“Why can’t I make my relationship with my current customers fit nicely into my customer journey?”

The difference between acquisition and relationship journeys.

Within any business, there are two main tasks when it comes to customers – acquiring them and keeping them engaged and repurchasing. These are two distinct missions – with different drivers, needs and engagement parameters. Both are equally important to a business, and, to a degree, interconnected. But they involve different mindsets, objectives and activities, both for the customer and the business.

Traditionally, customer journey templates map out an acquisition journey. It starts with triggers, moves on to research / discovery, consideration and then purchase. It follows the AIDA model, which is the business perspective of the same steps – awareness, interest, desire, action. This works well for new customers who are proactively setting out to solve a problem, but it is a poor fit for mapping out the relationship a business might have with existing customers.

Sometimes there is a fifth column – engagement – tagged onto the end of the traditional customer journey, which might attempt to cram in the elements related to ongoing relationship management. Often these are designed to circle people back to triggering a new purchase decision. But, for many businesses, this doesn’t do a good enough job mapping out the customer’s needs and interests or behaviours during this stage, and as such struggles to identify opportunities to engage or deliver value added content to existing customers. We frequently have conversations with frustrated marketers who are trying to map out their customer retention journey, but trying to shoe-horn it into the AIDA framework.

There is a difference in mindset, experience, needs and expectations between new and existing customers. New customers are on a mission – they have a problem they are trying to solve, where your product could be part of the solution, and as such you can map out their activities, needs and frustrations. They are proactive in their engagement, notwithstanding that some journeys terminate with no purchase.

However, existing customers tend to be reactive, rather than proactive – they have already solved their problem by buying the product, or signing up for cover, and are not actively seeking to engage with the brand.  The business’s job is to try and trigger them into a new acquisition / purchase journey (such as repeat purchase or cross sell opportunities) or to stop from the leaving at renewal time by delivering value or managing negative triggers. Once acquired, customers have different levels of knowledge and expectations about the business, and at this stage already have some sense of satisfaction (or not) with the business.

In this context, a funnel-based journey map focused on the proactive actions of the customer no longer makes sense. We need a model focused on the relevant engagement points and triggers that the business is trying to manage with the customer. So engagement or retention journeys are often mapped out with the core axis being time, rather than AIDA, with an overlay of triggers. At its heart, the retention journey is a series of company-initiated contacts designed to re-engage the customer with the brand, to either trigger a new acquisition journey, or prevent the triggering of a competitor journey. So, for example, a membership organisation may engage through an interesting thought leadership piece, but with the additional objective of triggering an event attendance acquisition journey, or a charity may highlight the great impact it is having, a month ahead of having to get the donor to update their credit card details and essentially recommit to being a regular donor.

The type and value of the engagement mechanic, and relevance of the action to be triggered are the key differentiators between highly effective relationship journeys and those that simply tick the “newsletter” box.

Want to know more? Contact us at www.zuni.com.au