Originally published in Atlanta Business Chronicle.

By Mary Johnson  – Contributor

 

Most businesses pay a lot of attention to what happens right before a customer makes a purchase. But there’s so much more to the transaction.

The ubiquity of data makes that easier than it has ever been, said Zak Cochran, an account director at ad agency Brunner. Companies can track metrics and analytics through data integration enabling them to see the impact of a YouTube ad or an original blog post that successfully turned a prospect into a paying customer. And while many accept that as the whole story, there are other considerations to keep in mind.

Marketing is rarely a two-step process, Cochran said, and companies increasingly need to pay attention to the full funnel of activity to determine the most effective way to grow.

“You need to understand how customers are moving through their purchase decisions, where they are, where they’re headed, their mindset and what their motivators are at every point in their journey,” Cochran explained. “And all of that needs to be based off of data, strong insights and an analytical mindset.”

According to a recent study Brunner conducted with the Atlanta Business Chronicle, less than two-thirds of local businesses say they’ve mapped the customer journey, though eight out of 10 say they understand it. At the same time, less than two-thirds of businesses conduct some form of due diligence to understand the audience they’re trying to target. And nearly 20 percent of businesses have no metrics in place to measure their marketing efforts.

Most companies are tracking bottom-funnel data — the metrics most closely associated with a customer conversion, according to the recent Brunner study. About 54 percent rely on customer feedback and survey and about 32 percent are using social listening, while 44 percent rely on website metrics. However, that’s not painting the full picture of the customer journey, said Ivan Tafur, group media director at Brunner.

Customer surveys are notoriously skewed. Website analytics will only tell you the last stop a customer made on their journey to buying your product. And most social listening focuses on keyword counting and sentiment; that is, whether consumers are speaking in a positive or negative connotation about your product or service. But Brunner has developed content analysis intelligence systems that enables us to deep dive into the context of the keyword/topic at scale. Is there a flaw with a new product or service? Or is there a feature that is really driving positive engagement that we should capitalize on? With the full context as to what’s being said and the suite of your insight systems working together, a holistic view of the insights provided will bring more value to marketing programs, Tafur explained.

“When looking at the full marketing funnel, the easiest measurement to quantify is the final click leading to conversion. But we know every touchpoint plays a role and has an assist into our final conversion, so we want to look at a holistic picture,” Tafur said. “Without full, robust data, you can’t make higher-level decisions. Optimizing channels and tactics becomes more challenging and often, less meaningful.”

Tafur recalled one client he worked with at Brunner who had long invested in local advertising and marketing efforts. The company had seen a lot of success with that strategy and was content to maintain the status quo. However, knowing the client’s end goals and desired outputs with prospects, Brunner revisited the approach. The agency determined that when shifting perspective to take the full funnel into consideration, a regional approach would be far more efficient in driving awareness and intent, ultimately leading to greater conversions down the road.

“It was definitely eye-opening for this client. They were very comfortable with what they perceived to have worked for them in the past,” Tafur said. “But they trusted the data. They trusted us, and they took that leap.”

Many companies believe they don’t have information enough to take advantage of the full-funnel approach. But Tafur said companies will be more surprised by the data they do have than what they don’t. So he suggests starting there.

Bottom-funnel data is usually easiest to come by — via website analytics and point-of-sale information — and that can provide powerful insights into part of the customer journey. As companies look for more data to understand the beginning of the customer journey, they can also use third-party research partners to measure brand awareness across a broader audience.

“Measurement is vital to knowing what you should consider and potentially change,” Tafur said.

It’s also key to giving customers what they want, which has become an expectation among today’s consumers, Cochran added.

“That’s the marketer’s challenge right now: to have knowledge about where customers are and what they want to hear and how to move them along to the next step in the purchasing process,” Cochran said. “If you can’t speak to them, you’re going to lose them to your competitor.”

 

For your free copy of the Brunner 2019 Atlanta Marketing Report, visit go.brunnerworks.com/atlanta-business-chronicle and find out how Atlanta-area brands connect with their audience throughout the buying process — and where opportunities exist.

Brunner is an Atlanta ad agency at the confluence of creativity, data science, and technology.

Mary Johnson is a freelance writer for The Business Journals Content Studio.