In the days before digital technologies like the internet, selling was a very personal process. As a business owner or sales professional, you worked face to face with potential customers in an effort to convince them to make a purchase. Today, of course, most sales processes are digital and automated, so we as marketers are removed from the customer and we tend to think of them as robots rather than people.
They are not robots, of course, and the customer journey from discovery on through to purchase is just as important now as it ever was. Sure, it can be automated and optimized these days, but you still need to understand that journey just as clearly as you would have when using old-school, face-to-face selling tactics.
We’d like to introduce you to the concept of customer journey mapping. This is a useful technique to help you understand how customers are going to interact with your brand and how you can help move them through the journey toward a purchase as consistently as possible. You’ll never close a deal with every lead but mapping out the journey and removing speed bumps along that path will improve your percentage and up your revenues. This is an important topic for every business so let’s get started!
What is a Customer Journey Map?
Before we talk about the map itself, let’s zoom out a little bit and talk first about the idea of a customer journey. A customer journey is simply the path a customer takes from the first time they come into contact with your brand all the way until the point when they make a purchase, and maybe even beyond. Most of the time, a lead isn’t going to buy from you upon first contact. Instead, there is usually a journey involved from start to finish, with at least a few steps required to get from one end to the other.
Many businesses make the mistake of letting this customer journey happen on its own, almost as if by accident. Instead of trying to hold the hand of the customer along the way, these businesses just seek out leads, show them what they have to offer, and hope for the best. As you might imagine, you can do better. By charting out the journey in the greatest possible detail, it’s possible to greatly improve your conversion rate—an improvement that is going to be reflected directly on your bottom line.
So, that’s how we arrive at the idea of a customer journey map. For a business to take control of its selling process and close as many deals as possible, carefully planning out the customer journey is essential. In creating a map, you can detail the path you want your leads to take, and you can then put elements in place that will make it more likely that the path you’ve designed will be followed. Whether you are selling low-dollar items at a high volume, or high-dollar items to just a limited number of buyers, the concept of a customer journey applies just the same.
The Many Benefits of a Buyer’s Journey Map
Before you invest time and effort into creating a customer journey map (or buyer journey map) it’s important to know what you stand to gain. Sure, there is the promise of turning more of your leads into actual paying customers, but what is it specifically about creating a map that can help make that possible? Consider the following:
- Zero in on the right demographics. Most marketers understand the importance of targeting the correct potential customers with advertising efforts. If you aren’t aiming at the right demographics, you are sure to waste money paying for marketing endeavors that are never going to convert at a high rate. In the process of building a customer journey map, you’ll have to confront some hard decisions and you will wind up with a clearer picture of who it is that you should be targeting. Maybe that picture lines up nicely with what you already thought about your audience; Or maybe it causes you to change directions rather dramatically. Either way, you’ll gain valuable insight into your ideal market and your overall marketing efforts will be better for it.
- Commit to inbound. In the bigger picture, you can use a customer journey map as a strong signal of your overall commitment to inbound marketing. The term inbound marketing, if you are not familiar, refers to the concept of attracting people to your business through marketing efforts that naturally draw attention and engage with prospects. You aren’t forcing your message on anyone, you are drawing them in with real value and a focus on service. Building a customer journey map and refining that map to make sure it lines up with what your leads truly want will be a big step in the direction of an inbound marketing focus in your organization.
- Keep more of your customers. Let’s face it, attracting new customers is hard, so it’s always important to keep as many of them as possible. As a somewhat unexpected reward for working hard on customer journey mapping, you might find that you start to hold onto more of your customers—or, at least, hold onto them for longer than you were before. This is because the customers that you bring into your organization are a better fit and are more likely to have their needs served by what you offer. In other words, you are qualifying your customers by taking them on a journey. At the end of that journey, they should have a very clear picture of what you are going to deliver. So, if they decide to make a purchase, there will be no surprises and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Rest assured, the time you put into the process of building a customer journey map is almost certainly going to be worth it in the end. Once you have done the heavy lifting of creating your original map, you can then make minor tweaks along the way to improve the process and optimize your results.
Getting Started Creating Your First Map
We’ve covered a lot of ground so far in this article, but now it’s time to get down to the business of building a map. We need to say clearly that this process is going to vary rather significantly from one organization to the next. So, you can use the advice in this section as a general roadmap, but you shouldn’t think of the ideas below as hard and fast rules. Feel free to adjust your approach to suit your needs so you can come up with something that is right for your organization.
Establish your goals.
The first piece of this puzzle is establishing goals for your map. What is it that you want this map to accomplish for your business? And no, it’s not good enough to say that you want this map to lead to more sales. That much is obvious. When establishing objectives for your map, you want to think about your current sales process and where it is falling short.
Are there certain places along the way where you seem to be losing a large percentage of your potential customers? For example, are you getting people to add things to their shopping cart only to abandon that cart before checking out? Or, maybe you are having trouble earlier in the process, with leads arriving on landing pages and then quickly hitting the back button. Whatever the case, use this opportunity of creating a journey map to correct those areas where things are currently going wrong.
Conduct customer surveys and interviews.
With goals in place, you can then turn to some of your past customers for help figuring out what a logical customer path will look like for new leads. Building customer personas is a good step, and you can send out surveys to your list of past customers to help you assemble the information you need. Consider offering a special bonus or giveaway to encourage people to take your survey and give you a few minutes of their time.
Included in that survey should not only be questions about demographic information, but you’ll also want to learn about each of those past customers’ journeys and how they transpired. Were there any points along the way when they considered going somewhere else? Why did they buy with you instead of the competition? Learning these things directly from real customers will help you lean on your strengths as a business and hopefully build a map that directs new leads toward what you do best.
Finding the Key Points on the Journey
Design your map around all anticipated touchpoints between your organization and the potential customer. This is where the map actually starts to come together and take shape. The touchpoints you take your customers through will depend on what you sell and how much it costs. A low-priced, impulse buy type of item may just have one or two touch points before you go for the sale. On the other hand, something that costs thousands of dollars will have many touch points where you work your lead closer and closer to the bottom of the funnel.
Often, the first touchpoint will be a landing page on your website, or a piece of content that you created for SEO purposes. Alternatively, it might be on social media where a new lead first comes across your brand, and you can take them from there into your website ecosystem to work closer toward a sale. Again, lean on what you have learned from past customers to gain an understanding of how they made their way through this process.
To start to put this map into action, you will need to examine the touchpoints you’ve highlighted and see where you might need to create some new resources to support those touchpoints. One good example is a company creating informational materials that explain more about how their products work and why they are valuable. These kinds of resources can take stress off of the customer service side of your business while simultaneously helping to make more sales. Invest in the tools and other resources you need to automate as much of the journey through your map as possible and the results can pay off for years to come.
A customer journey map is essential to successful digital marketing.
Creating a customer journey map is essential to creating a successful digital marketing strategy. Without such a map in place, you won’t really know how to help your leads make the journey all the way to a purchase; you will just be bringing in leads and hoping for the best. Take the time to chart out a logical, detailed journey and then continually tweak it moving forward to improve the process and convert sales at a higher rate. Good luck!
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