Before you can even begin to think about marketing strategies and tactics for your interior design business, you need to know your customer’s journey. Only then can you determine what the appropriate strategies and tactics should be.
Many business owners start blogging, posting on social media, running ads and sending emails without taking time to first understand their customer’s path to purchase. That’s a mistake.
It’s like choosing the perfect paint color blindfolded, taking the blindfold off, seeing that horrible shade on the wall and putting the blindfold back on to select another color. Ludicrous right? What a waste of time and money!
My goal with this article is to enlighten you on how understanding your customer’s journey will save you a ton of time, money and aggravation.
More importantly, it’ll set you on course to begin reaching your goals and enjoying all the reasons you went into business in the first place.
Hang with me for a few minutes and we’ll pull the blindfold off of your approach to marketing your business. You’ll learn what the customer journey is, why it’s important and how content fits into each stage of the journey.
The Customer Journey
According to Ryte Wiki:
The customer journey in marketing refers to the customer’s path, via touchpoints, to their decision to purchase an item.
The journey consists of 3 stages.
During the awareness stage, the prospect becomes aware that you exist. Your objective in this stage is to get your brand in front of the prospect so they learn that your business is out there and to drive them to your website.
Methods to achieve this objective include:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – e.g. Ensuring your content contains the keywords your prospect is searching on
- Paid ads (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
- Engagement on social media
During the consideration stage, the prospect researches ways to solve their problem. Your objective during this stage is to convert the prospect into a lead (they provide email), build trust and establish your business as an authority.
The way to achieve this objective is to produce content that is valuable and helpful such as:
- Blog posts
- Social posts
Continually creating valuable content is key. It keeps the prospects coming back for more and provides you with a reason to communicate with your leads via email.
The decision stage is when the buyer chooses a solution for their problem. Your objective here is to convert the lead into a customer.
Consultation appointments help this stage along as well as continuing to provide content to your leads via email.
The customer journey is often depicted as a funnel because the volume of prospects at each stage resembles that of a funnel.
- The greatest number of people are in the awareness stage.
- Fewer people remain in the consideration stage.
- The least amount of people reach the decision stage.
Why the Customer Journey is important
When you understand the customer journey you are better equipped to help guide them through it with content and offers that are appropriate for the stage they’re in.
For example, while in the awareness stage it would be appropriate to present them with a blog post titled Things to consider when redesigning your kitchen with an offer at the end of the post leading them to another article titled 5 Tips for selecting the perfect countertops.
It would not be appropriate to offer them your $100,000 kitchen redesign package at the end of the initial blog post. It’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date. It’s absurd, rude, creepy and unlikely to get the response you’re looking for.
We know you ultimately want the sale. But how do you get there without coming across as desperate, pushy and self-serving (only interested in the sale)? You provide valuable help.
Large ticket purchases take time. Time allows you to provide the prospect with value and nurture the relationship so their trust in you grows. They’ll see you as the authority in the industry, heightening your chances of being hired.
Think of your relationship with the prospect as a bank account. Each time you provide help, you make a deposit. The account balance grows (the prospect’s trust in you increases).
Over time a sizable balance is accumulated. Only then would it be appropriate to request a withdrawal (ask for the sale).
If the account is new (awareness stage), with a low balance and you go make a giant withdrawal (“Hey, wanna buy my product?”) you’ll get overdrawn and the bank will close the account.
Additionally, when you provide valuable help to the prospect – with no strings attached – it establishes you as an industry authority.
Content is Stage-Dependent
The information your prospect is looking for varies depending on the customer journey stage they are in.
Content During the Awareness Stage
When the prospect decides they have a problem they’ll begin looking for solutions.
To get their attention you need to be where they are – Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, the right sidebar of a vendor’s website (i.e. Google ad).
And, you have to offer them something so overwhelmingly compelling and relevant to their situation, they can’t help but give up their email in exchange for it. This is called a lead magnet.
Capturing the prospect’s email is essential if you want to be considered for their business. It allows you to keep in touch with them and provide continual value during the consideration phase.
Content During the Consideration Stage
While in the consideration stage, the prospect is researching all the options for solving their problem. They are also veering off into subtopics along the way. It’s natural. When you want a kitchen redesign you will logically be interested in countertops, flooring and window treatments too!
The goal during this stage is to help, NOT sell!
Examples of content that will help guide leads through this phase include:
- Writing a blog post discussing all the options for getting a kitchen designed
- Shooting a video comparing countertop choices
- Writing The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Perfect Interior Design Firm (downloadable document)
Since you have their email, you can easily (and strategically) communicate with them to nurture the relationship and build trust.
While you’re emailing your leads with answers to their burning questions, advising them how to divert roadblocks and raising awareness to concerns they hadn’t considered, your competitor is calling and asking for the sale.
You’re building trust and establishing yourself as an authority while the competition annoys and pesters. Who would you want to hire?
By nurturing the relationship in a noninvasive way (email), the bank account balance grows exponentially. It grows easily and automatically (if you’ve set up email on automation).
Then, it becomes appropriate to request a withdrawal. In fact, it’s a natural next step from the prospect’s perspective. After all, you’ve been giving and giving.
The account balance is healthy and now it’s their turn to approve a small withdrawal. Ask for the consultation!
Content During the Decision Stage
While in the decision stage, they are comparing their options and determining what would be the best choice, based on their goals and values.
Most potential buyers have concerns and objections about making a big decision like this.
Your job is to make the prospect feel comfortable about hiring you. Erase any objections they may have. The way to do that is to provide content that addresses their concerns. Here are some ideas:
- Testimonials from recent satisfied customers
- An overview of your process so they know what to expect and when
- A blog post describing how other clients have easily managed kitchen duties during a kitchen redesign
- Share before/after photos of a project you just finished for an inspirational nudge
Always include a strong call to action within this stage’s content and make it easy for the prospect to contact you. Like this:
“We want to help deliver your dream kitchen. The sooner you schedule your project, the sooner you can be enjoying your gorgeous new kitchen with family and friends. Call now.”
