Audience Messaging: 5 Stages of the Customer Journey

Erik Matlick
by Erik Matlick 02 Sep, 2013

In Advertising Fantasyland, a single ad buy would be all that is needed to reach, acquire and retain customers. In the real world, the media landscape is constantly fragmenting, and potential consumers are harder to reach than ever before.


As Web users jump from desktop computers to smartphones to tablets and from top-tier publishers to citizen journalists to social media, advertisers are faced with the challenge of not just finding, but also engaging consumers, no matter where they are.

Adding to the challenge of this multichannel universe is the fact that consumer behavior is changing too, and as a direct result of digital media. For instance, Google recently introduced the concept of Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the time between a consumer's first exposure to advertising and the ultimate purchase decision, as well as the online research that occurs during that time. How do you win the ZMOT? First, it requires stepping away from the now-obsolete idea of a sales funnel and, instead, viewing the customer life cycle (both B2C and B2B) as a fluid, multi-touch journey, which a brand is actively a part of - every step of the way.




During the consideration phase, a customer may not be actively in the market for your product, or may not have even recognized their need for it yet. The objective at this point should be to present messaging that places your company top-of-mind, as well as to receive permission to send future correspondences. Display, search and content marketing are the heavy hitters in this period, because impactful, benefits-oriented messaging is required to move them along on their journey. Madison Logic's own internal research revealed that this discovery phase is roughly five days from the original content interaction.



During the evaluation phase is where the heavy lifting is done. Customers are weighing your product against your competitors, so your brand's message, and the way in which it is delivered, is crucial. For example, customers in the research and consideration phase tend to respond positively to white papers. Once they move farther down the funnel, they will gravitate toward hands-on product demos and trial offers.

At this stage, you have to take your display, search and content efforts to the next level, adapting the message to more targeted audience segments and nurturing those leads. This part of the journey is really the first stage of relationship building with your customer, so adding email to the mix is advisable in order to begin a dialogue and cultivate that relationship. It is here where targeted offers and incentives become extremely valuable tools in winning the sale over your competitors.



Some may think the purchase is the last stop on the journey, but there is still a ways to go. Now that you won the customer, the new objective is to retain them. Messaging and targeting efforts must become even more tailored to a customer's specific needs. Furthermore, precise audience segmentation, loyalty incentives and high-touch customer relationship management practices are what will turn customers into brand ambassadors.



Now that you've established an army of brand ambassadors, it is your responsibility to equip them with the proper tools to share your message. Email and social media are your most valuable assets in this phase. In addition to being ideal for communicating with a customer on a more individual level, email and social are built for easy sharing, so passing along your message is a no-brainer, especially if you make it worth the customer's while with contests and loyalty promotions.



The customer journey never actually ends. The ultimate aim of a marketer is to build a lifelong customer, so you should never come to a point where you abandon your efforts to strengthen that bond. On an individual level, customer purchasing behaviors, and their needs in general, will constantly shift, but it is in your best interest to maintain those relationships.

For instance, once a company decides to purchase a payroll system, one could think that their need has ended and there is no reason for the marketer to continue making an effort. What about cross-sell and upsell opportunities like employee management programs? What about when that company is ready to renew their subscription or when it is in the market for a new payroll system entirely?




Going on the customer journey means staying for the long haul and never expecting to arrive at a destination. The approach doesn't apply only to products like cars or jeans; it's applicable to B2B products and services as well. Regardless of what you're selling, if you invest in your customer, they will return the favor.