Web tip – get in their head, map the customer journey

Before you map the customer journey, you’ll flesh out  audience personas, identify goals, talk to your customers, and collaborate with teams across your organization to gain a holistic understanding of your customers’ typical path to purchase. You’re ready to take pen to paper (or more likely, mouse to screen) to map out the customer journey, delighting customers at each step.

Map the customer journey

You’ll start by creating a journey for one of your personas. Remember, you’re treating customers as individually as possible, not developing a one-size-fits-all plan. Your journey will be highly repeatable, but tailored and tweaked for your different personas and their needs, motivations, and challenges.

Identify stages to lead the customer to the end goal

With your end goal in mind, develop the stages of customer interaction. Customers approach buying decisions similarly, most of the time. They are introduced to your brand or product category, research your products and competitors, purchase the product, experience it, and decide if they’ll purchase from you again. Each of these stages is an opportunity to educate, excite, sooth, and propel the customer to the next step in their journey.

You developed a detailed understanding of your customers’ typical buying stages from your persona research, but if you are unclear, walking through Discovery, Research, Conversion, and Post Sale is a safe bet. Design the journey as a flow chart, with Discovery on the left hand side and Post Sale on the right. As you get into the thick of things, the journey may tangent off and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to stay linear.

Break each stage into customer activities

The customer journey is a balance between the customers’ indecision to purchase, and your outreach efforts to nudge them toward a purchase. Each stage is an opportunity to engage and influence your customers’ decision and make them a little more comfortable converting. The customer journey is NOT about you, though.

First, begin jotting down a list of activities your customer is likely taking at this stage with and outside of your business. Next, list actions you can take to influence your customer at this stage.

Below, you’ll see my stage flowchart for “Health Nut,” who is checking out my Great Granola because of its health qualities.

Sample customer journey map

Once you have a list of brainstormed interactions, pick a few to add into your flow chart and appraise it from the persona point of view. One or two engagement touch points a week is good to start, so you don’t overwhelm customers with messages. Repeat the process for your other personas.

Tools, like IBM’s Journey Designer, make this process easier to visualize and less overwhelming. With Journey Designer, you design a visual customer journey storyboard. You develop customer experiences across multiple channels, define your customer segments, set business goals and objectives, track expenses, and plan your messaging for each journey stage. You measure success and adjust accordingly using real-time analytics. It has the added benefit of acting as a workflow tool to make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page.

Customer journeys are omni-channel

You’ll notice Great Granola engages Health Nut via many different channels. Your customers’ channel preferences can be identified based on their persona, by asking them directly, or by analyzing past behavior. Try to engage customers on the channels they’re most responsive to, but also make sure you use a mix of channels to keep them excited and maximize additional opportunities. If you aren’t clear on the channels that resonate with your audience, try out a few and measure their success.

Avoid analysis paralysis

Your customer journey is as unique as your customers. It’s flexible and always changing. Avoid analysis paralysis – anxiety around being “right” that leaves you unable to take action – and instead measure your customers’ movement through the journey and responsiveness at each step. If customers are ignoring messages or dropping out of the funnel at a specific step, than adjust your approach.

Understand your customers

Developing user personas, mapping out effective customer journeys, measuring and adjusting to achieve influential engagements sets apart strategic, impactful marketing from generic efforts that waste money and time and rarely pay off. These exercises help you get closer to your audience to nurture happy lifelong customers and brand advocates.