Customize Content for YOUR Customer’s Journey
To really get into the mind of your ideal customers you need to create an Ideal Customer Avatar (avatar is also commonly referred to as a persona).
Generally, you should have a unique avatar for each service you offer. You can learn more about creating your own Ideal Customer Avatar here.
In essence, a well-crafted avatar feeds your content by identifying the unique goals, values, challenges, paint points, objections and the roles of your ideal customer. This allows you to keep the prospect moving through the customer journey. Otherwise, they may be stuck in awareness or consideration forever.
The avatar also enables you to know what stirs your prospect emotionally. When you invoke emotion, you get their attention and compel them to take action like clicking a link to your blog or scheduling a consultation or even signing a contract & sending the downpayment. Again, keep them moving through the journey.
For discussion purposes, I created a sample avatar below. Click the image to open the full document so you can follow along as we explore how content can be customized based on the information you’ve gathered for your customer avatar.
When you’ve identified your ideal customer’s goals you can customize your content to speak to those goals so they know you can help them achieve those goals.
For example, if their goal is to have a kitchen that is warm, inviting and a dynamite place to entertain family and friends, you can paint this picture by showing a group of people enjoying themselves in a modern kitchen.
Combine the photo with compelling copy that makes the prospect say, “Hey, I want that to be me!” and you’ve got that person’s attention.
When you’ve identified your ideal customer’s values, you can demonstrate how your business has the same or similar values and by hiring you, their experience will be based on the same values.
For example, when the prospect values quality & craftsmanship you could include a list of highly reputable cabinet makers and flooring manufacturers on your “Vendors we work with” page to demonstrate your commitment to these values.
A word of caution: If you don’t share a value with your prospect, don’t say that you do. People aren’t stupid and smell insincerity a mile away and you’ll instantly lose credibility and damage the relationship. Only highlight shared values that are legit.
Your ideal customer’s challenges make for great content.
When you’ve identified your ideal customer’s pain points, you can create content that acknowledges those areas and communicates that by hiring you, they don’t have to worry anymore.
This eliminates the prospect’s roadblocks to moving forward in the buying process and makes them more comfortable in hiring you for the job.
For example, if the prospect is concerned that they might be disappointed with the end results, you could author content that describes the part of your process that not only uncovers their requirements but digs deeper to ensure you fully understand their vision which increases the likelihood of delivering a kitchen they love.
Better yet, create a use case that walks through a previous customer’s experience in detail including how you discovered the essence of their dream kitchen through discussion and inspirational photos from Pinterest and magazines. Maybe your service even includes a walk through with them at the local home remodeling show. If so, make sure they’re aware of it!
The idea is to lower their anxiety around the challenges and pain points so they continue in their journey and advance to the decision stage sooner.
When you know where your ideal customer gets their information it enables you to get your message in front of them. If they spend time on Pinterest, maybe you should be promoting your business there (or Facebook or LinkedIn, depending on your target).
Knowing where the prospect gets their information from also allows you to reference topics they’re familiar with and can relate to.
For example, if your ideal customer is an HGTV fan, you could reference a popular show and weave a reference to it within your copy. It may even be something playful like “Turn off HGTV and listen up. I have big news for you…” as an opener to your email.
Educating your prospect is part of helping them. On the topic of HGTV, why not author content that dispels the many inaccuracies HGTV conveys such as the unrealistic timelines that remodels are performed or the risks associated with doing your own plumbing. Remember, you’re building a relationship and this includes telling them what they don’t know.
When you know your ideal customer’s objections, you can address them head on so their journey doesn’t get stalled.
For example, the cost can often be an objection – more like a perceived objection. Content for this objection is as simple as a blog post describing a kitchen redesign as an investment, not an expense. Or, convey the old adage “you get what you pay for” by describing a nightmare project where someone took the cheap route and was extremely disappointed. They were still out the money for the cheap solution + the cost to redo it.
You need to know who the decision maker is, who is a decision influencer and who’s just along for the ride.
For commercial interior designers, the decision maker becomes even more important because they need to be involved in every conversion. This will save you a ton of time by not having to rehash the same discussion over and over.
A word about email automation
Email automation is essential throughout the customer journey. Imagine having 1,000 prospects in the consideration stage without email automation. Do you have time to call and follow up on 1,000 people? Would you even want to?
Understanding the customer journey and defining your Ideal Customer Avatar are crucial to designing and implementing an effective email campaign.
- Your initial emails are introducing your business to your lead and training them to expect your emails.
- The next set of emails build trust by acknowledging and addressing your lead’s challenges and pain points.
- Finally, your communication knocks over the objection roadblocks so the lead becomes more comfortable in a decision to hire you.
- Create an Ideal Customer Avatar. Learn about the importance of and how to create one here.
- Review your existing content and determine what stage of the customer journey it belongs. If you’re missing content for a stage(s), create it – now!
- If you don’t have content, establish a plan to create content for each stage.
The customer journey is pretty logical if you think about it. In fact, you should recognize your own experience as a buyer.
First, you become aware of a business that can solve your problem and if they succeed in earning your trust, you feel more comfortable buying from them.
The key to success is to make the customer journey a focal point of marketing your business. Always be helping. Make regular deposits so when it’s time to withdrawal, it’s expected and welcomed.
I’d love to know if the customer journey is a new concept for you. If so, what will be your first task to get started?
If you were already aware of the customer journey, what are you doing to help your prospects through it?
Please share if you think this information will benefit others.