One of the questions we hear from our clients most often is, “How do we get from ‘one-size-fits-all’ to personalized content?” And we have a clear answer: Customer Journey Mapping.
What Is Customer Journey Mapping?
Customer Journey Mapping (also known as Journey Mapping or Audience Journeys, or a dozen other variations) is simply the process of understanding the path your specific target audience segments take, from the moment they become aware of their problem until they (ideally) know and love your brand. More specifically, customer journey maps clearly outline how each of your target audience’s needs, actions, and mindsets evolve through critical make-or-break decision points along their path.
Journey mapping works for both B2B and B2C scenarios, but it important to note that they are most valuable when evaluating longer-term purchases or relationship-building marketing strategies.
It is less useful to build journey maps for quick one-off purchases where customers are unlikely to build brand loyalty. So, where to begin?
Why Is Customer Journey Mapping Important?
Your prospective customers are faced with a mountain of choices and content. When they’re making a decision about whether to engage with a brand, customers—in every demographic, B2B, B2C, and across industries—are overwhelmingly signaling that they prefer personalized messaging that is relevant to their needs. As Convince & Convert founder Jay Baer says, “To be someone’s favorite, you need to be hyper-relevant.”
One of the easiest ways to boost content marketing relevancy is through personalization. If you’re not already personalizing, you’re probably falling behind. With the increasing demand for contextual, personalized content as well as the new opportunities for delivering that content using ABM and targeted social advertising, understanding the specific needs and concerns of each audience segment has never been more important. You can’t personalize for a group you haven’t defined.
Journey maps help improve the customer experience by ensuring you’re considering their full experience as you design the interaction, and they help drive customer-centered decisions, as your team aligns business goals with the customer’s goals, and measures marketing performance based on the ease and effectiveness the customer experiences.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map
Building a Customer Journey Map involves defining five key elements:
- Audience Personas
- Decision Journey Stages
- Audience Mindset (thoughts, feelings, and top questions)
- Touchpoints & Key Actions
- Ideal Response & Content Opportunities
1. Audience Personas
Though creating audience personas are a separate task and not specifically part of the customer journey process, it’s essential to ensure you truly understand your audience before you begin. Audience Personas should be based on research (even just talking with your customer service team is a great start), and they should group clusters of individuals together based on their needs and attitudes, not demographics. Here’s more on How to Build Attitudinal Personas for Effective Audience Segmentation.
2. Decision Journey
The decision journey identifies the key steps an individual takes to reach their goal; this is often referenced by marketing teams to outline useful touchpoints at each stage of the decision. Typical stages of the decision journey include:
- Trigger/Desire: realizing they have a problem to solve
- Awareness: becoming aware of your type of solution
- Consideration: adding your brand to the list of possible solutions to evaluate
- Evaluation: comparing the possible solutions
- Purchase: committing to your product or services
- Loyalty: purchasing again and/or telling others about their positive experience.
Customize these stages for your own efforts. For example, a higher ed marketing team might choose to rename these stages:
3. Persona Mindset & Top Questions
Next, it’s important to layer on the emotional mindset of this persona at each stage, and then define the questions or objections keeping them from taking that action.
However, almost none of the decisions customers make fit perfectly into a linear decision journey. There are always emotions that affect a customer’s ability to reach their goal and speed up or slow down their progress. Identifying the mindset of the audience at each step helps us consider the types of content and level of reassurance they need from us at any given moment.
Make sure that your decision journey includes not just rational steps, but also what they’re thinking, feeling and needing at each stage.
The mindset analysis takes into account elements like their mood at this stage, how their feeling about the problem and our brand or brand category, trusted advisors they might look to for advice or inspiration, their experience or confidence level, and sense of urgency to solve the problem.
This is also a great place to document their questions and objections:
- What is keeping them from taking the next step in solving this problem?
- Which of your web pages are most visited?
- Which content assets get the most engagement?
- What frequently asked questions does your sales or support team find themselves fielding over and over?
A great tool to brainstorm these is an empathy map, developed as part of the Gamestorming human-centered design kit from XPLANE. This is a useful exercise to solicit input from across your sales, customer support, and marketing teams to help identify the key identifiers along the journey.
3. Key Actions & Touchpoints
Ok, we know who we’re talking to, and what they’re going through as they try and solve this challenge. The next question is what do we want them to DO and HOW are we going to encourage them to take that action. What is the most useful step they can take, and what opportunities will we have to interact with them?
Thinking about what they most need to do next at the same moment that we consider questions like, “will they be on our email list at this point? What search terms will they be using at this stage? Is the sales team already reaching out to them at this point? It’s important to document all the touchpoints they might get from your company all in one place to build sales and marketing alignment and ensure we’re working toward the same goals. Understanding what actions to watch for helps keep focus on the right call to action at each step of the funnel.
4. Ideal Response and Content Opportunities
This is all about finding the most important message: what is the one thing we can say to help them get over the objection and take the next key action? Specify an ideal response to them at each of these steps and list content you already have or plan to create to meet those needs. From there, defining our ideal response and most important message to encourage that key action leads to clear content opportunities.
At this point you have a really useful journey map to begin evaluating your content marketing strategy. Do we have most of these questions covered? Are these key actions from the journey map aligned with the calls to action on our website? What stages of the journey have we done a great job with, and where are the gaps? Some teams use their personas, journey stages, and key actions goals as a way to tag content assets, and then run reports to identify which stages are underserved.