Customer journey mapping to support today’s educated buyers

customer journey mapping

Customer Journey Mapping – what is it and how do you get started?

Do you have a clear, specific, comprehensive plan for turning people who‘ve never heard of you into loyal repeat clients who recommend you to their family, friends and peers?

If you don’t have your customer journey mapping completed out, you’re probably missing a lot of opportunities to attract and convert leads. There are seven stages that people tend to go through while traversing the path from stranger to repeat client, and knowing how you’ll help them navigate those stages will greatly increase the ROI on your marketing efforts

In my last blog post, I walked you through the seven stages of the customer journey, and gave you some methods for implementing each of those stages.

Today, I’m going to tell you how to turn those stages into a map that’s customized for your business and target audience, so you can attract more leads, and turn more of those leads into clients instead of losing them halfway through the journey.

Here are the key principles behind effective customer journey mapping:

While you are working your customer journey mapping, there are some important factors and principles that you’ll need to keep in mind in order to get the best possible results.

While your customers’ exact journey will vary from one industry to another, these principles are universal, so take careful note of them and be prepared to use them while I walk you through the process of creating your map.

Principle 1: Don’t expect to make a sale in the first interaction.

With all the options clients currently have, it should come as no surprise that many of them will want to weigh those options before making a decision.

Many people want to do things themselves, find the best deal, or see if the problem will resolve itself before they make a purchase.

It can take time, and several interactions or points of contact, before a client trusts you enough to give you their money or a large chunk of time. You may also need to educate them about why they need your product, and why you’re better equipped to help them than your competition is.

Because of this, it’s important to provide several ways for your clients to get value from your business, and to see your expertise in action, before asking them to make a purchase.

Principle 2: Give value every step of the way.

If your newsletter and social media profiles are nothing but a series of sales pitches, people will stop opening your emails and checking your pages.

And if your content marketing only gives them basic information that they could get anywhere, or if your information isn’t insightful or actionable, they’ll seek out better information – probably from your competition.

Every interaction with your company should be valuable for your potential and current clients in some way.

Tell them exactly how to take one step in the process, answer a question that’s been weighing on their minds, or give them a list of tips or facts on a topic they’re highly interested in, then tell them how they can get the whole process or solution by investing in your offering.

Another method that businesses that perform “done for you” services can use is to give them the entire solution in your free materials, which helps them to see just how much work and expertise goes into your service, then to offer to take that work off their plates and do it better than a non-expert could.

Principle 3: Look at it from the customer’s point of view, not yours.

You know that your product could change your client’s life. They don’t.

You may know the root cause behind their pain or lack of success, but many of your clients only know about the symptoms they’re experiencing.

You know the jargon, abbreviations and terminology in your industry, but if your clients are laypeople, they probably don’t.

And you know why your customers should care about your product. But they don’t.

Until you’ve had a chance to educate them, you should always assume that your customers are starting from square one. They don’t know or care who you are, what your product is, or what features it includes.

What they DO care about is the needs and desires they’ve been trying to fulfill, and the problems they want to get rid of.

Because of this, your first step should always be to make it clear that your product, service or program addresses the problems your clients know they have and gives them the benefits they know they desire, and then to educate them about why you’re uniquely suited to meet those needs effectively and efficiently.

Principle 4: Focus on their emotions.

People may justify their buying decisions with logic, but they make those decisions with emotion.

In every step of your customer journey, think about how you can tap into their emotions. What pain are they experiencing? How do they feel about their problem? What can you do to make them feel better, to remove their pain, and thus create loyalty to you and your brand?

When you’re aware of what they’re feeling, you’re better able to create content that speaks to their pain and struggles, and offers them hope that you can help them feel the way they want to feel.

Principle 5: It isn’t good enough to merely get the client.

The potential clients who are the most likely to make a purchase are the ones who have already bought something from you, and who had an amazing experience with their last purchase.

Many businesses work hard to get new clients, then once they’ve done all that work to secure that first purchase, they squander the “know, like and trust” they’ve built up by neglecting those hard-won clients in favor of new prospects.

Your existing clients will often be your hottest leads and your best sources of word-of-mouth marketing, so don’t forget about them once you have them. Put a dedicated effort into making sure that their experience is great, and that they have ways and reasons to think of you the next time they or their friends need products or services in your field.

Principle 6: Measure and fulfill your brand promise.

One of the most important factors of your customer journey mapping exercise is making sure that the customer’s experience matches your brand promise.

