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5 Tips for Mapping the Customer Journey

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by: Ellen Valentine (@EllenValentine)
13 October 2015

Mapping the Customer JourneyToday’s buyers have more ways to interact with businesses than ever, but this increase in communication channels and platforms doesn’t necessarily translate to a positive customer experience: Only 22 percent of consumers say the average retailer understands them as an individual, and only 21 percent say the communications they receive from the average retailer are “usually relevant.”

The complex nature of today’s buyer journey, with more touch points across multiple channels and devices, can make enhancing the customer experience more challenging. Given this landscape, how can you transition from pushing out campaigns on your own time frame to a more customer-first approach in which you interact with contacts at each stage in their journey and present them with the best content, at the right time, on the most appropriate channel?

Mapping the customer journey, and all its possible pit stops, is a smart way to help achieve these objectives and increase your success. If you’re a bit vague on the concept of the customer journey, check out this video for a quick primer:

As you might imagine, creating a customer journey map — a visual representation of all the steps and stages contacts experience — requires careful thought and consideration. For many, the process might seem overwhelming at the start. With that in mind, here are five tips to get you rolling on mapping the customer journey:

1) Identify the initial stage of your journey map.

Usually the first stage is some sort of trigger that caused the buying cycle to begin. These could be problems customers needed to solve, frustration due to lack of capabilities or features with what they already have, or even an external trigger such as a move. This is where buyer personas come into play so nicely – if you’ve done these interviews, you’ve hopefully captured the main triggers.

For B2B organizations, remember that the trigger may occur far before your sales rep begins interacting with the buyer, which is why persona interviews are key in guiding your journey planning.

Although you might get inspiration from other maps you find online to help you determine the proper journey stages, don’t just cut and paste. Instead, synthesize all your research (analytics review, persona findings, etc.) to determine the natural categories that make sense for your buyers.

2) Isolate the rest of your stages.

The next stage after the initial trigger is likely to be an investigative stage in which prospects are getting familiar with the brand and companies that might offer something that could help them. At this phase, buyers often rely on Web and print research. In addition, they are likely tapping their social networks to ask their connections, friends and acquaintances how others are addressing similar needs.

Buyers at this point might reach out to the company to begin a “direct dialogue,” or they may just continue in “stealth mode” doing research on their own. This is where you must have superb website content to encourage prospects to provide their email address in return for your best offer. In most cases, this will be your most effective method for building a sophisticated dialogue and sharing additional helpful content.

The remaining stages will vary widely depending on what you’re marketing. If the decision process for your product or service is one that involves a team evaluation or multiple levels of approval, then you’ll need to account for that in your customer journey map.   

3) Tap into your buyers’ thoughts and feelings.

What are your contacts thinking and feeling at each stage? Your buyers are humans with emotions, so tap into this when building your journey map and follow-on marketing plan. Building emotional hooks into the customer journey might allow you to build real relationships earlier in the buying cycle.

4) Document the channels your buyers will use.

Depict the channels that might be involved or used at each stage and the resources that the buyers are most likely to consult. This will help you ensure that you remember to develop plans to capture behaviors in these channels and feed them into a central database so you can act on these interactions and deliver a more rewarding experience in these channels.

Don’t leave legacy methods such as phone calls and direct mail behind – these avenues can be stalwarts in delivering a great customer journey. Other channels involved might include mobile apps, SMS, social media, video, and physical stores or locations. The more channels you can effectively integrate, the more you can accommodate and facilitate customers with differing preferences.

5) Anticipate everything.

A well-thought-out customer journey exercise should be responsive to all the questions buyers might have. If you take the time to foresee what these might be, you might be able to rework your website or develop new helpful content that eliminates concerns before they even surface.

Remember to loop in organizations outside the marketing department, like customer support or ecommerce, to ensure you’re accounting for every interaction a customer has with your brand, regardless if it’s with marketing. Use digital marketing tools, such as IBM’s Journey Designer, to facilitate these conversations. By visualizing and mapping the customer journey, you’ll be primed for success.

For more strategies and tips on customer journey mapping, including how to address the post-purchase journey, leverage digital analytics and build buyer personas, download the white paper, “Customer Journey Mapping and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing.”

Related Resources:

1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Becoming an Agile Marketing Team

2) Blog: “5 Ways to Enhance the Customer Journey

3) Marketing Automation Ebook: “Best Practices for Marketing Excellence and Organizational Efficiency


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