First in a series of interviews inviting different responses to the topic of client experience and research, we talk to Collette Easton, Head of Enterprise at Linkdex, a major player in looking at the complexity of customer journey online. Her powerful lessons for accountancy firms and to suppliers to the market are rooted in understanding the richness of real life customer journeys – and how you can influence them at every stage.
Understanding your customer journey
Your customer’s journey used to be understood as the golden thread that if you reeled back in would take you through the linear steps your prospects took to become your clients.
In search terms Collette explains that the new way of thinking requires a much broader and deeper view.
“Users search habits are complicated; using a variety of language: multiple search terms, across multiple devices, across many days – a multi tab experience. Now it’s about working on getting the best answers and experience in front of your target audience – at many different points – and *stop* working so hard on optimising poor content or experiences.“
Easton highlights something which we can all recognise, that a client’s journey to purchase is an increasingly complex and nuanced one. No more so than for those looking to engage an accountant, and accountants themselves looking to buy services.
Looking with one eye closed
The persistent trend however is to continue to take a narrow view of what customers are looking for, and beating the same drum in the same places, what Easton refers to in Search terms as “tunnel vision of one small batch of keywords, in one journey”.
“Researching what consumers are actually searching for is vital. And this must be done at scale. This can feel daunting, but too many businesses focus on top keywords – usually those that have the highest Search Volume. But the truth is that this group are often less than 50% of the searches that are made by your company’s consumer group, so you are looking at your landscape with one eye closed.”
For those embedded in professional services the principle is highly relevant. Thinking laterally and empathetically about the issues and challenges the real people behind businesses face, should open up a whole new way of thinking about where and how our prospects seek out information to answers their problems. The bigger this ‘universe’, the more scope there is to make contact.
What are the benefits of this approach?
“In terms of Search, by analysing the results across this keyword universe we understand which pages, publications and authors are influential.
From this we build business intelligence and provide clear objectives across the business. For example PR, Content, Performance Media (PPC), and Commercial teams.” says Easton.
So, research and insight fuels the capacity to link the different parts of the business together – not least those involved in new business generation.
It also allows us to focus and budget accordingly. For example:
- Publications to advertise or be published in
- Websites or social media groups to engage with
- Networking opportunities providing the best fit
- Vertical market events
- Expert content created around key topics
- PPC campaigns and optimised experiences on websites
And at every point we should be focussing on talking to the business challenges that are being expressed, not what we are trying to sell. The more we are seen to be talking to their needs and in their language the more likely we are to start to seal their loyalty.
“The advantage for the consumer is a better and more relevant and therefore personalised experience. Evidence shows that the more we are seen to answer the problem as expressed, the greater the opportunity we gain to influence their journey to us”, she concludes..
Why is this approach so important to a growth agenda?
“The key, in my opinion, is to not be short sighted in your view of the landscape.
Of course, a business has to be realistic about what it is capable of delivering, but until it understands the true size of the opportunity it doesn’t understand how to scale to grow.”
Easton continues, “Smaller businesses can either be incredibly agile (both in terms of marketing and their business processes) or can keep doing the same strategies that once worked but with eroding success.”
How do businesses approach this?
“Examine the potential customers needs honestly, and figure out where the business has competitive advantage”, Easton believes.
And it’s what you can do with this research that we both agree can transform the service offering, the client service proposition, and the messaging that goes with it.
“What patterns or answers have been identified to offer a more personalised service? Or, can the product or service be adapted to meet those customers needs? Thats where small business agility can reap reward. Are you better, cheaper, or so brilliantly different that you can tell your consumers and partners and ‘consumer influencers?’”
The new golden threads
Finding competitive advantage in a noisy market can be tough.
Taking the time to research and gain insight into your prospect base, as explored previously in “Still the expert? Time to review your sector knowledge” can ensure your services and messaging is highly relevant today.
Using this as a starting point, provides a springboard to now think ever broadly and laterally about where and how you can best use your resource to impact a bigger group of potential clients, and positively influence their journey to you.
The golden thread may not be as linear, but they will certainly be stronger, and many more of them.