These days, companies compete on more than just price – they compete on value. Because of this, focusing on customer needs is more important than ever before.
Brands that deliver relevant, personalized experiences will get higher conversions, increased engagement, and improved loyalty.
But, to provide value, you must first understand your audience, and one of the best ways to do so is by creating a customer journey map for your business.
Mapping a customer journey gives you an effective way for understanding exactly what transforms a viewer into a loyal customer, and the bedrock of an effective customer journey map is an insight into the needs of your target market, which will ultimately help you create and market a product that meets those needs.
Read the rest of this article to discover how you can design a customer journey map for your company, and how you can integrate different aspects of your marketing strategy into your customer journey map in order to help you achieve your marketing objectives, including:
- Generating awareness
- Encouraging consideration to purchase
- Transforming leads into conversions
- Generating recurring sales
- Creating brand ambassadors
- Reducing variable expenses
… and much more.
If you’re ready to get started, let’s dive right in!
Step #1: Define Your Objective
Your first step in designing a customer journey map for your company is to define your objective.
You must set a clear goal for what you want to achieve with your customer journey map. Much like a financial plan, if you lack a clear idea of what you wish to accomplish, there’s really no point in creating a map in the first place.
So, take the time to think about the sort of information you hope to gather, as well as how you intend to use it. Ask yourself what insights you hope to gain.
By setting goals early on, you’ll be able to ensure that your efforts aren’t wasted and that you accurately portray the customer journey so you can make better-informed decisions for your business’s marketing strategy in the future.
Goals will help you ensure that your customer journey map translates to tangible impact for both your customers and your business.
Depending on the maturity of your business, you may have to identify existing, as well as future buyers to help you set specific goals for those distinct audiences at each of the different stages of their experiences when interacting with your brand.
Pro Tip: At this stage, it may be a good idea to gather the stakeholders in your company who touch different points of your customer’s experience.
It may be tempting to skip this step, but this type of cross-functional teamwork will be crucial in helping you set a logical and attainable goal, so take the time to do it.
Once you’ve gathered unique insights and perspectives into each aspect of your customer journey (whether from your own research or from key stakeholders), it’s time to move on to the next step where you create your customer personas.
Step #2: Create a Customer Persona
If you have an established business, chances are you already have one or more customer personas defined. If not, now is the time to create buyer avatars for your business.
A customer persona is a fictional representation of your target customer based on your market and user research. It includes both demographic and psychographic details that help to bring your customers to life, such as:
- Job function
- Personal goals
- Goals, etc.
Here’s an example of what a customer persona might look like:
The customer persona will help you step into your customers’ shoes so you can develop an effective customer journey story.
Once you have a good understanding of your main segment of buyers, you can move on to the next step.
A customer journey map focuses on your buyer/customer/user’s experience. But, since different people have different behaviors, expectations, and goals, it’s impossible to build a customer journey map for every one of your customers simultaneously.
The last thing you want is to have a generic map that doesn’t help you achieve the results you want from your marketing.
So, take the time to group your customers or audience into personas and build 1-3 persona profiles that will help you design your journey map.
A lot of the information that you are going to use in your map will come from the customer personas you build. But, since your business might have many different profiles, you’ll have to decide which persona you want your map to reflect – whether it’s multiple buyer personas in one or the most prevalent persona.
You might even decide to create an individual map for each of your target customers. Once you’ve made this decision, you can now move on to the next step.
Step #3: Conduct User Research
Now, it’s time to do some persona research. If you have pre-existing data about your target persona, it will make your work a lot easier.
However, if you don’t, you can start to gather helpful customer data in any of the following ways:
- Conduct interviews with potential customers
- Send email surveys to existing users
- Talk to employees who interact with customers regularly
- Look through customer support or complaints logs
- Sift through recorded call-center conversations
- Monitor discussions relevant to your company on social media
- Leverage web analytics
These are just some of the many different ways you can collect information on your target persona.
Compile your preliminary findings to get an idea of what your customer journey might look like. Focus specifically on real customers and prospects who have actually interacted with your business.
This is where you will get the most insightful data on a wide range of issues, such as:
- How customers initially found your brand
- Why they chose to purchase (or not purchase)
- How easy they found it to use your website
- Any problems your brand failed to solve
- …and much more.
Collecting this type of quantitative and qualitative information during your research process will ensure that your business can make data-driven decisions that are based on the voices and opinions of real customers, as opposed to using your own assumptions as your guide.
Just make sure that you flesh out as much of the information as possible regarding the persona your customer journey map will be based on. The more information you have, the better and more effective your customer journey map will be.
Right now, you may be wondering why this step is so important. The answer is simple:
All great customer journey maps begin with research.
This can be analytical or anecdotal, but the bottom line is the more you know about your customer and their specific needs, the more accurate your map will be.
