Customer Value Journey
The Customer Value Journey (CVJ) is a term used to describe the 8-Stages customers go through as they build up a relationship with a brand.
The CVJ is central to every business strategy as it sets out to turn consumers into brand loyalists. In mapping out their journey, brands will be able to identify and guide customers through the different stages and adjust their marketing strategy to optimize the process. This will create a more seamless and subtle customer experience that ultimately leads to more loyal customers.
Turning Prospects into Loyal Fans
When prospective customers become aware of a brand, they are in the Aware stage. As they become more familiar with the brand and start to interact more, they move on to Engage. While in Engage, the goal is to convert them from prospective customers to customers by enticing them to provide their contact information (a micro-commitment of time or money) so that they can advance to Subscribe – become a customer. Customers must perceive the micro-commitment as value-adding to be willing to trade their information to gain something. This transforms their opinion of the brand’s products and services from “nice to have” to a “must-have”.
With the customer excited about doing business and consuming the product/services, they will naturally be open to an offer to consume or buy more; they enter the Ascend stage. In Ascend, the customer should begin to make more substantial commitments. Typically, customers will start with the brand’s core offering (which should build on/enhance the micro-commitment) and gradually build their way up through upsells, bundles, and cross-sells. As long as the customer perceived value and excitement remains consistent or increases, the customer will climb the ascension ladder, to the Advocate stage. Advocate is where the customer is willing to provide testimonials and reviews and sing the praise of the brand. This quickly transitions to Promote, customers go out of their way to tell any and everyone about the value of the brand and the products/services it provides.
While the Customer Value Journey is a well-defined process, it will look different for every customer. For example, customers may jump from Aware to Convert, and others will advance part of the way only to backtrack. Regardless of how the journey looks on the individual level, it emphasizes the importance of a business understanding the whole journey and ensuring that there is a defined, measurable, and brand-specific Customer Value Journey that customers want to move through.
377 Protocol – Customer Value Journey
The Vervology 377 Protocol is made up of three core components: Vervology’s Human-Centric Philosophy, (seven) Dynamic Strategies, and Proven Methodologies. The final seven from 377 is in reference to the protocol’s Proven Methodologies, in which Vervology’s 7-Stage Customer Value Journey is key.
The 7-Stages of the Vervology Customer Value Journey:
The Vervology Customer Value Journey’s overarching goal is to move customers through a journey in which they gradually build a stronger relationship founded on trust and value-add. And while it shares similar stages to the basic Customer Value Journey model, the goals set for each stage, and the execution applied to achieve those goals at each stage, have been customized to the Vervology brand and to best meet partners’ needs.
In Vervology’s brand-specific Customer Value Journey (CVJ), the final two stages have been combined. Why? Because once a customer reaches the Advocate Stage, they become a partner for success. In becoming a partner for success, the client has received immense value from Vervology’s products/services, and Vervology has received immense value from these ongoing relationships. This results in a mutually beneficial partnership that simultaneously makes partners want to promote and advocate for Vervology.
While the Customer Value Journey is only one of a combination of methodologies used to define and bridge customer relationships and expectations, understanding and continually developing it will add immeasurable value to any brand. So, to fully appreciate the Customer Value Journey and its many capabilities, the journey will be broken down into the seven stages employed by Vervology – starting with the Aware Stage.
Aware: the goal is to increase brand awareness and visibility and attract the Ideal Customer. Primary methods for increasing awareness: content marketing, social media, events, promotion, business networking and customer advocacy (word-of-mouth), with the sole purpose of increasing touch points and getting eyes on your brand. You want to capture the customer’s attention and provide relevant information that informs and/or entertains that customer, boosting your brand perception and recall.
There is no “right way” or “magic bullet” to get consumers to start a Customer Value Journey with a brand, but there are proven methods that, when combined, will help a brand to stand out from the crowd (and its competitors):
- Fundamentally, having a WOW website will boost brand perception.
- Customer reviews and testimonials build trust and social proof.
- Relevant Content that adds value and informs, such as blog and social posts, newsletters, etc.
