Everyone is on a pathway
How to get marketing working the right way…
“Umm…I think we’re on the wrong pathway dear…”
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in Ancient Greece.
To be able to view some of the amazing artistry and buildings being created in front of my eyes, to watch the first Olympic Games and to participate in philosophical debates shaping the way the world thinks.
…and of course, there might have been a toga party or two to enjoy! (Animal House has a lot to answer for!).
It’s fascinating that a society so focused on highbrow philosophical debate, could also be (apparently) full of debauchery and sin…
…but when you dig a bit deeper, this dichotomy was actually at the heart of one of the key Philosophical debates:
“Is your destiny predetermined… or do you have control over it?”
Those who believed that there was a divine order of fate (known as Stoics) felt that they should embrace their destiny and live in line with it – encouraging reason and acceptance.
On the other hand, those who rejected this idea of pre-determined fate (known as Epicureans) believed free will was important in shaping one’s life… and as such an individual should focus on pursuing a pleasurable and fulfilling life by making deliberate choices that minimise pain and maximise pleasure (toga party anyone?), thus shaping their well-being.
As with most philosophical discussions, there isn’t a right answer, and even in modern-day society, both approaches have merit.
…but as a business owner or marketer, I believe that success is driven from building our own paths and taking control (Epicurean), rather than letting things happen – and if you agree, then one of the most powerful tools you have to do this is in your marketing.
Marketing is just direction and influence
If you’re still reading this, I can assume that as business owners and marketers, you understand that to succeed, it’s down to you and your actions. Taking control of your business’s destiny is in the blood of every entrepreneur and owner.
…and taking control of your marketing is no different – we know that it’s down to us to turn prospects, into leads, into customers.
This isn’t like Kevin Costner in the field of dreams – there is no “build it and they will come”.
We control the destiny of our business… and our potential customers – and the organisations who succeed are those who can create effective pathways for these prospects to follow through to a destination – becoming a customer and maybe even more.
…because when it really comes down to it, marketing is all about taking someone on a journey, one that we can define and map out… and then helping those on the journey know what the next step is and then take that step… and the next step.
We determine the direction of the pathway, and the steps on it, and can influence those on the path to progress along it.
…which is what ultimately what marketing is:
What Happens Next?…
and how do I get someone to take that action?
The pathways of your business
Knowing that we control the paths potential customers follow, turning them from leads and prospects into customers and fans… we must also accept that even though we’d love to have bespoke paths for every potential customer, in the real world it’s just not feasible (maybe in a few years when AI is running everything!).
With unlimited time and money, we could handle every customer individually, creating their own path… but we don’t have unlimited resources… and so must create paths that different groups of similar people can follow.
To succeed we need to “segment” our market, and create pathways for different types of potential customer, dependent on who they are and what product or service we’re selling.
We create these segments to make our marketing easier, whilst still being effective.
For each segment, the steps on their path are distinct and appropriate to their circumstances, and because everyone who walks a specific path is similar, the way we can influence and persuade them to progress along it is easier as we understand them and thus can use appropriate communication which is directly relevant to where they are.
The reality of successful marketing
Let’s take a step back for a moment…
You may be saying to yourself… do I have to plan and build different paths for every single one of my segments? That sounds like a lot of work!
Well, fortunately, it’s likely lots of the paths are already there… (if they weren’t you wouldn’t have any customers!)
So it’s about understanding the paths your customers are already on, and then seeing where improvements can be made, because no path is perfect.
Are enough of you finding the start of your path?
Are there dead-ends or areas where someone can just ‘fall off’ the path?
Are the points where the steps are too far apart (and hard to follow) or too close to cause people to stumble and fall?
…and is the path obvious, and easy to follow to the destination?
We may be visualising things as a path… but you can relate these back to your business and marketing…
Are enough of you finding the start of your path? >> Are you generating enough new leads?
Are there dead-ends or areas where someone can just ‘fall off’ the path? >> Do you have ways of tracking potential customers and seeing if there are points where they just lose interest or stop progressing?
Steps are too far apart? >> Are you asking potential customers to make leaps in their relationship with you that they may not be ready to take?
Steps too close together? >> Are you doing too much (too many emails, too many calls) causing potential customer relationships to sour?
Is the path easy to follow? >> What’s the next thing you want someone to do? Are you signposting it so that when ready then can take the next step?
Taking time to understand your existing paths and where there might be issues is always a valuable exercise as it’ll highlight where you need to focus efforts and adjust your paths.
A helping hand on how to view your paths
Every path that a potential customer follows has a starting point and a destination… but how do you break the path down into stages?
No matter what business you’re in, there are some generally accepted steps on every path…
- How does a potential customer become AWARE of your business?
The first step on the path for many is awareness, learning that your product/service exists.
What are you doing to let people know that you can help them? How are you finding where they are and helping get them aware?
Awareness could be as fundamental as knowing what you offer exists (for completely new offerings) or just your particular business (for known products/services).
- Once they are aware, how do you get them to take action and demonstrate INTEREST in you?
It could be visiting your website, following you on social media or even signing up for your email list.
The emphasis is on them doing something to narrow the gap between themselves and your business.
- …and once you’ve got their interest, how are you going to get them to take ACTION, most likely actually make a purchase.
How easy is it for them to place an order? Do they have all the information they need to proceed to a purchase?
- Just because they’ve bought, the pathway doesn’t end. How can you get them to REPEAT and buy again, or to give you feedback and a testimonial?… or even to advocate for you to other potential customers, starting them on their own pathway?
