Your customers are the heart and soul of your sales and marketing efforts and time spent trying to get to know them better is never time wasted. Learning what drives the people behind the personas and what their pain points are is crucial for the success of your business. And, as the saying goes, to really understand someone, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. The marketing equivalent of this is called creating customer journey maps and it’s one of the most useful approaches you can add to your arsenal of customer knowledge tactics.
What Is a Customer Journey Map and Why Do You Need One?
A customer journey map (CJM), also referred to as a client journey map, user journey map, and consumer journey map is a visual representation of your customer’s touchpoints with your business. It retraces a person’s steps from the moment they first learned about you, through interactions with marketing content on different platforms, to, hopefully, becoming a happy client and a brand advocate.
The goals of the CJM map are to:
- Illustrate how the customer interacts with your company.
- Evaluate the success of your marketing channels.
- Identify the supposed emotions associated with every step of the journey.
Creating customer journey maps enables you to picture how a client acts and thinks, and learn about their habits and behavior, and the emotions your brand provokes in them.
Furthermore, studying different types of maps and comparing the results will enable you to identify weak points in your content at the different stages of the funnel, and fix eventual silos between your marketing channels.
Types of Customer Journey Maps
There are different types of customer journey maps you can build depending on your goals. There are also no strict rules to limit you. You can focus on the whole journey to monitor the bigger picture of your user’s experience. Or, you can dive deeper into each stage of the funnel – the awareness, consideration, or decision – to analyze what can be optimized.
The three main types of CJMs you should consider building are the customer’s current state map, personal life map, and future state map. You can design them separately, or you can combine and compare them to gain a holistic view of a person’s experience with your brand.
The ultimate goal is to understand your target audience, make them feel more welcome with your brand, and accelerate their passage through the pipeline.
- Current state CJM. This map follows what the customer journey looks like at the current moment – what are their touchpoints with your company, how do they feel about them, what can be improved? It’s created based on all the data you can gather from your different channels and all other relevant information you can acquire.
- Personal life CJM. This map is designed to go beyond the customer’s interaction with your business, and give you a glimpse of their everyday life. By learning more about their supposed routine, their tasks, and their problems, you receive insights into how your products and services can help solve their issues and help them improve their quality of life.
- Future state CJM. This map reflects how you imagine your ideal customer’s journey. It can be a benchmark you build and then compare with reality, or it can be based on what you plan to improve in your current state CJM.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
Every customer, of course, is unique, and that means that their journey will not be completely the same as someone else’s, but once you’ve analyzed your sales and marketing data, you’ll discover some very clear patterns. Digging into this and sifting through all the noise, will allow you to segregate the commonalities and aggregate them to the maps.
For optimal results, customer journey maps should be based on the buyer personas your business targets. Separate maps should be created for every type of customer you have.
1. Identify Your Buyer Personas
Identifying your buyer personas, also known as your ideal customer profiles, is very important to your marketing strategy, regardless of whether you’re creating customer journey maps or not.
Depending on their scope, brands can have a few or many different buyer personas. It’s advisable to restrain from targeting too broad an audience because you risk making your marketing message too vague, and your maps inaccurate. However, if your scope is narrow like it is in account-based marketing, you can build individual maps for every major account you are targeting.
The goal of buyer personas is to help you better target and focus your efforts. If you are not clear about who your customers are, what their demographics, goals, problems, and desires are, it will be difficult to define their actions and identify their touchpoints with your brand.
Furthermore, your most profitable and loyal clients may turn out to be different than who you’ve pictured them to be. That’s why buyer personas should be based on the data derived from market research and analysis of your current audience and not based only on assumptions.
By focusing on the clients who bring in the most revenue and have reliable growth potential, you can improve your services to their satisfaction and retain them for longer. Also, you can leverage the information you have on them to attract more customers with similar profiles.
2. Research Your Customers Well and Learn Their Habits
Once you’ve identified your ideal customers and have built their detailed profiles, you should research their consumer habits and how they interact with your marketing channels.
There are many ways to obtain this information:
- Customer surveys. The simplest way to learn about what your customers do in your communication channels and how it makes them feel is to simply ask.
- Website tracking. By using techniques such as site-wide tagging and heatmaps you can keep first-party cookies and find out a lot about customer behavior on your website.
