You muster up the courage to splurt out the words and lo and behold you’re on your first date.
However, nowhere in the history of first dates would it ever be a grand idea to ask—
“Want to get married?”
Unless of course, this is a love at first sight scenario.
Now, the point here is this: You went through a series of steps to ask this gal out in the first place.
You liked some of her photos online, you had casual conversations with her, and then you talked on the phone into the wee hours of the night.
Only then did you make your move to ask her out… let alone asking her to marry you.
Customer journeys are like dating, they require a series of intentional steps before popping the big question: will you purchase my product?
So, to make other businesses googly-eyed over what your company has to offer, you need a specific, intentional, fully-mapped-out customer journey map.
Let’s explore how displaying the right message at just the right time can win your customers’ hearts and increase your sales.
What is a customer journey map?
Simply put, a customer journey map is the storyboard of your ideal customer’s relationship with your business. It starts from the moment they first hear about your brand. Done right, it helps you say the right things at the right time and give your customer a delightful experience.
In one look, you see the whole customer experience that your business is providing. You spot problem areas, see opportunities, determine what you can do better, and find ways to keep your ideal customer interested.
Why is creating a customer journey map important?
Not only does creating your customer journey map improve customer experience and your marketing targeting ability, but it also breaks down inefficient marketing silos so that you can build them back up.
Let’s take a closer look at how it improves customer experience.
It improves the customer experience
A delightful customer experience starts with creating a customer journey map. Doing so will allow you to find out what your ideal customer is thinking, doing, and feeling at every step along their buying journey.
Having an excellent customer experience means you’ve thought through how you’ll answer questions. Will you have a team for this? Will you direct them to email you, message you, or tweet you?
Having your customer journey mapped out to identify areas where customers might get confused or have questions helps them feel seen and heard.
Let’s look at how Classpass uses Twitter to quickly answer questions. In this instance, a user was upset over a recent credit system implementation and here’s how Classpass responded:
This then allows a business to create relevant content that resonates with their needs and makes them feel understood.
Let’s refer back to the ClassPass scenario for a moment. If they foresaw this being an issue through their customer journey mapping, they might create social posts or a blog about how these changes will affect customers and how they can better navigate the credit system.
I’m sure you can recall other businesses that have just gone above and beyond to help you solve a problem and this stood out to you. A stand-out business that comes to mind is Chase. In a scenario where there was possible fraud or credit card issue, they provided full refunds without a blink. For that reason, they deserve loyal customers.
Overall, your customer journey map will prompt you to narrow down on the places your customers might need some extra love. In this way, you cultivate brand loyalty. Because you’re not just focused on the sale, you get to help your customers beyond your paid products and offers. And happy, loyal customers should always be the goal.
Now, let’s unveil how customer journey mapping can clarify your target audience.
It improves your marketing targeting ability
By taking the time to get to know your ideal customers and what exactly they need at every step of their buyer journey, you are able to give them exactly what they need.
Let’s take Hubspot as an example. Their HubBot appears on the bottom right of your screen the moment you enter their site and then asks a couple of questions which then direct you to a more personalized solution.
Their use of AI throughout their website experience streamlines the customers’ journey and ultimately pushes them closer to their final destination.
However, it’s not only enough to incorporate all the latest AI features…
The secret ingredient to nailing down your target audience?
And here’s a company that’s doing that right: Gumbuster selling gum removal services to bus companies.
Their messaging gets straight to the point.
Who is it for? Bus companies.
What do they do? Remove gum.
The point is, if you’re talking to everyone then you’re really talking to no one so ensure you have Gumbuster-specific messaging for every step of the customer journey.
It breaks down inefficient marketing silos
In farming terms, silos stand alone to produce one thing: grain. In the marketing world, silos can be implemented to get the best expertise in certain departments of your business.
While this can be indeed very effective, it could also create dissonance among all your working operations and thus create a bigger gap between what your customers need and how your business is running.
To illustrate, the email marketing team may compete for customers’ attention with the social media team. With a planned customer journey map a company can plan and execute a cohesive marketing and sales strategy so everyone is on the same page.
Now, for the juicy details: 7 steps to creating a customer journey map.
7 Steps to Creating a Customer Journey Map
1. Define your target customer persona
Nailing down your target customer or buyer persona is the first step to creating a successful customer journey map. Identify a psychographic profile of your ideal customer including their:
- Even a pet!
The more detailed the profile, the easier it is to imagine them interacting with your business.
Here are a couple of ideas on where you might find this information:
- From your sales team
- From social media
- From forums like Quora or Reddit
- Amazon or Yelp reviews
If you’re just starting out you might even think of creating a questionnaire and posting it in specific Facebook groups and incentivizing those who fill it out.
Wherever your target audience is hanging out, you want to keep an eye out for what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, so you can create the most valuable proposition for them.
