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The New Digital Buyer Journey

How Are Your Customers Really Making Buying Decisions? 

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make when mapping content to the buyer journey is thinking that their customers approach their buying decisions as a linear series of actions.

It’s no small wonder why we would think like that. Until relatively recently, the traditional buyer journey looked like this: 

Truthfully, if you’re a serious marketer and you have any interest in lead generation and conversion, you’ll forget about this diagram right now. Because what it does is lull us into a false sense of security that we not only understand exactly how our customers are thinking but that everything they do online is guiding them in only one direction.

And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Your customers come into contact with a multitude of digital touchpoints, many of which aren’t controlled by your brand at all. They find information through Google search, digital ads, social media, product reviews, blogs, industry publications, podcasts, radio or tv ads, word of mouth, and product or company websites. 

So, today’s digital buyer journey actually ends up looking a lot more like this:

This graph does a great job of illustrating how complex (and anything but linear) the digital buyer journey is. It also does a great job of illustrating how certain digital touchpoints can lead someone backward rather than forward. For example, “overwhelming information about the problem” as a result of independent online research points to how difficult it can be to find what you’re looking for, and how critical is it for brands to be thought leaders.   

The big takeaway is that if brands want to reach their customers, drive them in a forward-moving buying journey, and track their behavior effectively, several actions are necessary:

  • Brands need to produce several pieces of content for each stage of the buyer journey to ensure customers have multiple ways to get information – both to enable broader research and because not everyone wants to read a whitepaper.
  • Brands need to key into the differences between digital devices used in the customer journey and how these variations can impact buying decisions; i.e., mobile vs. desktop vs. tablet.
  • Brands need to insert themselves into the customer journey in more ways than just producing a multitude of content – the digital customer journey includes many phases within “awareness”, “consideration”, and “decision”, and each can last several months and, as we see, take the customer backward as well as forward.

Tracking Content Consumption Through the Digital Customer Journey

Content, broadly, is an integral component of any digital customer journey and applies to any touchpoint. An ad, for example, is content, just as an eBook is content.

Because there are many ways to access content during the digital customer journey, it’s important to have several pieces available across multiple touchpoints. We recommend taking stock of the content you already have to help you identify the content that you need. To do this efficiently, a content map is extremely helpful.

Here is a sample content map for an IT security company:

You can see how the content map clearly identifies existing content, who it’s for, and what buyer journey stage it satisfies. You can also see how this map identifies the areas where there is no content for the buyer journey.

Using this content map strategy, you can set off with a clear directive for what type of content you should be creating, right? Well, remember how complicated the buyer journey really is? Before you start churning out content to fill these very well-identified gaps, you need to first figure out what type of content it should be.

Here are a few key questions to help guide you and your team in determining the most advantageous content for the buyer journey based on your customers’ behavior:

  • Do customers primarily use a mobile phone or desktop computer to make their purchase?

This isn’t a question about responsiveness. Your site should always be responsive to satisfy today’s user experience. However, if your consumers are primarily using mobile to digest your content, they will appreciate short, quick, informative pieces that don’t require a lot of time or attention; i.e., product reviews, videos, product comparisons, or interactive solutions like calculators. Chances are, your audience is using a mix of desktop and mobile, so you should look to provide multiple types of content that appeal to both.

  • Where do the bulk of purchases occur? I.e. on the website, through social media, in a store, over the phone, etc.

Knowing where your customers are making buying decisions is valuable information you can use to justify where you choose to put content and how you reach out to customers. For example, if you determine many purchases are occurring through your website, you can begin placing content at other touchpoints that drive to the website, and you can reevaluate your eCommerce experience to ensure it’s doing the best it can for the customer and for your business.

  • Where do customers come from before making a purchase; i.e., a competitor’s website, your blog, or a link in an email?

Wherever customers are coming from, if you know their path, you can place content strategically to influence buying decisions or get them to take the next step. Think ads on similar websites, calls-to-action on your blog or web pages – the more you know about your audience, the easier it is to guide their journey with purposeful content.

Different Devices for Different Behaviors

Because consumers are using multiple devices as they proceed along the buyer journey, it’s important for brands to track and respond to these activities. Marketing and retargeting tactics may work to an extent, but there are other considerations that will only boost your brand’s ability to convert. 