You can break each of these into further steps (we’ve built and use a model called “From Innocence to Advocacy”) to help us get more detailed, but these core steps are the best place to start.
Let’s give a few examples of the paths for some businesses so you can see how they apply:
Example 1 – Business: Plumber / Market: Local / Service: Emergency Plumbing
- Awareness: Invests in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google My Business so that people searching for an on-demand plumber find them easily.
- Interest: There is a link on their listing to call an emergency number – and another link to the page on their website talking about their emergency service (with the same number), along with a clear explanation of how it works and the costs associated.
- Action: Have a telephone answering service (24/7) who can ask key questions to establish “urgency” and to make a booking directly with the plumber to be there within an agreed timescale – The plumber carries a card reader to make payment easy.
- Loop: The plumber leaves a discount card for future visits, a fridge magnet with an emergency number on, it, and asks the Customer for a quick video testimonial on their phone.
Example 2 – Business: Online Golf Retailer / Market: Countrywide / Product: Golf Shoes
- Awareness: Writes an SEO-optimised blog post which talks about the different types of Golf Shoes, when to use which and what to consider, along with some suggestions for good golf shoes.
- Interest: There is a link against each recommended golf show to go to that product page and learn more about the shoe. There are also other links to the overall shop shoe search engine.
- Action: Make it easy to select shoe sizes and have a seamless order process incorporating multiple payment options.
- Loop: Automated follow-up emails ask for feedback, and testimonials, and offer discount vouchers for future purchases. 1-year reminder emails on anniversary purchases asking about performance.
Example 3 – Business: Business Coach / Market: Local / Product: 1-2-1 Coaching
- Awareness: Meets local businesses at networking meetings in their area, and shares business cards and flyers.
- Interest: Flyers include a link to a website to book a free introductory session.
- Action: At the end of the introductory session, the client can choose to do a 3-month trial period. Coach can take direct payment over the phone, or drive to a confirmation page on the website.
- Loop: Continuous engagement with clients and follow-up emails with, discounted annual packages and simple feedback loops to refine marketing and process.
Each of the examples demonstrates a specific path a customer can take from lack of awareness to becoming a customer and advocate.
…and you should be able to see how they all naturally flow together easily.
Of course, this is just one pathway for each of these businesses. Potential clients can enter other paths, which join up and split as they move through their journey to becoming customers.
Getting Started with your own Paths
Hopefully, you now understand the concept of “pathways” and how they could apply to your business and marketing processes.
…but maybe wondering where to start in developing this idea.
When working with clients, the first thing we always do is understand a “core” pathway, the one that is already working for you, and use this as a launch point to understand the offshoots and variations that you can use to develop it.
So if you want to start mapping out your own core customer pathway then pick one of your “core” customers and walk the pathway in reverse to understand how they became customers in the first place.
This walking backward approach is simply asking “What did they do to get to the next step” and helps develop your understanding of how people find and work with you.
I’ll give you an example from Chimp Answers to illustrate it.
- They became a customer
- Before that, they had a proposal of how we would work together that they signed
- Before that, they had a discovery call to see how/if we could work together
- Before that, they booked the discovery call into my calendar
- Before that, they received a confirmation email and an offer to book a call
- Before that, they completed a contact us form which asked specific questions about their situation
- Before that, they read a couple of relevant articles in our blog about the challenges they were facing.
- Before that, they got to our website home page
- Before that, they clicked a link on our profile on the Mailchimp Partner Page
- Before that, they read our Mailchimp Partner Profile
- Before that, they searched the Mailchimp Partner Directory for people who could help with their issues.
- Before that, they search Mailchimp Help on Google and learned about Mailchimp Partners
- Before that, they discovered that they wanted help with a few specific issues on Mailchimp.
This is one of our “core” processes and through understanding each step we can see “what happens next“.
…and once we know what happens next, we can start to see blockages or problems that we can address to “make what happens next more likely to happen“.
- we had too many people booking calls who weren’t in our target market, so we put in place the contact us form, reasoning if their problem needed to be solved by a professional, they’d spend the 2 mins completing the form.
- Another issue we had was booking appointments – so we invested in a calendar booking tool that synced with our calendars (and which handled all reminders etc.) so that there was never any issue in the appointment setting.
- Finally, we try and ensure that the ability to get help (and the contact us form) is visible across the website so people can see that’s the next step.
(n.b. Much of our marketing focus can be distilled down into these two questions – “what happens next?” and “What can we do to make what happens next more likely to happen?” – they are at the core of everything we do).
Mapping your own pathways
There’s no doubt in my mind that mapping out pathways for your business that can explain how someone goes from not knowing you exist to being your biggest fan will be of benefit to your business.
You may find obvious gaps in your paths or steps that don’t fit together – or even discover new paths that have organically grown, which you can update and improve upon.
If you’re interested in mapping out your paths in a very simple and easy way, you can download our “Marketing Pathways” worksheet very shortly, which breaks things down in a very simple way and lets you start viewing your own pathways (and any issues therein).
Even just mapping your ‘core’ pathway would help you understand the main route people take and improve it.
What did the Ancient Greeks ever do for us?
I’d still love to go back and observe those fascinating philosophical debates about all aspects of life.
…but I know that when it came to the discussion of fate and destiny, which side of the argument I’d be on.
As a business owner, I know I have control of my destiny and the success of my business – and I also know that a key part of this is to control my marketing and build effective pathways that turn potential clients into true clients and more.
…and if you believe the same, mapping out your own pathways, and working to make them flow smoother and identify new routes would be a great place to start.
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