“Customer experience” is a hot buzzword, and with good reason. Buyers are more empowered and more informed than at any point in our history. One bad experience or missed opportunity can mean the difference between a loyal lifetime customer and a lost sale.
Making it even more difficult, we no longer have the luxury of controlling how a customer goes through their consideration and buying journey or the myriad messages they’re exposed to throughout. (You’ve probably heard the CEB stat that a buyer is on average 57% of the way through their research/purchase decision process before they ever contact a sales person.)
But all is not lost. You can still meaningfully connect with customers at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, to influence their decisions. You just have to do a little more work to understand where they are spending their time. And, take a more nuanced view of what makes them tick.
Let’s start at the beginning: What the heck is a customer journey map?
The journey your prospective customer takes in making a buying decision—where they go, what they’re thinking, what they want and/or need, what kinds of information or assets they interact with. It doesn’t stop at the initial sale, though. The journey continues throughout the customer’s lifecycle with you.
While the idea itself isn’t new, it’s clear it hasn’t yet become a standard process for marketers: A few months back, I attended a webinar in which almost 60% of the audience of marketers had not recently mapped customer experience using this type of scenario.
A customer journey map can be as simple or as detailed as you want to make it. Most plot out phases of the journey including the emotional experience of the customer (what they are thinking or feeling), key touch-points with your brand, and potential reactions by the customer. See below for an example, in which a residential electrical business owner is searching for a scheduling tool to better manage their appointments.
What’s the value of a customer journey map?
- It helps ensure you’re planning your marketing, sales, service and customer experience activities in a cohesive fashion, aligned with what the buyer needs from you. (In other words, you’re starting with a customer view and aligning your operations and communications accordingly.)
- It helps prioritize your efforts. If you’ve built a great customer acquisition experience, but then the customer falls into a black hole immediately beyond the conversion stage, it may indicate the need for more emphasis on post-sale support and engagement activities rather than churning out more lead gen content.
- It enables you to build and test a hypothesis. For example, does it work better if the prospect receives a phone call or an email after purchase? Does a case study sent 2 days after a demo help close the sale?
I’m sold! I want to map my customer’s journey! But, how do I get started?
We fully encourage the crawl, walk, then run approach. Start at a basic level, using the channels you currently own and have data on. You can (and should) continue building on it and/or refining it as you learn more about your customer.
- The first step is know your goal. Are you trying to collect prospect information? Accelerate your time to close? Increase post-sale upgrades to maintenance contracts? You must define the desired outcome before you can analyze your supporting strategy and tactics.
- Identify and define the who/when/what/how in order to create the customer journey pathway(s):
- Who: Define your customer types. (Hopefully you already have personas to lean on, but if not, now’s the time to develop them.)
- When: Plot out their key moments and decision points.
- What: Determine the content or experiences that have proven to make an impact and “delight.” (Or, consider what you think those need to be moving forward.)
- How: Plan for how you can support those key moments and decision points with the activities or assets you’ve outlined. (Does it require additional technologies? A commitment of key resources? Development of additional content?)
- Track, measure and refine. Your initial customer journey map will almost never be the ideal state. Make hypotheses, test, learn, and iterate until you feel you’ve optimized the experience.
A short list of free tools to help:
- Good, ol’ fashioned pen(cil) and paper
- Basic Customer Journey Template (Spreadsheet)
- Industry-specific Templates
And if you feel the challenge is too big for your team’s resources or experience, you can always call in the experts to help. (Shameless plug here.) Happy mapping!