Research is crucial to help you discover your customers’ motivations, pain points, challenges, goals, successes, etc.
Without the data to answer these and other questions, you could build your customer journey map from unsubstantiated assumptions, which leaves room for erroneous strategic planning later on.
You must conduct proper research in order to avoid basing assumptions about your users on false consensus, where there’s a tendency to assume that others share your beliefs and that in a given context, they will behave in a similar way.
Instead of guessing, you can use feedback surveys as a direct way to get information about your users and their needs.
Here are a few different research methods to consider:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
- Customer Efforts Score (CES)
These will help you capture first-hand feedback that you can include in your customer journey map.
Additionally, you can use some of the following surveying channels to reach your customers wherever they are:
- Web, etc.
These surveys should be conducted throughout the customer lifecycle. Keep in mind that the customer journey begins even before users engage with a product or service and continues long after they cease its use.
Conducting in-depth research at all the different stages will help you capture the customer’s view on their overall experience relative to their needs and goals so you can make better-informed decisions on how to make improvements.
You’ll be able to regularly analyze customer experience feedback, get greater context behind each experience, and act on your findings promptly.
Step #4: Identify Stages and Touchpoints
Your next step in customer journey map design is to identify the different touchpoints and stages where prospects and customers interact with your brand.
This section outlines the process followed by customers from awareness, all the way to purchase, and beyond.
Different businesses have different steps in the purchase journey. However, consumer brands often have between 4 and 6 phases in their customer journey, which are as follows:
Need/Awareness > Research > Consideration > Purchase > Support/Renew
When designing your map, you might include more, fewer, or different steps. It’s all dependent on a variety of factors, such as:
- Your brand
- Customer type
- Sales channels
…and so on.
So, for instance, a customer journey for someone considering where to eat dinner will look very different from one from a B2B software or eCommerce company.
However, the framework discussed here is a great starting place regardless of the industry you’re in.
Here’s an example of a B2B customer journey:
Touchpoints can either be owned by the brand (e.g. website, TV ad, etc.), or they may reflect the brand experience (e.g. social media, Amazon reviews, etc.).
They might include things such as:
- Google search
- A “Thank you for your purchase” email
- Website landing page
- User-generated content (UGC) on social media
- Yelp reviews, etc.
- The hostess/server/bathroom/parking lot at a restaurant
… the list goes on!
It’s a good idea to include such touchpoints in your map so you can collect valuable feedback on how your customers feel at each interaction.
The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to identify patterns and opportunities for improvement.
Once you’ve collected the information you need, you can then use visualization and storytelling to map out the experience of customers over time. This will help you identify actionable opportunities for improving every aspect of the experience.
There is no right or wrong way to create a customer journey map.
You just need to make sure your map is aligned with your customer persona, and then you will be better able to decide on which journeys and stages make the most sense to measure in your business.
The metrics you decide to measure will depend on the goals you’re trying to achieve, and once you’ve identified the different phases of the purchase journey, it’s time to look for opportunities to transform your leads into conversions at each of those stages.
Step #5: Customize Your Customer Journey Map
You can customize your customer journey map in any way that helps you meet your business needs.
In fact, the most effective maps are those that evolve over time, and this can help you improve your ability to transform leads into conversions a lot quicker and easier.
Write down the different stages where you have an opportunity to promote your content and transform leads into customers. Keep in mind that whenever a customer engages with your company, it’s a goal-driven action.
This means if you can meet their needs at each of these stages, you will increase your conversions significantly.
Although this may seem like a time-consuming process, it’s well worth the effort. You can use Excel documents to help organize your customer journey map.
Alternatively, you can work from customer journey templates to set a basic foundation for your journey map creation process.
Here’s an example of what a simple customer journey map template may look like:
Here’s a more complex template with all the information discussed in this article:
When designing the customer journey map, you also want to consider when to use different types of content. For example, social networks are great for building awareness. If you host a webinar, you can share the link alongside a short caption, relevant hashtags, and an engaging meme.
Using those tools, you can encourage people to click the link and view the webinar. This is also an effective strategy for blog articles, podcasts, and many other types of content.
By successfully funneling them onto your website or other platforms, you are one step closer to converting them into buyers. There are many ways to use your website or blog to create conversion opportunities by strategically embedding links that lead to point-of-sale landing pages, using email marketing services to allow users to sign-up and receive automated newsletters, blog articles reviewing services or comparing them to competitors, and much more.
As you’ve seen, creating a customer journey map doesn’t have to be hard. All you need to do is follow the steps outlined above, and you will be able to understand the current state of your business’s customer journey and make the changes needed to attract new customers and keep existing ones happy.
Are you ready to create your own customer journey map? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Ron Stefanski is a website entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com