- Email analytics. Analyzing the effect and performance of email campaigns will give you valuable insight into your customer’s reactions to your content and marketing messages.
- Social listening. Social listening is considered a gray area in some regions of the world, but if done carefully and in compliance with privacy laws, it can help you learn a lot about your customers’ online habits and how they feel about you.
Knowing what your customers do, how they shop, what they like and dislike will help you build accurate journey maps with genuine business value.
3. List All Your Touchpoints With the Customers
Every interaction a customer has with your business during their life cycles is called a touchpoint. Nowadays the customer’s digital journey is a complicated one and all marketing strategies are omnichannel ones.
People often start an interaction on one platform, continue it on another, shake things up with in-person communication, click on emails, etc. And this goes on and on until they find what they are looking for and finally make a purchase or give up. If businesses want to keep them engaged, they should be active, maintain consistency and keep up the pace.
To design an accurate customer journey map, you have to be clear about all the touch points customers have with your business. When making your list, be sure to check third-party platforms and websites as well. You are not always in control of the information about you available online and bad reviews and comments can ruin your reputation and influence the way customers feel about you on their journey.
Some probable touchpoints customers may have with you are:
- Your website
- Your blog
- Blog comments
- Social media content
- Social media ads
- Social media discussions
- Email campaigns
- Third-party review websites
- Search engine PPC ads
- Customer support communication
- FAQ page
- CRM software
Make a list of all that apply to you, and make sure to update it regularly and monitor their activity.
4. Gather Data From Marketing Channels
Keeping track of touchpoints enables you to have a glimpse of the emotions different content and channels invoke in your customers, and that is vital information for your journey maps.
The data you obtain from communication channels can be, generally, divided into quantitative – which can be put into numbers – and qualitative – which is descriptive and relative.
- Quantitative – websites, blogs, PPC ads, FAQ pages, CRM.
- Qualitative – blog comments, social media comments, discussions, and user-generated content, customer support communications, CRM.
Analysis tools will help you collect and organize quantitative data that you can use to identify patterns, aggregate common behaviors, and evaluate the scope of issues. You could also consider conducting customer surveys to clarify the results and consolidate your conclusions.
Persistent and systematic observation of the platforms that deliver qualitative information will give you the means to better understand the numbers and put them in context. Analyzing this data may be more of a hurdle, but the insights it provides are valuable for your overall perspective over the customer’s feelings towards you, and are, indeed, worth your while.
The information you’ve accumulated can be supplemented and double-checked by administering market research methods like interviews, focus groups, and real-life observations.
Gathering and systematizing the two types of data regarding your client’s interactions with your business is the basis of your CJMs.
Once you are done, the data you’ve collected from different channels should be cross-referenced to build the story of the customer’s journey.
5. Cross-Reference the Data and Draft the Map
By cross-referencing the data from different channels you can build a timeline of the communication with your customers and add meaning to every touchpoint.
Start with mapping out their first interaction with your business – how did they learn about you, what got their attention, how did they feel about it? Then continue by identifying every next step and keeping notes about anything significant regarding the interactions.
Register how much time a customer has spent on a given channel and try to decipher why. If it’s a long time, it can be both because they are confused and can’t find what they are looking for, or because they are having a good time and want to stick around. If the visit is short, it can, again, mean that they quickly found what they needed, or that they just gave up.
Their previous and next steps will help you figure it out and give you an educated guess on how they felt about the interaction.
Following this trail to the sale or to the moment the customer is no longer anywhere to be found will help you to picture their journey and make conclusions about what happened.
The next step is to visualize this data and show it to all it may concern.
6. Visualize the Data
There are many ways you can visualize a customer journey map and which one you choose depends on your audience, i.e. who the CJM is meant for, the resources at your disposal, and your tech skills.
Also, you don’t necessarily have to be a graphic designer to make a cool and interesting journey map. There are many tools that can help you build one if you want to go the extra mile.
Some visualization options you can consider are:
- Excel sheets
- PowerPoint presentations
Here are some examples to inspire you:
Knowing your customers is something you should always invest time and resources on.
Customer journey maps are a great tool that can help you learn more about your customers’ habits and preferences, and how they feel about your online presence.
Leveraging this information, you can improve the performance of your marketing channels, and connect the dots between your customers’ actions and your sales rates.