Mapping the customer journey: 6 steps for marketing success

By Chuck Leddy

Knowing your customers and how they interact with your brand is essential for effective marketing. You’d want to know, for example, that potential customers typically stop reading a lengthy product description in the middle of the page, then abandon their purchasing process altogether. Having this insight might force you to reconsider the length and/or quality of your product description. Once you’ve shortened or improved the product page, more customers would likely move forward to purchase.

This simple (and hypothetical) example illustrates the value of creating and leveraging a customer journey map as a tool for understanding your customers, improving customer experience and making more sales.

Customer Journey Maps, Defined . . .

Every buying process shares similar steps, such as moving from awareness to knowledge-collection to purchase, but the sequence and timing of the various steps can be different for different customers. Some customers will buy certain products on impulse — in that case, marketers would want to understand what events triggered those buying impulses. In B2B buying scenarios, expensive purchases typically happen after multiple touch points and through a time-consuming, methodical and collective purchasing process. No matter the customer or their process, marketers will want to “map out” the precise sequence of events in order to eliminate CX friction and accelerate the buyer’s journey.

A “customer journey map” is simply a tool to visualize the experience your customer goes through while interacting with your brand across multiple channels and touchpoints. This map enables marketers to document how a customer actually experiences your brand versus how you might think they experience your brand.

Benefits of Customer Journey Mapping

The goal of marketing is to facilitate the buyer’s journey. For that to happen, the customer experience should be seamless from beginning to end, across multiple channels and touchpoints. Customers will always have questions or doubts, and marketers must offer them content that informs and reinforces buying intent. By mapping the customer experience step-by-step, marketers can uncover obstacles along the journey and remove friction slowing the process.

Here are some of the benefits customer journey mapping offers, according to a Marketo Engage blog post:

(1) it allows marketers to identify and focus on different customer needs (such as information-gathering or ease of purchase) at various stages of the buying journey;

(2) it uncovers hidden gaps (i.e., friction) between the desired customer experience and the actual customer experience; and

(3) it provides customer insights that allow marketers to reduce CX gaps/ friction and inform better decision-making around spending priorities and marketing tactics/activities.

Creating Customer Journey Maps: 6 Steps

Step 1: Begin with WHY

Begin by considering why you’ll be creating the customer journey map, What are your goals? What type of customer will the map be following, a particular persona/segment or maybe a key account within an ABM approach? What are you seeking to learn about the customer and what will you do with the insights generated? Defining objectives in advance will help guide the remainder of the map creation process.

Step 2: Define Customer Personas/Segments

Perhaps the best ways to bring your customer personas to life is to monitor and test them against real-life people who have engaged with your brand. This process can either reinforce the “rightness” of your personas or get you to modify them to better reflect actual engagement data. Once you know who your customers are, you can track interactions, understand their preferences and pain points, and personalize your engagement strategy to accommodate their preferences.

Marketers should ask several questions about each customer persona: What goal/ outcome is the customer trying to achieve/solve via our offering? How easy/hard does the customer believe our website and purchasing process is to navigate? What attracts customers to (and about) our brand? What obstacles stand in the way of purchase? Answering these questions will help you define each customer persona and inform engagement.

Step 3: Identify Each Touchpoint

Touchpoints are the places your customer interacts with your brand, and they’re increasingly digital. Find each touchpoint, which can be seen as the dots on the map that show where your customers go and what they do there. Maybe your customer does knowledge-collection on your website, then calls a sales/service rep, and finally makes a purchase after watching a video demo.

B2B customers may need more touchpoints because the knowledge-gathering phase takes longer and encompasses multiple touch points over weeks and months. No matter, carefully map out each and every touchpoint.

Step 4: Define the Type of Map

The type of map you create will largely depend upon your goals. The types of maps include:

  • Current state: The most popular type of map, enabling marketers to visualize the actions, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions your customers experience as they interact with your brand right now.
  • Day-in-the-life: Illustrates your customer’s day from morning until night, describing their habits and activities, including both interactions with your brand and everything else in a customer’s day.
  • Future state: Visualizes what marketer’s predict will be the actions, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions your customers will experience during future interactions with your brand, perhaps after a successful campaign.

Step 5: Plot the Customer Journey

In previous steps, you’ve defined exactly who your customer is and the channels through which they engage with your brand. Now, it’s time to describe the customer journey in detail, step-by-step. Just focus on each and every interaction — exactly what is your customer doing, via what particular channel, and for what purpose. Then move to the next action, going one-by-one.

Step 6: Take the Customer Journey Yourself

This final step asks marketers to walk in the customer’s shoes and travel step-by-step through the customer journey. As you take this journey of empathic imagination, try to fully experience (visually and emotionally) every expectation, every pain point, every moment you didn’t quite get the information you needed or the experience you expected. Tap into the customer’s frustration, confusion, and (yes) wanting to end the journey, as well as the good moments. This vital final step empowers marketers to imaginatively see and feel unmet customer needs.

After step 6, you can then make changes that reduce friction and improve the overall CX, which is what customer journey mapping is all about.

To learn even more about customer journey mapping and how it contributes to B2B marketing effectiveness, reach out to us here.

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