- Participating in networking groups and joining community events brings familiarity.
- Sharing and interacting with industry leaders or influencers and their content.
The focus in this stage is to build awareness, but awareness is only beneficial if it makes customers want to learn more about a brand, taking the customers from Aware to Engage.
As customers move from brand awareness to active brand engagement, they enter the Engage stage. This stage is focused on building and nurturing the relationship between the newly engaged customer and the brand.
The goal is for the customer to become emotionally involved with or committed to the brand – buyers only buy the ‘transformation’ a brand offers. Typically, this is accomplished by communicating with engaged customers across multiple channels and platforms.
This means that the engagement strategy for each brand will be different, as it uses different tactics that work best for its desired audience. However, there are still some foundational elements that most brands use, which they tailor to meet their brand-specific requirements:
- Content Marketing: branded digital content that’s both insightful and relevant.
- Social Media Marketing: content that engages and promotes conversation or action.
- Email Marketing: target promotional brand messaging.
- Community Management: creating an authentic and interactive brand community.
While this is only the second stage, engagement doesn’t end when the customer moves on to the next stage. Engagement is necessary throughout the entire customer journey and will greatly impact a customer’s overall experience and feelings toward a brand.
Once the customer has engaged, they’re likely to want to learn even more about the brand – strengthening the relationship to a point where the customer wants more. This is where they subscribe.
By regularly engaging the prospect, a certain level of trust is built, and with enough trust between the customer and the brand, the door opens up for the customer to become a subscriber. Still, when they do decide to walk through the metaphorical ‘open door’, they will agree (micro-transaction) to provide their basic contact information (i.e., first name, last name, and email address) and consent to be contacted by the brand.
Due to the nature of the internet and the prevalence of scammers and spam, customers are meticulously protective of their contact details and require some form of incentive to give them out. This incentive – or lead magnet, could be anything of value. The point is that the brand has piqued their interest enough that they now want to further the relationship in some capacity.
Lead Magnets examples:
- Newsletter subscriptions.
- Downloadable reports and guides.
- Filling out a survey.
- Entering a contest.
- The results of a quiz.
- Coupons and discounts.
- Tools, templates, checklists, and information sheets.
These are only a few of the primary lead magnets brands leverage to add value to their customers while simultaneously moving them into the subscribe stage. As long as the customer perceives the exchange to be fair and value-adding, they will likely stay subscribed and begin to warm up to the idea of making a micro-commitment – the next step they must take to advance to the Convert Stage.
As the customer continues to receive value from engaging with and subscribing to the brand, they gain trust and warm up to making a transaction.
When subscribers find value in the lead magnet they acquired at the Subscribe stage, their trust in the brand will continue to grow, resulting in a strengthened relationship in which the brand can now ask for a commitment/purchase. This offer is not necessarily profitable, as it’s designed to kick-start the transition from a subscriber to a paid customer – so think of it as part of your customer acquisition costs.
Considering the two forms of commitment a customer will make at the Convert stage are time and money, an entry-point offer/micro-commitment could be:
- Booking an informational meeting.
- Signing up for a product demonstration.
- Offering an introductory mini-course (at a considerable discount).
- Selling a value-adding product/service at a steep discount (typically, these can be upgraded or enhanced for more money and more value in the Ascend Stage).
At the end of the day, if a customer is interested in a brand’s offerings, as long as the brand can demonstrate the value these offerings will provide, customers will be much more likely to make the initial micro-commitment, leading to more substantial commitments down the line.
Once a micro-commitment is secured, the brand should continue to keep the customer engaged and to get them excited as they move to the Excite stage.
It’s always exciting when a customer makes that first micro-commitment to a brand, but the journey doesn’t stop at the Convert stage. Now that the customer has made a small commitment to the brand, the brand needs to ensure that the initial excitement felt by the customer post-conversion becomes a regular feeling the customer will associate with the brand. In other words, the main goal of the Excite stage is to provide a positive and memorable experience between the brand and its recently converted customer.
