Get Prospects on the Beaten Path

By Heather Baldwin

Three months ago Bob Smith met one of your sales reps at a conference; yesterday he became a customer. Do you know the exact sequence of contacts he had with your company during those three months? Do you know how the sequence of those contacts compares to those of other clients? That’s the goal of touchpoint mapping, the method of identifying and tracking the most common sequences of customer interactions with the goal of improving conversions and shortening the sales cycle.

The methodology was conceived by Hank Brigman, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Touchpoint Metrics (www.tpmetrics.com), who says few companies are collecting this valuable information. “Organizations spend a lot of time, effort and money getting prospects to select their product or service,” he says, “yet few know the most common sequence of customer interactions or the touchpoints new customers encounter as they move from awareness to selection.”

Brigman’s methodology states that every interaction with a company counts as a touchpoint. For example, the booth at the convention is the first touchpoint. The second is the sales rep who engages the prospect in a conversation at the booth. The third might be the brochure the rep provides the prospect. The fourth touchpoint might be the company’s Web site when the prospect checks it after returning to the office. Maybe the prospect downloads a white paper and then calls and talks to a sales rep who sets up a demo – each of these activities are touchpoints. They’re valuable to know, says Brigman. “If we understand the touchpoints prospects encounter and the typical sequences, we can optimize them to better meet their needs and improve conversion.”

Say, for example, you learn that of 85 out of 100 people who purchased your solution downloaded a specific white paper that is buried in the resources section of your Web site. Now you know you need to add a pop-up window or a special box on your home page to guide more people to that white paper. Or say that out of the thousands of combinations and permutations of touchpoint paths your prospects encounter, 72% of new customers travel one of three primary paths. Now you can focus your prospecting efforts and dollars on the strategies that are truly succeeding in generating customers. You can start to figure out how to guide prospects onto one of those three paths to increase conversions.

Knowledge of key touchpoint paths also means you can optimize those paths by motivating movement to subsequent touchpoints and eliminating redundant or unnecessary touchpoints. For example, if you find that after reading your white paper most customers eventually call to set up a demo, you might include a link from the white paper to an online demo request form, thus eliminating the need for human interaction, simplifying the request process, increasing the likelihood of a demo request and accelerating the buying process.

“Once optimized, the touchpoints along primary touchpoint paths are more customer friendly and offer a smoother and often quicker path for customers to travel to the important point of selection, thus increasing sales,” says Brigman. This methodology is a new frontier, he adds, noting that organizations committed to increasing sales and loyalty conversions should hasten to become pioneers in it.