How to Map Your Customer’s Journey
People know that content can be helpful in “turning clicks into clients”, yet many don’t understand exactly how content fits into the big picture—your customer’s journey. In order to understand how to approach your customers, it’s important first to understand how they might react to your marketing efforts.
The first step in any marketing strategy is creating a buyer persona. Doing so helps to show you what it’s like to be in your customer’s shoes and think the way they think. It helps you to understand what they really want, in order to create the best possible solutions to their problems.
Once you’ve completed the foundational step of creating one or many buyer personas, the next important step in your marketing strategy is to map out your customer’s journey.
What is a Customer Journey?
According to Marketing Cloud, the term “customer journey” is used to describe a relationship between a consumer and a brand, product, or company. In this situation, the “customer” can refer to your followers, fans, viewers, shoppers, employees, stakeholders, or any other members of your audience.
Taking things a step further, a customer journey map is a visual representation of every touchpoint your customers have with your brand.
Why Map Your Customer Journey?
At its simplest, mapping your customer journey helps you to understand why customers do what they do.
Most companies decide to map out their customer journey because of the speed at which transactions happen. Customers can be impatient and demanding and want things done quickly. At the same time, companies want to quickly make a sale or convert. In terms of the speed of a transaction, a customer and brand’s interests are aligned.
Customer journey mapping also helps to reduce churn. Churn rate refers to the percentage at which customers stop subscribing to a service, or to employees leaving a job. With regards to customers, there are usually two major causes of churn:
- “Death” or “marriage”—companies go out of business or get acquired
- Unmet expectations—These things refer to things that the company can control, and should be avoided
According to Forrester, about 63% of companies use some form of customer journey mapping. On that note, 88% of the top marketers believe that a customer journey mapping strategy is critical to the success of their overall marketing. But why aren’t more marketers focusing on this critical element in their marketing strategy? Without customer journey mapping, how do you know when goals are achieved and what to improve on?
Mapping the customer journey not only gives you clarity as to which strategies to try and how to implement them, but also which elements of your strategy are successful or unsuccessful. Understanding why it’s important to map your customer’s journey, here’s how to get things started.
How to Map Your Customer Journey
The customer journey starts before the company or customer even realizes that there is a relationship developing.
To give an example, consider a situation where a customer sees an ad without having prior exposure to that company, then when someone mentions the company, they might have an aha! moment and say, “Oh I think I’ve heard of them!” Similarly, someone may buy a company’s product, and the company may not know anything about the individual behind this purchase, but that person’s customer journey has begun nonetheless.
Once a customer journey has been initiated, it won’t end. Good marketers understand that the customer is the one ultimately calling the shots, but companies should still be present and trying to point them in the right direction.
When mapping your customer journey, it’s helpful to start by doing a little research. Part of this is creating your customer personas. In general, the more specific, the better—don’t be tempted to group distinctly different types of people together. It might take some time to fully flesh out each persona, but it’s time well spent.
During this step, it’s important to also identify:
- Customer outcomes: What is the customer trying to achieve?
- Customer journey: What does the outcome do for them?
While completing the research portion of mapping your customer journey, make sure to gather some relevant data to support any claims or guesses you’re making about your customer personas. This shouldn’t be difficult to do, as 67% of any buyer’s journey is done digitally, and you can use related data to drive strategy building.
At this point, it’s recommended that you go out and interview actual customers. This step will provide you with anecdotal data to mix in with the analytical data you get from your digital sources. Informing your strategy sessions with both sides allows you to correlate the data behind what your analytics suite says, and what your customers say (and vice versa).
This step helps you to gather info about customer perceptions, which helps give you perspective in terms of the customer’s goals.
Align Customer Goals with Business Goals
After doing research on your customers, you should next work to align their goals with your own business goals. At this point, you should be trying to answer the question: what does this persona want to do?
Identify KPIs to Measure Against
KPIs make your customer journey map actionable by providing actual metrics that need to be achieved for your efforts to be considered successful.
Break the Goals Into Tasks
Next, think about what your personas might want to accomplish with your brand, and then break these goals into tasks.
For example, say your business is a coffee shop. The goal of the customer coming into your establishment is to buy coffee. The tasks they undergo to buy coffee could include:
- Looking for the nearest coffee shop
- Going inside the store
- Choosing a coffee
- Paying for a coffee
It’s important to note that the customer journey is rarely linear, so there may be more or less steps, potentially in a completely different order for different customers. Once you’ve decided on the basic steps in your customer journey, these tasks can be mapped into information needs.
At this point in mapping your customer journey, take the data you’ve collected previously and use it to pinpoint any gaps in your marketing strategy.
Identify Customer Touch Points (or Channels)
Referring back to the coffee shop example, a millennial customer persona would probably use the internet to locate your store, but she could also interact directly with it, walking in because the location is around a neighborhood she frequents.
Identify Customer Drill Points
The drill point refers to the point where your product is “drilled” into your customers’ minds.
Understanding your drill point also allows you to identify:
- When you lose your customers
- Why they don’t take an expected action
- Where feedback and support tickets come in
Identifying where your customers come in, where you succeed in bringing them in, and where you may be lacking can help you to optimize your processes in the long run.
After determining the process a customer goes through and identifying any gaps in serving them, it’s finally time to identify solutions to improve the customer’s journey.
For every change you intend to implement, you should also consider how the company will be affected. Ask yourself:
- Will organizational behavior change? If so, how? What are the implications of these changes?
- Will more training be needed to improve the customer journey? Who will need to be trained, and for what?
Implementation and Evaluation
After going through the customer journey map and studying what the company can do to fix any missing links, it’s time to implement any proposed solutions. Don’t forget to continuously evaluate your efforts (by measuring them against KPIs decided on) and get feedback from the customer, in terms of things like:
- What are they thinking about these new changes?
- How do they feel about it? Has it helped them?
- Most importantly, what are they doing about it? Are they moving the way you want them to?
For best results, and to continue improving the customer journey, evaluate your efforts every six months. Aside from getting new customers, you also want to work to retain the old ones. This is actually more economical to do in the long run, as research shows that old customers are 14x more likely to purchase than a new one and it is 6x more expensive to win a new customer over an old one.
Creating a customer journey map can be a long and tedious process, but the effort can help your business to succeed over the long run. By taking you on a tour in your customer’s mind, to anticipating their needs, and making it easier to make a sale, there’s no reason not to map your customer’s journey.
Is there a critical step we missed when it comes to mapping the customer journey? Tweet your thoughts at @DigitalRDMS, and we’ll share the best insights. Contact the experts of Results Driven Marketing at (215) 393-8700 for more information on how we can help with your content marketing strategy.