  • Ensure cross-device consistency. Where the customer experience is concerned, nothing is worse than a desktop experience that isn’t replicated with your mobile one. Not only should your eCommerce work well on all devices, but the information, layout, and accessibility should too.
  • Optimize, optimize, optimize. How many times have you found yourself standing in a store, trying to access the website on your phone to see more about a product, and it just. won’t. load. Don’t replicate that frustration for your potential customers! They may move on – and never come back.
  • Play into your audience’s mood. According to research by Convince&Convert, consumers make more spontaneous purchases when using mobile. In addition, more consumers make online purchases at home. With targeted, customized, real-time marketing, you can influence those spontaneous purchases in your brand’s favor.

Be Tactical and Strategic with Content to Drive Audiences Through the Digital Customer Journey

We know content is important and thusly is assigned to the phases of the high-level customer journey that make the most sense for the customer. However, along the path from awareness, to consideration, to decision, your potential buyers are taking a lot of different steps involving many touchpoints. Brands should focus on the digital customer journey and also consider how offline activities can influence that journey as well. Print advertising, radio spots, mailers, leave-behinds, and other offline content can drive potential buyers to your website and can be just as effective and strategic as a series of digital content. 

When it comes to the digital customer journey, there are a lot of considerations for brands in terms of how to reach their target audience and get them to take action. But the most important consideration is who your audience really is. Your customer journey strategy can be highly effective if you’re resonating with your target audience and showing them that your brand understands them and what they need.

Without knowledge of who your audience is, your efforts to drive the digital customer journey may not be as effective. 

Want to tap into your target audience and understand their digital customer journey so your brand can stand out and win customers? Of course you do! Fishnet can help – contact us today!

Your Brand’s Successful Growth Requires a Solid Foundation

Build it With a Brand Messaging Architecture

If you were asked to pitch your business right now, what would you say? What if you had to make a pitch to someone else two days later? Would your pitch be the same? And, importantly, would someone else in your company give the same pitch or their own version? What we’re driving at with these questions is the importance of consistent brand messaging. To build brand familiarity, trust, and loyalty, you need a defined approach to what your brand says, and how – and we do this by creating a brand messaging architecture.

The Foundation: Defining Your Brand Messaging From the Ground Up

A brand messaging architecture is best thought of as a foundation for your brand.

As with a house, anything constructed without a solid foundation won’t stand the test of time. Your brand is the same way. The moment there are inconsistencies in your messaging, it can cause your audience to doubt your credibility and can make your competition look more appealing.

One of the first steps we take as part of any brand development process is to create a brand messaging architecture and build that critical foundation. It’s a multi-step process that should always be highly focused on the key stakeholders within your organization and take into consideration your brand’s current external presence.

The goal is to create a living document that defines the most important aspects of your brand’s messaging, thus creating a foundation onto which your brand can grow and scale. Having a single source of truth for your brand’s messaging also puts your entire organization on the same page, ensuring consistency across all target audience interactions.

Achieving Consensus About Your Brand Within Your Organization

It may surprise you (or maybe not), but company stakeholders aren’t always on the same page in terms of how they talk about the brand and what they believe the brand should communicate to its target audience.

For example, the CEO of an outdoor apparel manufacturing company may believe the primary brand message should be how many different varieties of outdoor gear they can provide to their retail customers.

The CMO, on the other hand, feels strongly that the primary message should focus on their rapid production timeline, which allows them to get apparel into stores – and into consumers’ hands – faster than the industry standard.

Which company stakeholder is correct?

If you said “both”, you’d be right, which is why it’s so important to define your brand messaging, and determine which messages are “primary”, and which are “secondary.” Elevating one message over another isn’t just a matter of preference, either. Marketing agencies like Fishnet apply strategy and research to help you understand the best messaging direction for your brand.

Continuing with this apparel manufacturer example, let’s look at the brand messaging architecture development process if this company were to work with Fishnet.

