The journey that prospects take to becoming loyal customers would ideally be a direct path: Visitors land on your web page, buy your product, and purchase again.
But things don’t always work out that way.
The path looks more like a winding road with seemingly non-stop distractions along the way. Staying on top of these moments as users progress through the sales cycle may seem hopeless. But creating customer journey maps can help and even uncover hidden opportunities to grow your sales.
What exactly are customer journey maps and what do they entail?
Glad you asked.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is Customer Journey Mapping?
A customer journey map is a graphical representation of the end-to-end customer experience.
It provides a visual flow of touchpoints from engaging with a customer (with advertising) to them buying a product and finally upgrading or making another purchase. Understanding each step enables your business to create an accurate narrative of your audience and inform marketing decisions. The customer journey map is your opportunity to dive deeper into the motives of your audience and what compels them to act.
Here is an example of what a customer journey looks like:
Let’s take a look at a real-life scenario: Imagine you’re shopping for a digital camera. You don’t know much about them but you’re setting aside a sizable budget for top notch image quality.
So then you start off by typing in a simple query like “digital cameras” into Google which leads you to comparisons between point and shoot cameras and DSLRs. After narrowing down your options between some of the top manufacturers, you finally decide on the Nikon D750 DSLR camera.
This is a good example of the customer journey for purchases like digital cameras: You started by searching for a solution to a problem. Then you used Google as a starting point and turned to a few blogs to narrow down your choice until you were ready to make a purchase.
What Customer Journey Mapping Can Do For Your Business
Let’s look at a practical application for customer journey maps—Content marketing.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the following:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
The idea is to distribute engaging content through channels like search and social media. The intent is to engage with your audience and compel them to take action (e.g. signing up for a newsletter). Creating customer journey maps provides deep insight about your audience and reveals content gaps your business can easily fill.
Here’s an example: MYOB provides business management solutions in Australia for small to medium sized businesses. Common challenges for both groups are figuring out tax obligations and planning for the future. So MYOB created a content hub to help business owners more easily navigate the complex tax system.
The content hub includes resources that are aimed at new business owners as well as more established companies that are looking for deeper insight on taking their operations to the next level.
As such MYOB is in a better position to funnel their prospects to its paid solutions.
Understanding each stage of the customer journey enables you to identify common pain points of your target audience and develop a more focused content marketing strategy.
What kind of impact would that have on your business?
Now let’s dive deep into how you can get started with a customer journey map.
1.0 Create Buyer Personas
You need to understand who your customer are. Otherwise your messages are likely to be met with little enthusiasm.
This is one benefit to creating a buyer persona. Buyer personas are representations of your ideal customer with basic background information. Creating one makes it easier to tailor your content based on specific needs of different groups that interact with your business. Buyer personas can be created by gathering data through customer interviews or even tools like Facebook Audience Insights.
Changes are good that your products or services attract a range of customers. If you run a hobby store, your customers are likely to come from all backgrounds from those just getting started to the rabid enthusiast.
It’s worth creating multiple buyer personas then. For MYOB, they didn’t just create content towards a single buyer. They provided resources for small business owners and more established businesses. By creating multiple personas MYOB was able to deliver relevant content for the right groups.
2.0 Define Customer Goals
The next step is to understand your buyer’s goals. What are they trying to accomplish during each stage of the customer journey? And how can you align those objectives with your own?
Let’s take a young couple looking for a new family health insurance plan: The key goal in the awareness stage might be to understand how different plans work. The next goal during the research phase might be to evaluate how each fits in with their lifestyle and how different providers compare. Finally, they begin to narrow down their choices and make a decision in the last stage.
Here’s an example of what this customer journey might look like along with goals for each stage:
Understanding customer goals helps you get closer to yours.
It allows you to create a more cohesive marketing strategy. For customers in the awareness stage, you might create resources that look at different health plans while also including a lead form. That way you can follow up with additional resources and eventually funnel prospects into the last stage.
To understand your audience, here are some sources to mine valuable data:
● Conducting surveys
● Interview customers
● Reviewing support emails
● Using analytics tools
3. Map Out Communication Touchpoints
Touchpoints are simply points of contact that customers have with your business.
An example might be prospects discovering your products through an ad or search query. Another might be from an email sequence that visitors receive upon filling out a lead form.
Each touchpoint represents an opportunity to move prospects to the final stage of the sales cycle. But it’s also where many brand inconsistencies are discovered.
Let’s look at a scenario: Users visit a landing page and sign up for your newsletter. Open rates for your emails are above average but data reveals that prospects are unsubscribing in high numbers. What went wrong? The problem is likely a disconnect in the messaging.
Data has found that 87% of consumers want brands to provide a more consistent experience across all channels. Improving that single touchpoint can ultimately mean more to your bottom line.
List out all touchpoints throughout each stage of the customer journey from pre-purchase to post-purchase including offline interactions. Then identify any roadblocks that are preventing customers from achieving their goals.
4. Fill Content Gaps
Next you should be thinking of the type of content to create content that’s suited for each stage.
Take someone looking for a new home audio system: They likely don’t know much about them so they’re still early in the awareness stage. At this stage you can provide free resources geared towards beginners. But as prospects move onto the consideration and decision stages, they’ll undoubtedly have more questions. In these stages, you can provide additional resources like spec sheets that list out how features compare with competing products.
Closing content gaps in this manner allows you to position your business in front of more prospects with focused content as they move through the customer journey.
5. Identify and Remove Friction Points
Are there any friction points that are slowing users down from completing an action? This is why listing out all communication touchpoints is such an important step. It lets you identify any roadblocks that are preventing customers from achieving their goals.
A good example comes from shopping cart abandonment.
Data from the Baymard Institute found that 69% of online shoppers abandon their carts. Here were some of the top responses:
The responses shed some light on common negative shopping experiences online. If your analytics data reveals a high shopping cart abandonment, addressing these issues can have a positive impact on your conversion rates.
Look at all communication touchpoints and identify potential friction points. Then prioritise which ones to address first.
Customer journey maps are an invaluable tool for any organisation. Creating one provides deeper insight about your audience which you can then leverage to attract and retain more prospects. You’re also helping your team build a more consistent customer experience across all channels. Follow the steps as outlined here to get started with your own customer journey map.
Just as markets continue to evolve, so too should your customer journey map. Think of it as a living, breathing document that adapts to changes in your market.