A consumer pathway is any possible combination of ways in which your customers could travel in order to purchase your goods or services. Knowing these channels will help you discover and correct bottlenecks or weaknesses that lead to a loss of revenue for your company.
Most marketing plans include at least the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. The consumer pathway fits into the place and promotion factors. "Place" indicates where your service falls on the business value chain, such as whether you sell to businesses or to consumers. "Promotion" refers to the ways in which you are in contact with your customer, such as billboard advertisements and cold calling.
Put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes. Imagine you are a potential customer, but you have no knowledge of the product your company offers. How does a potential customer discover your services exist, and how does he differentiate your company from your competitors?
For example, imagine you offer a mobile dog grooming service. Create a list of the ways a potential customer could encounter your business: search engine results, Internet advertisements, yellow page advertisements and fliers at various veterinarian offices.
Identify the ways in which the potential customer will have direct contact with your company: phone, website and walking into your offices.
Walk a customer’s path from start to finish. This is the most important part because you discover the ways in which a customer can be derailed from the marketing process that ends in revenue. There is never one path. There might be a short path or a fairly long path, but you must explore every possible channel to understand how the potential customer falls off the path.
Never become frustrated when you discover a bottleneck or weakness. Each is an opportunity where you will begin to build your business. The process of traveling along the customer pathway should be an ongoing part of your revenue-generating plans. With each correction along the path, you will find new ways to streamline a customer’s decision-making time. The faster a customer can move along the path, the faster you will generate revenue.
Rate how that initial contact helps the potential customer make a decision to use your service or find another service. Using the mobile dog grooming business example, call the numbers posted on your advertisements and objectively judge the person answering the phone. If a person doesn't answer, the caller should hear an informative message encouraging the customer to call back during business hours.
Visit your own website from the point of view of a customer with dog grooming needs. Identify the potential customer's questions and concerns and ensure you have enough information posted to make her decision to purchase easier.
Assume that a customer decides to use your grooming service and rate how well the transaction runs. Determine protocols for handling a demanding customer. Offer a variety of secure payment methods. Ask yourself: What can my business do to go above and beyond? You should have plenty of dog treats in the van.
Judge the methods your business uses to service the customer once the transaction is complete. Each customer should receive a postcard or coupon for additional grooming. Try sending your business a complaint by email and judge how well your employees handle the issue.
Walk new paths that arise from new marketing initiatives. Every time your company has a new product, service, advertisement or promotion, retrace the customer’s pathway. Because the consumer pathway is a series of linked events, new initiatives can cause unseen disruptions.
If you purchase advertising space in your city’s pet services magazine, for example, the advertisement's success should be traceable with coupon or discount codes. Perhaps your employees don't know about the new coupon. By walking the consumer pathway, you will clearly see the obstacles you must remove to make the purchase process fast and easy.
- map and compass image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com