Is it to research more, or are they ready to commit? Are they looking for a one-time deal or are they in it for the long term?
4. Decision-making: Now we’re getting places. All the legwork has been done, and it’s time to make a decision. But who’s the decision maker? Do they hold the purse strings, or do they influence who does? Is there a process, or is it a straightforward action?
5. Purchase: This is the final step. Or is it? No, not by a long shot. Once a purchase is made, does our customer have buyer’s remorse? Do they need validation of their action? What’s the long-term plan for this buyer?
As I mentioned, this is a pretty simplistic overview of the customer journey, but you get the gist. Of course, this is the “perfect” customer journey, and one that follows a natural path.
But what happens when disruption gets in the way?
As you can see from the image, every part of the customer journey can be disrupted by factors outside your control.
- A change in financial status
- Priorities (family needs versus personal)
- A change in the overall global economy
- A career change that puts things on hold
This is the constant flux of the customer journey - where a prospect started in the awareness and research phase doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll follow the expected/desired path to purchase.
This is where Persona Mapping comes into play.
Understand Personas, and Understand Resolutions to Disruption.
At Kayak, we’ve long been fans and implementers of persona mapping to guide us and our clients when it comes to our business and customers.
As Randy mentioned in a recent blog post,
“...it’s a matter of common sense: if you don’t know the individuals who will purchase your products or services - and the people in their lives who serve as influencers - how can you hope to create content and offers that motivate them to act?”
While the term can be confusing, Personas are simply a make-up of your different types of customer, based on demographic, locale, interests, behaviours, buying preferences, etc.
Each one makes decisions differently, or can be influenced by different opinions and people - so understanding their make-up goes a long way in understanding how to meet their needs at the right time.
Looking at the previous image of where disruption can impact the customer journey, it’s clear to see that if your business doesn’t have a plan to counter that disruption, you’re going to lose the sale.
Which is why persona mapping is an important complement to influence marketing, and vice versa - if you know your buyer and what influences them, you can have a plan in place to counter disruptions to the sale (at least, where possible).
For example, when it comes to the Research part of the customer journey, there can be many different destinations for the person doing the research. And this person might not even be the buyer - they’re simply carrying out pre-sale research for the buying decision-maker.
Knowing the persona of your buyer and who influences them allows you to craft a communication strategy and the marketing plan to go alongside it.
- If a business buyer, are they influenced by trade publications and events?
- If a personal buyer, are they influenced by family or friends?
- If an executive, are they influenced by fellow executives in the company or external leaders?
Having a solid persona mapping solution in place not only answers these questions, but provides further insights on how/where to connect and what message to present.
Which goes a long way into turning a prospective buyer disrupted by certain situations into an actual buyer confirmed via the answers they needed to find.
If you’re ready to start using persona mapping as part of your marketing strategy, let’s talk.