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Kirjoittaja: Jukka Sundquist / Chief Acceleration Officer, Nordic Morning Group
Julkaisupäivä: 2021-06-08

Why Personas, Happy Paths & Operations Are Your Pillars for Digital Growth

Original article was written in Jukka's personal LinkedIn profile.

Last time I wrote about the importance of understanding where you are in your digital maturity as a key to a successful digital journey. 

One of the key changes that needs to happen during this journey is the shift in focus from separate competence and capability specific internal processes to cross-competence client centric processes. 

Ask yourself; how much collaboration is there between marketing, sales and service/product development within your organisation? 

Often the answer is very little. 

Gradually building up the capability to work with holistic and data-driven customer journey orchestration is vital to making this shift a reality. 

But let’s get practical. Here are three building blocks for how you build this capability into your organisation and achieve digital growth.

1. Why knowing your customer doesn’t grow old

This part usually feels the most familiar to organisations. 

Many have created buyer personas, giving the customer persona a name, demographic details, interests, and behavioral traits. You also understand their goals, pain points, and buying patterns. Usually, this work is done as a qualitative study by interviewing customers and experts from your own organisation.

After this, the mapping of customer journeys begins where you identify what messages the persona should be receiving in each phase of the customer journey. You also identify the main touchpoints where this person can be reached in each phase. Journey mapping is typically co-designed with a partner. Sometimes certain technology needs and data points are also identified.

This work has many important benefits, putting the spotlight on the customer and giving the marketing, sales and service/product departments an opportunity to find a common point of view (the customer that is). Secondly, it provides a blueprint for campaign planning and creative concept work. These topics usually also are the next steps from the work done. Campaigns are executed based on created understanding and creative concepts are sharpened to serve the needs and behavior of buying personas.

Real growth can be achieved by this increased understanding about the customer. It is however important to understand that creating buyer personas and customer journeys will only work as hypotheses about the customer behavior and the journey that they have. There is really only a small amount of data validating these behaviors and journeys and in reality, behaviors and journeys are not as static and linear as this kind of work suggests. 

Having said that, they are a great starting point for working in a methodical customer centric way.

2. How to use ‘Happy Paths’ to build your business case 

Once organizations become familiar with buyer personas and customer journeys, it is time to start to digitize those. 

This will require some technology investment as well as data integrations. The main need is a place where customer data from different sources can be collected and mapped in a way that the customer can be identified across different channels and campaigns. 

In an ideal world you would have a tag management system to sort out different data source management, a data warehouse to collect long term insights about customers and a Customer Data Platform to collect real-time insights about customers. You can however get started with less by utilizing a less expensive cloud based solution to store data accompanied by a marketing automation system which has basic real-time customer insight capabilities. 

There are, of course, some privacy issues that need to be handled as well and with 3rd party cookies disappearing by the end of this year, also this needs to be taken into account when thinking about the setup. (If looking after your data where privacy is concerned is an issue for your brand, there are now teams of specialists ready to jump in and support you on your way to compliance too!)

In any case, the purpose of this work is to start to identify where customers are at any given moment in their journey and to anticipate their micro moment with the right message. As this is a complex system to set up, I recommend you take it in pieces. To be able to do this, the customer journey needs to be broken down into different micro journeys like client acquisition journey, onboarding journey and upsell/cross sell journeys.

To begin with, you should choose one micro journey, say an onboarding journey, and see what touchpoints and milestones it has and what data is connected to it. Next up, you should map out the way your company wants this onboarding journey to go to result in a success. This can be called a ‘Happy Path’ if you like.

Once you have identified the ‘Happy Path’, you need to collect the data utilizing the technologies mentioned above and create a picture of how many people according to data follow this ‘Happy Path’ and how many people drop out in each touchpoint. The people that drop out from the ‘Happy Path’ become your data-driven customer segments, which are a subset of your buyer persona.

Once you have identified those drop off customer segments, you can now make a business case which calculates how much growth could be made if a certain segment can be guided back to the aforementioned ‘Happy Path’. 

You choose 1-3 customer segments for this and then decide 1-2 to create your activation plan for. 

If this activation plan provides the growth estimated in the business case, you have your proof of concept to continue to take larger pieces from the journey. If not, you should go back to the drawing board and see whether there is something wrong with your data or your happy path and try again. In any case, the vision at this point should be to have a thoroughly holistic and data-driven customer journey orchestration focus as a way of operations.    

3. Change your way of operating - Now

So we have talked about your starting blocks with the customer and beginning to digitize your learnings. Now we move on to piecing the different micro journeys together and connecting data-driven customer segments and buying personas. 

To be able to do this, you will need the support of some further technology. On top of the tech I mentioned earlier in the piece, you’ll need some technology that maps these micros journeys together to one customer journey and is able to illustrate how customers flow through different phases of the journey at any given moment. 

That is not the only requirement of this technology. It also needs to be able to push back actions based on insights, with a goal of activating customers back to our ‘Happy Path’. 

These activation messages can happen in any given channel like Facebook, E-mail or even in call centers. This kind of technology is called a ‘Customer Journey Orchestration’ system. 

At this point of your journey, you have built a holistic, data driven and customer-centric system that generates growth and a great customer experience. We call this Digital Growth Engine.

It is important to understand that you need to take this journey gradually in order to succeed. 

Putting it bluntly, there is just too much to handle at once. 

It will take time, but at the end of the journey, you will realize that your internal processes have become cross-competence, client centric ways of working that create a succinct and coherent digital experience. On the business front, your bottom line has gotten better and there is better customer stickiness. 

To succeed, you must have clear short and long term roadmaps with operative and development tracks and good partners to support you in your efforts. 

We know how this journey runs and exactly the levers to pull. Reach out to get started with building your own Digital Growth Engine.