Developing Your Brand Messaging Architecture

  1. Get all key stakeholders together and all opinions on the table. When in doubt, talk it out, right? We facilitate open discussions that get everyone talking about the brand, with the goal of getting everyone on the same page about which messages should bubble up to the top. These discussions include brand messaging exercises to help stakeholders identify words and images that correlate with – or are antithetical to– the brand.
  2. Conduct individual interviews with stakeholders, partners, and customers. Nothing is more telling than a candid conversation with people who are involved in different ways with your brand. It’s critically helpful to hear what the COO thinks the perception of the brand is versus what an actual customer’s perception is. Hearing about direct brand experiences is extremely valuable and not something stakeholders often have access to without conducting a dedicated survey effort. If customers leave reviews or provide feedback, those can be helpful, but one-on-one interviews provide a deeper understanding of brand perception and identify gaps that can be addressed in your brand messaging architecture.
  3. Assess the competition to ensure your brand’s messaging stands apart. Your brand’s approach to messaging should be well-informed by competitive research. This step is where you validate that your differentiating value is truly different, and how you ensure your brand doesn’t sound like everyone else in your industry.

Keep in mind that for the purposes of this blog post, we’re talking only about brand messaging. Each step mentioned above also plays a role in creating a brand’s identity, and we’ll be covering that aspect of brand development in another post, as it carries equally important weight in the overall process.

Applying the Research to Create a Brand Messaging Architecture

The three aforementioned steps all inform the creation of your brand messaging architecture. The architecture is essentially a hierarchical framework that clearly defines different aspects of your brand. While the messaging architecture is intended only for internal use, it is crucial to informing the external messaging you create for your brand.

The components of a brand messaging architecture include:

  • Mission Statement: Why does your business exist? What do you do and why should people care?
    Vision Statement: In an idealized view of the world, what is your brand’s long-term purpose?
  • Target Audience: Define your primary, secondary, and (if applicable) tertiary audiences, their pain points, and specific messaging for each group.
  • Brand Positioning Statement: What is the differentiating value your brand offers to your target audience?
  • Competitive Positioning Statement: What is the differentiating value your brand offers that sets you apart from the competition?
  • Brand Personality: What are the human characteristics of your brand that are exuded during audience interactions?
  • Brand Essence: What feelings or emotions does your brand exude during audience interactions?
  • Brand Voice: How does your brand speak? Are you humorous? Professional? Scientific?
  • Elevator Pitch: How would you describe your brand’s value in a minute or less?

Consistent presentation of a brand has been shown to increase revenues by 33%.

It should be clear to see how the components of your messaging architecture truly create a solid framework for your brand. When you train salespeople, onboard new hires, or have to answer the question of what your company is all about, this architecture ensures you deliver a consistent brand message.

The External Face of Your Brand: Message AND Identity

As mentioned, the brand messaging architecture is intended to be internally facing to get everyone thinking and talking about the brand in a consistent fashion. But, like with the elevator pitch, the brand messaging architecture serves as a solid guide for externally-facing messaging, whether that’s website copy, sales materials, thought leadership content, or other brand assets.

If you’re concerned about the time, effort, or cost of developing any aspect of your brand, there are two things to keep in mind: working with an agency takes a significant amount of time and effort off your company’s plate and ensures a quality output that will move your brand forward; and, simply, it’s smart.

A recent study from McKinsey & Company found that companies that invest in branding not only out-perform those that don’t but have on average a 245% higher return to shareholders.

And your brand identity plays an enormous role in delivering a consistent experience – and in generating a brand guide that will serve as the go-to resource for your brand’s look and feel. You’re halfway to learning the most important elements of every brand development process.

Want some help getting your key stakeholders on the same page about your brand? We can help. Contact us today to start a conversation.

Is a Company Rebrand Worth the Investment?

Why Rebranding is so Valuable for Growing and Scaling Your Business

There is a natural evolution within industries to adapt to economic changes and market trends that impact the way business is done. The “adapt or die” philosophy is especially poignant in this context, which is why a company rebrand often becomes a necessity to not just keep up, but to rise above the competition and stand out to your audience.

First, the Basics: What Does a Rebrand Entail?

Companies often start down the road to rebranding by recognizing that they need [insert brand element here; i.e. a new website, updated messaging, a better way to reach their target audience.] From there, all the multiple elements involved in meeting the stated need begin to emerge, making it clear that a rebrand is the real need.