Seeing as the customer has committed to the brand, the brand needs to keep these customers engaged and excited so that they continue moving upward in their journey. There are many ways to ramp up a new customer’s excitement, all of which can be accomplished by using brand-owned channels (i.e., emails, social media accounts, brand website, etc.) to:
- Tease upcoming projects, soon-to-be-released products/services, new partnerships/collaborations, etc.
- Share meaningful and exciting brand updates and content.
- Highlight exclusive promotions (i.e., deals, discounts, and/or content only available to those who have reached the subscribe/convert level in the brand’s Customer Value Journey).
- Provide social proof (reviews/testimonials/stories) from satisfied customers that spotlights the benefits of associating and building a relationship with the brand.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to excite customers, but each strategy will help to increase their excitement surrounding the brand and what the brand offers, motivating them to begin the transition into the Ascend stage.
Now that the customer is engaged and excited, brands can use this momentum and customer anticipation as an opportunity to present their core offer.
The Ascend stage is both longer and more comprehensive than the other stages. Why? Because the Ascend stage is structured in tiers, resembling a ladder that customers will climb as they make more significant and more frequent commitments to the brand.
Ultimately, the aim is to create more loyal and repeat buyers. Since the customer has already been converted, brands should strive to enhance the relationship by exceeding the customer’s expectations to encourage additional spending. Additionally, this stage is ideal for upsells – especially if customers are excited about the product/service they are receiving and have a better understanding of the value provided by the brand.
As the customer invests in the initial core offer and then gradually builds their commitment to the brand through purchasing upsells, they are making their way through the Ascend stage. Some customers will stay in this stage for the remainder of their relationship with the brand, while others will begin to promote and advocate for the brand, taking them to the highest and final stage of the Customer Value Journey.
Advocate & Promote
A loyal customer never truly stops ascending, but some will also begin to promote and advocate for the brand. In this final stage, the brand has done an exceptional job at creating a positive customer experience, resulting in the acquisition of repeat customers and additional promotion, also known as brand Advocates & Promoters.
In becoming a brand Promoter or Advocator, customers will go out of their way to spread the word and share their personal experiences with the brand. They make recommendations, leave online reviews, and share offers, content, and personal anecdotes – but this only works if they genuinely believe in and support the brand. Once customers promote and advocate for the brand, their connection, relationship, and trust will continuously increase, leading to even greater brand loyalty and commitment.
Customers who have made it to this stage not only see the value in a brand’s products and services for meeting their needs but now want to share with others how the brand’s offerings can also meet their needs.
Advocates and Promoters are the most loyal customers in the Customer Value Journey and believe that the brand has made a genuine positive difference in their lives by providing relevant and valuable solutions. As long as a brand maintains the customer’s trust and continues to provide equal or higher value, the promoters and advocates will likely remain as such for the rest of their journey.
Putting it all Together
Now that each individual stage has been broken down within the Customer Value Journey, it’s time to put it back together, creating a roadmap for how to effectively build a relationship with customers – from when they’re first introduced to the brand to when they actively advocate and promote the brand.
No matter which way you look at it, brands and customers have a symbiotic relationship. Customers need brands to offer them a transformation, fulfilling their wants and needs, and brands need customers to thrive. Knowing this, the Customer Value Journey is a detailed guide for how brands can best find and meet their customers’ needs.
That said, the Customer Value Journey will only be successful if brands take the time to understand their customers’ thoughts, feelings, and desires at each stage and then find the best tools and platforms to reach them.
All of this to say, the Customer Value Journey is a long-term investment. The journey may not succeed immediately in its initial introduction and implementation, but it will help narrow down what works and what doesn’t. The key is to be patient and gently guide customers through their journey, helping them to see, experience, and promote the value that the brand provides to them in their own unique way.
Partner for Success
While Vervology’s Advocates & Promoters are our partners for success – our business is built on relationships, not transactions. If you would like to discuss the 377 Protocol or how to take that first step in the Customer Value Journey: schedule a meeting with Dave.