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Widen's Four Phases of the Customer Decision Journey

Customer journeys are getting a lot of attention these days. That’s largely because, in designing customer experiences, many companies find it’s helpful to understand the customer’s path to purchase and possible brand loyalty, from a customer’s point-of-view (POV). But a company has its own POV, trying to determine the likelihood that someone will become a customer. As digital asset management (DAM) vendor Widen looks at both POVs, CMSWire asked it to provide some insight on its approach.

To help guide customers on their likely decision process, the company publishes a PDF guide, “The four phases of the DAM decision journey.” It assigns four phases to a customer’s steps in deciding on a DAM system:

  • Strategize
  • Research
  • Justify
  • Evaluate

Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Under each phase, there are steps. The Research phase, for instance, includes reading white papers and talking to experts and other DAM users, as well as some things to consider, such as best practices and the range of systems available. The guide also estimates the length for each phase. For example, Research is allocated 3-6 weeks.

The journey on the company’s side, said Widen Marketing Manager Jake Athey, came through a “natural evolution” because the company “needed complete visibility into all of the different organizations we work with and where each is at” in the customer journey. Mapping the customer marketing lifecycle from the company’s POV, he said, unifies “the marketing, sales and service teams and all processes in a way that overlaps with the buyer’s journey.”

Widen uses Salesforce.com CRM tied in with “Customer Lifecycle Marketing” from Right On Interactive, and follows customers through eight steps that track the probability they will become a customer:

  1. An Inquiry is the collection of a name based on website action, either an active request for conversation such as a demo, or a passive request for a learning resource like a white paper.
  2. A Suspect is an Inquiry that has provided complete information and becomes a contact.
  3. A Prospect is a Suspect that has indicated an intent to buy (at some point) and that has needs fitting within Widen’s product line.
  4. A Qualified Prospect is a Prospect with a defined budget, authority, an appropriate set of needs and a timeline to purchase -- and Widen appears to be a good fit.
  5. A Customer is a Prospect who has signed an agreement, although implementation has not yet begun.
  6. Implementing is the in-progress process of fulfilling the agreement.
  7. Site Launch is the launch of DAM system to the user base.
  8. Maintain & Grow are the maintenance and advocacy stages beyond implementation, when customers feel part of a community and want to help in growing that community.

Less About 'Being Sold'

Athey said that a customer could be in any of the four phases of his journey -- Strategize, Research, Justify, Evaluate -- during any of the first four steps of Widen’s lifecycle marketing -- Inquiry, Suspect, Prospect or Qualified Prospect. The key value in understanding what the customer is going through, he said, is because, “in all of these first four steps, we’re providing resources to support their journey.”

Those resources depend both on where customers are in their cycle, and where they are in Widen’s cycle. For instance, the research needs of a Qualified Prospect, who has already gotten at least some basic questions answered, are different from the Research needs of a Suspect just beginning to consider whether they need a DAM system or which one to buy.

Although the reference here has been to “the customer,” in reality most software decisions are made by committee rather than individuals. Because of that common fact, Athey said Widen has to consider such additional factors as decision timing by each committee member, the reasons driving the purchase, potential past experiences by committee members, the dangers of partial information, who if anyone has ownership of the purchase and possible committee dynamics.

This effort by Widen to understand the customer’s progression, Athey noted, becomes important after the sale, when a customer’s additional needs for education, customer service and community support mesh with Widen’s need for “growing long-term brand advocates who are passionate and knowledgeable in their roles.” He added that understanding and supporting the customer experience helps both Widen and customers break down the process “into clear paths with understandable and achievable actions,” and helps to determine early if there’s a “right fit.”

It’s more about “approaching marketing from the customer’s perspective,” Athey said, “and less about ‘being sold.’”