These elements fall into two primary categories: brand messaging and brand identity. Each is critical for your rebrand as they help define your brand and its key functions:

  • what your brand is and where it is going
  • what your brand says
  • how your brand says it
  • who your brand speaks to
  • what your brand looks like
  • how you want to make people feel
  • how you want to make people feel about your brand

Building out each of these functions in greater detail is done through the creation of a brand messaging architecture and visual brand identity. These pieces are standard for any rebranding exercise, and are ultimately combined into a comprehensive brand guide that serves as a single point of truth for your brand, enabling consistency across every touchpoint.

Whatever your reason for rebranding, the components of your brand messaging and visual identity are crucial for ensuring you stand out with a differentiating value promise targeted at the right audience in the right way.

Why You Should Consider a Company Rebrand

Now that you know on a high level what a rebrand consists of, let’s talk about why it’s worth doing. And unsurprisingly, there isn’t just one reason why a rebrand is a good idea. There are many.

We’re going to share a few reasons why you should consider rebranding your company, but first, we want to hammer home the most important driver for embarking on a rebranding process: it’s all about moving your brand forward.

A rebrand is about much more than a website redesign or applying a fresh look to sales materials. A rebrand defines your company and its place in the market, and does so in a way that allows you to grow and scale without having to repeatedly reinvent your brand just to keep up.

Your messaging and visual identity are designed to evolve with your brand because they are created with buy-in from your company’s key stakeholders, and are informed by research into your industry, target audience, and competition. It is through this approach that your rebrand can sustain and support the future evolution of your brand.

With that said, let’s talk about when it’s a good idea to pursue a company rebrand:

  1. Accommodating a Change Within Your Company

    A change within your company can be any number of things: a merger or acquisition, the sunsetting or introduction of a product or service, a domestic or international expansion – you get the idea. What each of these potential changes has in common is a need to revisit how your company presents itself to the world, and who your target audience is.  ‌

    Adding a new product or service, for example, may introduce a new user group you need to reach. Additionally, expanding to a new location may require you to adjust your brand to resonate with a different culture or appeal to a new demographic. Rebranding to accommodate a change will lead to greater success for your company as you undergo that shift, and in the long term.

  2. Making a Change in Focus or Priority

    ‌For example: brands more and more are pivoting to place a greater emphasis on sustainability. For some brands, becoming more eco-aware can be a significant shift in focus and priority, but it’s one that is highly relevant and often requires a company rebrand to ensure authenticity around a sustainable promise.  ‌

    If your brand is starting to refine its messaging to reflect a new priority or focus, it’s time to consider a rebrand to help effectively communicate that story in the right way to the right people.

  3. Pursuing a More Simplified Approach

    ‌Less is more, especially when it comes to your brand. You’ll be able to communicate more effectively through a more simplified messaging and aesthetic approach; it’s the way your audience digests information and it’s the approach your competition is using.  

    ‌For companies that don’t have internal marketing teams or a dedicated marketing effort, working with an agency like Fishnet can be highly beneficial to helping execute a more simplified approach to your brand. An agency will help you identify the most important information to convey and how to convey it, and create an aesthetic that reflects your brand and helps uniquely identify it through modern, eye-catching, memorable, and engaging visual elements.

  4. Accommodating Negative Press

    While not a favorable reason to have to consider a company rebranding, it is one that does happen. Brands can take a serious hit from bad press, whatever the reason, making it nearly impossible to come back into the public eye without making any changes.  

    ‌This scenario has happened to some very well-known brands. You may remember Time Warner Cable – now known as Spectrum. The cable company under its original name became notorious for bad customer service and couldn’t quite recover from its negative reputation. It merged with Charter Communications (which was experiencing a similar problem) in 2017 to become Spectrum, a rebrand that allowed both companies to start fresh and rebuild customer loyalty.

A Rebrand Vs. A Brand Refresh

Without getting too in the weeds, it’s important to address the very important difference between a rebrand and a refresh.

A rebrand, as we have detailed, is essentially a complete overhaul of your existing brand.

A brand refresh, on the other hand, is like a makeover. The original brand is maintained but is enhanced with fresh, updated messaging and a new visual aesthetic. A company may choose a refresh over a rebrand if the need is to simply achieve an updated look and feel and none of the other elements mentioned above apply.

A quick note about rebranding: sometimes, but not always, a company rebranding includes a name change.

Brands that have equity with their audiences and aren’t struggling to combat bad press or any other major roadblock to growth may choose to maintain their name – certainly, a new brand name requires additional effort to communicate the change to your audience and build up brand recognition.