2. Recognize the needs of your target customers
During the testing process of new products, businesses need to feel out the needs of their customers. I remember going to market research groups to test out different Gatorade samples or Frito flavors to see if they should be made into official flavors. Wasabi-flavored Fritos anyone?
Try thinking outside the box to really get in their psyche. If you’re selling organic coffee, why would customers want your organic vs processed? What kind of lifestyle do they lead if they’re only looking to drink organic coffee? And, why do they need coffee in the first place?
Break down their needs into these sections:
- Actions – What is your target customer doing?
- Motivations – What is your target customer feeling and why do they care?
- Barriers – What’s standing in their way? Money? Time?
The more nitty-gritty you get the closer you’ll be to pinpointing exactly how they’d like to experience your business and what they look for in a business to begin with.
3. Identify the customer touchpoints
Buyer touchpoints are the interactions your ideal customers have with your business throughout the customer journey. Identify these touchpoints and find out what the customer experiences at each point.
The first step in this process is awareness. How are they finding you? Maybe it’s through your website or possibly your Youtube channel.
The logical step for your customer is to research your brand, check out what you have to offer, and possibly peruse your blog. This is the research portion and this step is critically important because it is through your aligned sales copy, landing pages, and blog posts that they’re deciding whether or not they want to “take you out on a date” or pursue you.
Now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for… the purchase. What is your checkout process like? Is it easy or difficult to buy from you? Is there a follow-up email that notifies the customer after their purchase? All these steps nurture the client in hopes that they’ll be back for more.
Pardon our French, but nobody likes a hit it and quit it. No thank you. Customers want a relationship with you, they want to be reminded of your offers and given discounts for being loyal so give them just that.
And now, cultivating brand evangelists. You want to create a customer experience so mind-blowing that customers are shouting from the rooftops about your brand. They’re tweeting you, spreading awesome reviews all over the place, and therefore taking care of your marketing efforts for you. To do this you should continuously be looking to care for your paying customers. How can you provide a little extra love to them?
4. Specify the customer pain points
It’s time to talk about pain points. Doing this will unveil ways you can combat what customers are concerned about or having problems with.
Here are some of the most common pain points:
- Hard-to-navigate customer service channels
- Making customers wait — a slow website, slow replies to inquiries, long-winded sales pages
- Being impolite or dismissing
- High delivery charges and hidden fees
- Providing inaccurate or confusing information
Other pain points might include financial situations, convenience, product availability, or difficulties with delivery tracking (mostly for eCommerce businesses).
For you, maybe your customers’ main pain point is financial. So, here’s the solution…
Maybe you run a special discounted offer for a limited time, as the Digital Marketer did for their Lab membership during the midst of Covid.
If that’s not an option for you, think about giving customers the option to pay in installments as opposed to in bulk. Providing multiple ways they can access your products or service will help them feel seen and heard.
Okay, onto step #5.
5. Decide on the elements you want the map to show
At this point, you have a lot of data for your customer journey map.
Let’s review – here’s what you should have thus far:
- A detailed customer persona (steps 1-2)
- Stages of a customer journey through your business and the touchpoints (step 3)
- Pain points and improvement areas for each stage and touchpoint (step 4)
Now it could become easy to overwhelm yourself and try to show all these pieces at once so first identify the areas you want to focus on right now.
If you’re a new business, we recommend creating a “future state” map. A future state map simply means mapping out your potential customers’ journey as you think it would unveil. By doing this you’ll be able to use it as a starting point to craft content and business strategies around.
For more seasoned companies with numerous touchpoints, pinpoint your customers’ pain points first. These can be areas of improvement over time. Dedicate space in your monthly calendar to keep the map updated to see whether metrics are improving.
Next up, visualization.
6. Visualize the customer journey map
Visualizing your customer journey map can make it more digestible, especially if you have a team. Bring this to life by using tools like Touchpoint Dashboard, UXPressia, or SmartDraw. These resources help you easily spot points for improvement and fix them quickly.
Onto our last stop, update and optimize.
7. Update and optimize
Being in business, especially in the online world means marketing tactics, current events, technology, and customers’ needs are constantly changing. For this reason, we recommend updating your map at least 3 times a year.
On the same train of thought, your target audience will evolve as your business does so ensure your teams regularly align and exchange notes about what’s working and what’s not.
Take for instance the BLM Movement in 2020. Brands were urged to stand up and take a stance. For instance, in addition to donations to the NAACP, Airbnb launched an initiative called Project Lighthouse that aims to study how its users’ perceived race and how that affects their experiences on the platform. Because of current events, their focus had to be adjusted to show their customers they cared about what was (and still is) happening to black lives.
With that said, it’s crucial that your team is on the same page, and that your customer journey map evolves as the world does.