A customer journey map is a visual representation of the process your customers go through to purchase, including phases of that journey and the touchpoints they have with your brand online and offline.
Why map your customer journey? Because understanding how your customer learns about your product and ultimately makes the decision to buy can help you better help them reach their goals. And, in turn, you’ll sell more.
Know Your Customer
To begin mapping your customer journey, start by asking, who is your audience? Once you’ve defined your audience, create your customer personas. These should be representations of individual people with real challenges and goals, making it easier for you to step into their shoes when you’re mapping their journey.
While you want to think about demographics (age, gender, education) when creating your personas, you also want to consider psychographics (attitudes, aspirations, challenges). In addition, think about how they consume information. This will help you think about what types of content to create and where to share it to reach these personas on their preferred media. Ask questions such as:
- How do they spend their time online?
- What searches are they conducting?
- What channels and devices are they using?
Buyer Journey vs. Flywheel
Next, identify the stages in your customer jourey map.
In a traditional funnel model, the stages of the buyer journey look something like this:
Prospects start in the awareness stage, followed by consideration, decision and retention.
- Awareness: In the awareness stage, the prospect encounters a challenge or opportunity. They start researching to better understand the problem and identify possible solutions. In this stage, you should offer content that educates and informs them to better help them identify their needs.
- Consideration: Now your prospect has framed their challenge or opportunity and starts researching tangible solutions. This is the time to provide them with content like comparisons, case studies, and customer testimonials.>
- Decision: The prospect decides on the solution to their problem or opportunity and starts narrowing down options, ultimately coming to a purchase decision.
- Retention: The prospect has the solution to their problem, but may need help implementing it and/or using it. Now success hinges on providing an excellent customer experience.
An alternative approach is the Flywheel, which enables you to look at the customer journey as a continuous cycle. This approach can better facilitate inbound marketing and the reality of today’s buyer lifecycle — it’s no longer linear.
HubSpot, since adopting the Flywheel model, says it “explains the momentum you gain when you align your entire organization around delivering a remarkable customer experience.”
- Attract: In the attract phase, you want to reach your customers and attract them with informative, educational content to help them understand their problem, how to solve it, and reduce friction while doing so.
- Engage: Now that you’ve attracted potential customers, you can focus on building a relationship.
- Delight: In the delight phase, you’re helping your customers reach their goals, turning them into advocates.
Your Customer Journey Length
Also referred to as sales cycle, consider how long it takes for a prospect to become a customer. Generally for less costly purchases, the length of your customer journey is going to be relatively short. Here are some examples:
- Webinar or Conference: Generally, webinars or conferences are lower cost purchases with one or maybe two decision makers and the sales cycle will be shorter. In some industries, professionals are required to attend these for continuing education purposes.
- Enterprise software: Enterprise software, on the other hand, is often expensive, resource intensive, and has as many as seven stakeholders that serve as key decision makers. This cycle could be months or even a year.
- Jeans: On the B2C side, a clothing purchase is generally fairly low cost, something the person needs, and the sales cycle is short.
- Car: A car purchase, however, is much more expensive. In fact, for many people, their car is their biggest investment next to their house. People want to do more research to make sure they’re spending their money on the best car for them, meaning the cycle will take longer.
Define Customer Goals in Each Stage
Once you’ve identified each stage of your customer journey, you’ll want to think about the customer’s goals in each stage. Reference your personas, but also think about how you can gather this data from actual customers. Consider using surveys, analyzing customer activity on your site and engagement with your content, and gather anecdotal data from your sales team.
Match Your Stages with Touch Points
Now your customer journey map starts to become more granular. In each stage, where and how are customers engaging with you? This is where you identify whether you are causing friction in your customer journey. Consider:
- Do you have content that supports each stage of your journey AND helps your customers get the information they need?
- Are there stages or touch points where customers are dropping off? Google Analytics can be a valuable tool for this — analyze user flow data to assess where people are leaving your site. Identify landing pages with low conversion rates. Find emails with a low click-through rate.
Customer Journey Map Example
Now that you know where customers are dropping off, put a plan in place to improve their journey.
- Review your content gaps and list the new content you need to create.
- List the landing pages and emails that need improvement. Create a testing plan to identify factors that are causing friction. Is it the offer? Is it that your copy isn’t compelling? Are you asking for too much information in your forms?
- Prioritize your implementation plan. You could start with content and testing that take the fewest resources to complete, for example.
Once you have your customer journey mapped and you have a plan for reducing friction across the journey, you should see your conversion rates and sales improve. As technology and buyer behaviors change, you’ll need to reevaluate your customer journey map, implement new tests and optimizations, and create new, useful content.