  • What are the main selling points that you offer?
  • Do you promise to make things effortless? Highly customized? Unique?
  • Do you tell your clients that they’ll save time or make money by working with you, or that they’ll feel better physically, emotionally or professionally?
  • Your customer journey should be tailored to make sure that the experience lives up to your brand’s promise, and exceeds your customers’ expectations.

How to gather the data you need to compete your customer journey mapping:

Now that you know what principles you need to bear in mind when completing your customer journey mapping exercise, it’s time to collect the data on which you’ll base that map.

Here are the steps for gathering the data you need for customer journey mapping:

Step 1: Know who your target audience is, as well as what they need and what they want.

If you don’t know who your ideal client are, you’ll have only a vague idea of what their needs, desires, challenges and priorities are.

Even if your product could help almost anyone with higher brain functions and a pulse, a twenty-two-year-old mother who’s juggling childcare, household responsibilities and a part-time job will have very different concerns, challenges, and ability to invest time and money than a sixty-year-old who’s well established in her career and finances, whose children have moved out, and who is now focused on building her success, fulfillment and impact on the world.

The nature of your target demographic might not affect the fact that they need your product, but it will affect the REASONS why they want your product, as well as the ways and locations in which they’ll look for solutions to their problems.

If you want your marketing to be effective, you need to phrase it in ways that match your audience’s language, desires and priorities, and you need to place that marketing where they’ll be looking for it.

If you don’t already know who your ideal client, I invite you to use onCOREventure’s Ideal Client Persona Worksheet and Ideal Client Description Form to learn more about how to define your ideal clients, and to check out my article about the ten things you need to know about your ideal client.

Step 2: Do your research.

Don’t use your internal staff to build your customer journey, or rely on gut instinct. To accurately map your customer’s experiences, expectations, and the factors that go into their buying decisions, you need to go to the source: the customers themselves.

Depending on the scope of your research, your customer journey exploration could include interviews, ethnographies and surveys, as well as having your staff ask questions of the customers they serve.

Bear in mind that, while ethnographies can give you good insights, the small sample size can create bias. It’s important to combine your personal interactions and feedback with research on larger groups, so you get a more balanced perspective.

Step 3: Learn about your different customer segments.

Even if you have a single ideal client defined, there may be different segments among that demographic who behave differently in ways that affect their customer journey.

For example, in a pre-sales project we did for one of our service company clients, we found that one segment of their customers typically spent two hours researching the category, while another consistently spent more than six weeks doing the same, using very different tools.

To maximize their sales to both of these groups, the company would have to optimize both the quicker methods that one segment used to do their research in two hours, and their methods for staying at the top of the other group’s mind during the weeks they spent weighing their options.

Step 4: Factor in your customers’ timeframes.

Does the typical call between the client and your customer support team last thirty seconds or ten minutes?

Did the shoppers decide on a product within twenty minutes, or did they spend forty hours weighing their options before they chose an item?

The duration of your customer journey, and of its individual stages and points of interaction, provides important context and information about how much nurturing your clients need, how much information they want, and how much time you should expect to budget for each touch point.

How to complete your customer journey mapping:

Now that you know what data and principles you’ll need for your customer journey mapping, it’s time make that map.

Step 1: Ditch the PowerPoint.

Most customer journey maps are created by and for PowerPoint. But PowerPoint is built to communicate basic information on-screen, usually by bullet points, and this can be very limiting.

It’s better to use a desktop publishing application to communicate the richness of the experience.

Step 2: Indicate all your touch points.

Start by making a list of all the possible ways in which potential and existing clients could interact with your company, including their type and the order in which you intend or expect them to occur, whether or not those touch points are in your control.

This could include reading social media posts, signing up for webinars, attending webinars, receiving emails, talking to customer service representatives, making a purchase, receiving a request for a review, and any other time when the customer and your company will interact.

Step 3: Highlight moments of truth.

Some interactions have more impact than others, and great journey maps separate those critical moments of truth from those that aren’t as vital.

For example, when visiting a hospital, a bad check-in taints the rest of the patient’s experience, even if the care that followed was good.

Once you’ve listed all your points of contact and arranged them in the order in which you expect them to occur, highlight the ones that will have the most impact on your customers’ perception of your company and their willingness to keep moving forward with you.

Pay attention to the aspects of your customer journey that your clients emphasize in their reviews. Which experiences do they talk about the most? Take note of those, and put special focus on optimizing them and on addressing any concerns that people mentioned about them.

Step 4: The customer’s perspective determines customer journey mapping.

Start from the potential beginning points, and work your way forward. As you do this, I recommend using my article on the stages of the customer journey to get a clearer idea of what stages your customers will go through, and what kinds of materials you can use to guide and draw them through each of those stages.

