We spend a lot of time at RealSelf talking about the “consumer decision journey” for a very simple reason: When people begin considering cosmetic surgery, they really are embarking on a journey. It can take weeks, months or years as they consider and evaluate their options and it can extend long after the fact as they share their experiences with others.
Along the way, those consumers’ needs and interests ebb and flow and shift, which is why no single information source can serve all their needs. As Nate Elliott, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, writes in an insightful post on AdAge.com, the key to successful marketing is to follow those customers as they actually behave:
If you want to support this life cycle, you’ll need to start looking at the world the way your customers do: As an ongoing sequence of reach channels, depth channels and relationship channels.
For doctors, it breaks down like this:
Reach Channels: When consumers begin their journey, they are, by definition, open to discovering new products, services and providers so they turn to channels with a broad reach. Online, that usually means non-branded searches and community-based sites (like RealSelf). As Elliott writes, this is where you need to be to get into the “consideration set.”
Depth Channels: When consumers want to learn about a procedure or service in more detail, they switch gears. Online, they’ll check your practice website; offline, they may call and talk to a member of your staff. Either way, the goal is the same: to give them the detail they seek and set the stage for a deeper relationship.
Relationship Channels: Assuming you’ve consummated the relationship, so to speak, that doesn’t mean the journey has to end for either party. You don’t need an advanced degree in marketing to know that satisfied customers are your best brand advocates and the ones most likely to sign up for your email list, follow you on social media and share their experiences with others.
Which, of course, just starts the cycle all over again.
The consumer decision journey is non-linear and self-replicating
Monitoring multiple channels can be a challenge but the payoff is engaging with consumers with the right message at the right time. As Elliott writes, no piece of the above model is more important than the others: “Each set of channels — reach and depth and relationship — takes the lead at a different stage of the customer life cycle. If you focus just on one part of the model, you’ll be less able to guide your customers through their journey.”