We all know that the customer journey is complex. With so many options for people to choose from, a purchase that was once a simple decision for customers to make can now take multiple touchpoints before the sale is completed.

The customer journey now includes multiple touchpoints both online and offline. Are customers finding your business?

And, for a consumer decision journey that includes a more complex transaction – like in healthcare, real estate, buying a car, and more – the customer journey takes far longer with even more touchpoints for businesses to hopefully win over a customer.

We know that if you want to get in front of a customer as they go through their decision journey, you need to be marketing your business. And, you can’t rely on one form of marketing – you need a multichannel marketing approach if you’re looking to reach customers at every step of their journey.

Here are four crucial ways marketing impacts the customer journey and how your business can hope to influence consumers along the way.

1. Marketing greets consumers at the beginning of their decision journey.

The majority of consumers – 89%, in fact – begin their digital consumer journey by searching for a new business on search engines.

An overwhelming majority of people start their customer journey on search engines.

This is probably true in the majority of your own decision journeys. You know you need a new dentist, so you pull up Google and search for something like “best dentist near me.”

Now, in order to show up in that search, a dentist is going to need to focus on the following areas:

Paid Search Advertising

Search Advertising allows businesses to show in paid search results that typically appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for relevant keywords. Also known as pay per click, the dentist wouldn’t be charged unless you clicked the ad that leads to their landing page or website.

PPC ads are the first results that show when you search for a new dentist.

These PPC ads are the first results you see when you search for “best dentist near Des Moines.”

Local Listings

If you’re searching for a business near you, you’ll likely receive a local search result, which typically includes the Google Map Pack (those are the three results that appear with the map on Google above other search results). In order to increase their chances of appearing here, a dental practice would likely need a claimed, updated, and accurate Google My Business profile and accurate local listings across the web to signal to Google that this information is correct.

The local map pack appears after PPC ads on Google and can also contain local PPC ads.

The Google Map Pack contains results pulled from Google My Business.

Review Management

If you’ve included the word “best” in your search, then the Maps listings should include dental practices with good star ratings in the Map Pack. Dental practices who show here likely monitor and respond to reviews and put an emphasis on improving their online reputation.

When you search for "best" in search results, you receive businesses with a 4.0 star rating or above.

Google is only showing businesses in the Map Pack with a rating of 4.0 or above.

SEO

In order to show up in organic search results, which are the results that appear under paid results and the Map Pack, a dental office is going to need to invest in a robust SEO strategy, which includes optimizing their website and web content for relevant keywords, and a whole host of other tactics.

The results after the Map Pack include a mix of local listings and dental websites.

After the Map Pack, the results contain a mix of dental websites and more local listings. This dentist office has optimized their site for “best cosmetic dentist.”

Who knew so much could go into a simple search? It seems like a lot, but these tactics work together to help businesses get seen on search engines, which is extremely important as most consumers begin their decision journeys there.

2. Marketing helps provide consumers the information they’re searching for.

Let’s say you clicked on one of the search ads you saw or on a link from the organic search results on Google. Now, you’re on a dentist’s website, and you’re probably looking for information like the types of treatments and care available, whether or not they take your insurance, and a bio on the dentist and dental team.

In order to surface that information in a way that’s easy to navigate, read, and comprehend, this dental practice would need to focus on the following to influence the digital consumer journey:

A Website

First, they would obviously need a website, and that website would need to be user-friendly and mobile-friendly so you can see all the content you need no matter what device you’re searching on. A professionally designed website also includes a clean navigation bar, site security, and clear calls to action so you can find what you’re looking for.

This dental group's website has a clean layout, easy-to-use navigation, and a clear call-to-action.

This website has a clean design, easy-to-use navigation, and clear call-to-actions.

SEO

Again, if you found this website on search engines, this dentist likely has a robust SEO strategy in place.

Live Chat

When you’re looking for information on a new dentist, live chat is a helpful feature for answering basic questions or helping schedule an appointment, so this dentist may or may not have that enabled on their site.

Here's an example of a dental group with live chat enabled on their website.

Here’s an example of a dentist’s website with live chat enabled.

These features work together to help you find more information about the dentist on their website and potentially take the next step to become their patient.

3. Marketing helps your business stay with consumers throughout their journey.

But, let’s say you weren’t ready to take the plunge with this particular dentist, and you want to continue your search.

You take a brief break from your search to catch up with the latest news in your area, and you see an ad on the news page for the same dentist you were just researching. Then, a few hours later, you read an article about the right and wrong ways to brush your teeth and realize it was provided by that dentist. That night, you’re checking your Facebook notifications and see another ad for this dentist. This dentist is everywhere. Maybe it’s time to take another look at them?

In order to show up in these places online, this dentist would need a strategy that includes:

Retargeting

Retargeting allows this dentist to show a display ad to you once you’ve left their site so they can stay top-of-mind throughout your journey.

Example of a dentist display ad retargeting potential patients.

Say you were just on this dentist’s website and then went to read your local news and saw this ad announcing that they were voted best dentist in your area.

Branded Content

With branded content, this dentist is able to provide useful information to you on a third-party site – in this case, your local news site – so that you can see their expertise, and they can reach you another time in your decision journey.

Facebook Advertising

With social media ads, this dentist can target you on Facebook based on demographics like your age, location, gender, and more. And, if your demographics align with their typical patient, that gives them another opportunity to target you with an ad using something called a lookalike audience.

Example of a Facebook ad from a dentist.

Here’s an example of a Facebook ad from a dentist.

When businesses use these tactics, they can continue to engage with the consumer throughout their journey and influence the consumer’s perception of their business.

4. Marketing can simplify the consumer decision journey.

Obviously, the goal of marketing is to educate the consumer and hopefully convert them into a customer. But, a lot of marketing tactics can actually simplify the consumer journey. Let’s say you revisit this dentist’s site, but you’re still a little unsure, and you don’t know if your insurance is accepted.

You submit a question to the live chat on the dentist’s website to get help with your insurance question and find that you’re covered! Then, you receive an email from the dentist’s office with an offer for a free teeth whitening treatment on your first visit. You’re sold! You visit their Google Maps listing and call them right from your phone to make an appointment.

In order for this dentist to engage with you in these ways, they would need:

Live Chat

Again, with live chat, this dentist was able to provide information you couldn’t find on the site and overcome one of your objections.

Email Marketing

Because you provided your email address to the chatbot, you were added to the dentist’s email distribution list, which is how you received a coupon that made your decision even easier.

An example of an email marketing message from a dentist with a coupon.

Here’s an example of an email marketing message with an offer for a complimentary consultation.

Listings Management

Thankfully for this dentist, their contact information was correct on their Google Maps listings, which means they would need listings management. This allows you to see accurate information about the practice (in this case, their phone number) and keeps them from missing out on potential patients.

If a dentist is able to get in front of you as you begin your consumer journey, stay with you throughout your search, and potentially provide some helpful information, an incentive, and more, it can cut through the noise and shorten your consumer journey because you’ve found your match.

At LOCALiQ, we can help you determine the right marketing mix to engage with your most likely customers online or offline. We offer full-service marketing, including creative and branding, so you can streamline your marketing strategy with one partner that understands your business, your consumers, and your community. Reach out today to learn more from one of our trusted marketing experts.

Want to see how marketing plays into a real customer journey? Visit our customer journey page to watch a series of videos illustrating how marketing helped one person find a new dentist.

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