Other Important Benefits of a Company Rebranding

While we have identified the pain points that typically motivate a company to consider a rebrand, there are other important benefits that are realized from rebranding.

  • Strengthening your brand equity: A rebrand will establish consistency so your audience recognizes you and understands what your brand means for them. It also ensures your internal team reinforces that experience with the customer in how they represent your brand. A rebranding will ideally correct any brand elements that were previously taking away from building brand equity.
  • Creating brand loyalists: As a result of a rebrand, the customers you have will like you more, and you will gain new customers. And the more happy customers you have, the more likely they are to act as evangelists for your brand, increasing your visibility and ability to grow.
  • Rising above the competition: Your rebrand will give you a fresh place in the market that is well-informed by the competition. Success as a brand is in large part reliant on being able to fill gaps in the market and differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Are you ready to rebrand your company? Whatever your motivation, every brand needs to take stock of its place in the market at one point or another and assess whether it’s time for an updated, more competitive, highly targeted brand message and visual identity.

Let’s talk about your rebrand. Contact us today to start a conversation.

How to Use the Right Digital Channels to Nurture Quality Leads

Strategic Tactics to Help You Generate More Sales-Qualified Leads

A consumer purchase journey is a lot like a new relationship.

You need to take some time to learn about each other, see how compatible you are, perhaps consider your options, and ultimately make a decision to proceed and commit, or back out.

To make the relationship successful, you do the right things at the right time to make a good impression.

Marketers need to woo their potential buyers in much the same way.

This means reaching them wherever they are in the buying cycle; nurturing them at every stage to ensure you stand out, building trust, and, ultimately, winning them over.

Consumers have a lot of choices, and they determine their own purchase journey in today’s highly digital and information-rich environment. So marketers must be sure there are no leaks in the sales funnel that could lead to missed opportunities.

Here are 3 easy steps to help you reach your buyers when and where it counts, and maximize conversions.

Step 1: Identify your Buyers – and Their Journey

Understanding your audience and where they are in their purchase journey is key to reaching them in the most appropriate way.

  • Create buyer personas. What type of people make up your target audience? If you know you you’re marketing to, you can better understand how they make buying decisions. Create as many personas as you need.
  • Pinpoint actual buyers and research their habits and decision-making process. Research buyers who:
    • Fit into your personas
    • Took some type of action—i.e. made a purchase, evaluated your product or service, downloaded some piece of content, etc.
  • Survey each buyer about their purchase journey. Meaning, find out what led them to look for your product or service, and their research and decision-making process.

Take the information you’ve learned and implement a plan for how you can reach your buyers more effectively, integrating digital channels toward that end.

Step 2: Use Digital Channels for Lead Nurturing

Buyers move swiftly, and marketers need to be prepared to reach them wherever they might be. A multi-channel lead nurturing strategy is key for building brand awareness, trust, and closing the deal.

  • Email—Personalized, targeted emails can go a long way in the lead nurturing process. Segment your email lists so you’re sending appropriate content to your potential buyer.
  • Social Media—Be actively engaged on your social networks. Listening, responding and monitoring will help build trust. Take advantage of social ads as well to reach your audience based on interest, location, and other demographics.
  • Retargeting—Implement retargeting campaigns based on metrics such as time spent on your site, pages viewed, or actions taken. If a user gets close to purchase but doesn’t complete it, use a retargeting ad to ensure that lead doesn’t get away.
  • Phone or Chat—People value a one-on-one interaction – now more than ever. Making your phone number readily available, or having a chat feature on your website, provides users with immediate answers from a real human, which can certainly make an impact on a purchase decision.
  • Dynamic Website Personalization—As users engage, enhance your website with strategic content to provide them with the information they need as they browse your pages and help drive their purchase decision.

Step 3: Don’t Forget About the Content.

Reaching users through multiple digital channels only works as hard as the content you’re delivering. Be mindful of your calls-to-action, and what information or opportunity you’re giving the user. Ask yourself if it’s the most appropriate way to speak to them at their current stage of the buying cycle, or if the download or offer you’re presenting is what they need to push them further into the decision-making process.

Fishnet can help execute these steps and more—contact us today to learn how our lead generation and nurturing tactics can benefit your brand.