Finding the Golden Path
A marketer’s holy grail? Or, fool’s gold?
The idea of a “Golden Path” is something that many marketers are interested in. What is it? Well, the “Golden Path” is the idea that there is an ideal path that potential buyers take that would make them more likely to become a customer. Once you find the “Golden Path,” you can then funnel potential buyers into that path, with the outcome being that these folks will become customers. If only we could figure out what that ideal path is, we can turn more potential buyers into customers.
So, does the concept of a “Golden Path” have merit in the B2B world? Let’s examine.
How the Golden Path is Supposed to Work
As we alluded to above, the concept of the “Golden Path” is that it works like a funnel. A potential buyer enters into our database through some mechanism… organic efforts, paid efforts, word of mouth… whatever. The point is, that we now have their attention.
Once we have their attention, we funnel them to engage with a specific and predetermined set of content that is designed to move them through the buying process and get them to become a customer.
Sounds like nurturing, right?
Well, it is… but with a twist. With “Golden Path” you aren’t nurturing a potential buyer based on who they are or what they’re already engaging with. You’re nurturing the potential buyer based on what has worked with other previous customers… and therefore is likely to work for other potential buyers.
The idea here is that if something worked for other customers, it should work for this potential buyer.
Sounds like a good idea, right?
Unfortunately, with the needs of today’s buyer, it’s not such a good idea. Why not? Great question.
See, with all of the personalization options at the fingertips of marketers, we’ve conditioned buyers that we’re going to market directly to them, as a person, instead of treating everyone the same. We’ve conditioned buyers that we are going to meet them where they are, as opposed to dropping them into a funnel.
Because of this conditioning, and the expectations that it sets, modern day buyers no longer want to be dropped into a “one size fits all” type of funnel. They want content that is specific to them… who they are, what they care about, what they’re interested in, etc.
Modern day buyers want to buy based on their needs, not the vendor’s needs. So, they’re going to reject being forced into a funnel.
The Big Challenges
So, is the “Golden Path” a path that organizations should be exploring? We say it isn’t.
For one, nobody actually knows if a “Golden Path” even exists in your organization. Is there gold there? Nobody really knows.
For another, organizations continually think they’ve found the “Golden Path,” only to find that what they actually found was just random coincidence and not something that’s actionable. Many times, the “Golden Path” ends up being a hodge-podge of random content that doesn’t tell a cohesive story. It just so ends up that each piece of content is highly correlated to wins.
Another is that spending so much time trying to find a “Golden Path” takes too much time, energy and resources away from other, more worthwhile endeavors, like creating more content, customer research and more.
Lastly, organizations that try to force the “Golden Path” onto their buyers are likely to be met with resistance. Nobody likes being forced into a path they didn’t choose. Why would buyers be any different?
The Better Path
So, what should organizations do instead of searching for a “Golden Path”? Consistently, the answer is to give buyers choices. Give buyers the ability to choose their own path. Meet buyers where they are and where they want to be.
Allow buyers to download content as they choose to. Allow buyers to engage with live chat, chatbots, or fill out a “talk to sales” form. Give clients access to as much content as they need to make an informed buying decision. Allow buyers to self-educate, or to ask for help in educating themselves about your product or service.
If you have options for buyers to choose from, then you’ll allow buyers to find their own personal “Golden Path” that leads them to buy from you. But, forcing them into a funnel that may be completely disconnected from who they are, their wants and needs, and how they want to buy, is a path that leads to ruin.