I was thinking about the Boston Marathon today because today is the day of the Boston Marathon. I always have a couple of thoughts: For a half of a second, I think about going to the marathon. But then I remember then I hate crowds. Then, I think about running the darned thing one of these years. But then I remember I would have to run within a large crowd and finish to an even larger crowd. Next, I think about those funny looking metallic coats the runners wear after the race. I think about heartbreak hill. I wonder if my iphone battery would make it through the entire race. (No, of course it wouldnt.)
Lastly, I think about Rosie Ruiz and I can’t help but chuckle. For those of you who dont know, Rosie was briefly the female winner of the 1980 marathon until officials discovered she had skipped most of the race. The kicker? She had taken the T (Bostons inefficient above-ground subway system) to cut out a large stretch of the race! (I imagine any Bostonian reading this would wonder: Wouldnt the T actually slow you down?)
The part of me who enjoys a good caper appreciates this hardly believable tale and almost admires Rosies stealth. The part of me who appreciates good marketing and poor analogies, cant help but draw some correlations to the customer journey.
Through our use of the classic sales funnel we look at the customer journey as a linear path, much like a marathon course. Theres a starting line (often known as awareness) and theres a finish line (either the purchase or advocacy based on the funnel you use). However, in todays day and age, the journey and its phases arent so predictable.
For example, today customers enter the sales cycle much more knowledgeable around the solution set youre attempting to sell them. Through advocacy platforms, social media networks and the average worker frequently changing their place of employment, customers are often entering (or re-entering) the sales cycle much later than before.
Think back to our friend Rosie. In this example, the customer may have searched for the problem they were trying to solve and came across the name of one particular solution. From there, that same customer dodged sales inquiries and researched the product on her own, asking co-workers about the solution in mind, downloading Gartner quadrants and searching for complaints/trumpeting across Twitter. In the event that the research yielded positive results, the customer can now enter the journey at a later stage.
How can organizations manage this? By asking the right questions and understanding the customers needs. Then, take the right action. If the customer has a few remaining questions on the solution, dont invite them to an introductory webinar. If the customer has their wallet out for product A, dont weigh product A against product B.
The race to a sale can be won quite easily, and unlike in Rosies case, the reward wont be revoked.