First, list the sources from which they’re the most likely to hear about your business for the first time. This could include social media posts in groups or on hashtags they frequent, advertisements, word-of-mouth referrals, blog posts, videos, and any other channel through which a person who’s never heard of your business before might notice you.

This is the “know” stage of your customer journey, where they first get to know you. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s important to know who your target audience is, and what tools they use to search for solutions in your industry.

Different people will come to know of your existence through different channels, so it’s vital to know which channels they’re using, so you can focus your efforts on those areas.

Once you’ve determined how they’ll first become aware of you, consider the step they’d take next. Do you want them to sign up for a newsletter or webinar? Book a consultation? Read a blog post? Watch a video series? Make a small purchase?

Each step should give value, educate them about why they need the next step in your process, then tell them exactly how to take the next step.

With every step, ask yourself: if they don’t take the action you recommend, what means will you use to get them to take another step? For example, if they attended a webinar but didn’t make a purchase, you could send them an email inviting them to book a consultation in which you’ll answer any questions the webinar didn’t.

As you list all the possible channels through which they could find you, and all the steps they’ll need to take in order to learn about your offering and make a purchase, remember that you can’t rely on your website to do your selling for you.

When developing educational content with a large retailer, we discovered that most of the shopper education was complete before they ever visited that retailer’s website.

Even if your website did provide all the education your customers need, there are now so many sites out there that you simply can’t count on people stumbling across yours – you need to put your information where they’re already looking.

Step 5: Note the actions your customers are taking in each step.

Once you’ve mapped out the seven stages of your customer journey and determined what content and materials you’ll need for each stage, it’s time to refine your map by asking yourself what the customer is doing in each of those stages.

What actions are they taking, both aside from and referring to the points of interaction you listed? For example, if you listed “clicking a link in my tweet” as a touch point, then “looking at the #__ hashtag on Twitter” is an action they might have been taking at the time.

Step 6: List their motivations.

To continue the above example, what motivated them to look at that hashtag? What were they feeling, desiring or struggling with?

What would they need to see, learn or experience in order to motivate them to take the next step with you?

Apply this question to every stage. Once they’ve clicked the link in the tweet and read the blog post it led to, what will they feel at that time? What do you want them to feel?

And how can you tap into that emotion to inspire them to take the action you want them to take?

Step 7: Provide easy access to information and answers.

As you examine your nearly-completed customer journey map, look for places where customers might get hung up and stop their journey.

Where might the customer have questions that need to be addressed before they can move forward? Will they have a hard time finding those answers, and could their uncertainties cause them to give up and find a different company?

Have you provided easy access to all the information they need in order to make a decision? And if your product is inherently complicated, could you improve the customer experience by proactively addressing questions your customers will have as they move through the stages?

Step 8: Be aware of the obstacles your clients might encounter.

So you’ve mapped out all seven stages of your customer journey, answered all their questions, and tailored your marketing to their motivations. You’re almost done creating a map for a great customer journey that will enable people to easily glide through the stages from being total strangers to becoming loyal repeat clients.

But there’s one more thing you need to account for, and that’s the obstacles they might encounter besides unanswered questions.

Is the price of your product, or the fact that you have not fully communicated its value, causing you to hear a lot of “I can’t afford it” objections?

Are people unhappy with your return or refund policy?

Do they feel like they don’t have time to take you up on your offer?

Think about anything that might cause the customer to give up and not complete the sales cycle while moving through the customer journey.

What is the next step after customer journey mapping?

Congratulations! You now know how to design and map a customer journey that makes it easy for people to become long-term clients who refer more clients to you.

But as you’ve probably realized, there are many nuances to running a business, both including and outside of the customer journey.

There are cutting-edge ways to attract more clients, little-known strategies to run your business more efficiently, and principles that every business owner needs, but that many weren’t taught in school.

The good news is, I’ve made it easy for you to get all this information and more.

Let’s face it – we’re all busy running businesses. As a small business owner myself, I understand this more than most people who offer digital marketing advice.

I also understand that because you’re busy each week running your business, and you don’t have time to search for answers and information on blogs made by people who don’t understand your challenges and needs.

If you found the information in this article useful, I encourage you to get great business tips like this delivered conveniently to your inbox by subscribing to my monthly newsletter, “Grow Your Small Business”.

It’s full of information like this that helps small business owners to attract more clients, run their business more efficiently, and increase their revenue, time freedom, and impact on the world.

I promise not to send spam to you, and I do not share my mailing list with anyone.

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