The Sales Funnel is a Lie!

Well, maybe not an out-and-out untruth. But, as a sales model, it oversimplifies the path to purchase as a straight line from intent to purchase to loyalty. That’s why so many marketers have begun working with customer journey mapping – it recognizes that a customer’s relationship with a brand is more like a wander through the woods than a conveyor belt.

Unlike the leaky sales funnel, the customer journey characterizes the relationship as a series of touch points – places where customers encounter or engage with your brand, whether it’s for the first time, as part of a consideration set, as a purchaser or user and in many other ways.

Messaging on the Customer Journey

Each of these touch points provides a messaging opportunity. It could be a welcome email to someone who signs up for your email program. Or, it could be a retargeting ad for someone who browsed on your website but didn’t buy or sign up. It could be a social-media ad targeted to people who follow your feed.

The graphic below, developed by Kath Pay of Holistic Email Marketing, illustrates the various points along the customer journey where a well-timed email message could move your customers further along the path or bring them back if they have strayed. Note that each message along the two curved lines is color-coded to a specific life-cycle stage.

HEM Customer Journey Map

The 3 Part Email Stress Test

As you can see, email is a key player on the customer journey. Although customer journey mapping can give you endless opportunities for creating email marketing, your database must pass three major stress tests to make sure it’s up to the task of carrying the messaging load for your customers’ journeys.

1. Acquisition

Customers start their brand journeys at many places along the way: signing up for your email program through an overlay on your home page or an interior location, at the cash register, in response to an in-store beacon or a Promoted Tweet in their Twitter feed and many other ways.

The challenge with these access points is making sure that address is valid. You need a real-time email validation service to catch registration errors before they enter your database – to be sure the address is formatted correctly, corresponds to a live account and doesn’t represent some other potential hazards.

Two FreshAddress services align perfectly with your acquisition goals:

  1. SafeToSend can mitigate registration hazards right at opt-in by flagging mist-yped or malformed addresses or addresses that appear to be genuine but could turn out to be problematic.
  2. Postal and email appending can help you fill in the blanks in your database. Email is the backbone of your marketing program, but sometimes a postal message can lock down a deal.

2. Retention

Having an up-to-date email database full of current and accurate email addresses is important for any business, whether B2C or B2B, it’s twice as vital for journey mapping, because addresses can decay so quickly.

Customers can fall off the purchase path in many ways, whether through lack of interest, inactivity or transfer to another brand. Repeatedly emailing outdated addresses wastes time and money and increases the chance that your emails will be marked as spam.

You need two services to get the most out of this aspect of customer journey mapping:

  • Email List Cleaning, like that offered through SafeToSend, to scrutinize and remove outdated and problematic addresses.
  • Email Change of Address (ECOA), to stay in touch with customers by identifying bouncing and inactive email addresses and replacing them with your target’s current, preferred address.

3. Win-back

Unsubscribing happens, but it doesn’t have to mean your relationship is over. While you can no longer email your unsubscribed customers (unless they opt in again), you can remain on their radar in other channels, such as social media.

Coming up: The Customer Journey… Beyond Email

We’ll cover more about customer journey mapping in future blog posts, beginning with the process of auditing your customer communications so you know who’s sending what to whom and when in your organization.

In the meantime, let us know if you have questions about journey mapping and the role email, postal and social media can play in the journeys you and your customers take.

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