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Creating a Customer Journey Map: Why and How

Posted by Lisa O'Brien on Aug 31, 2021

Understanding the modern customer journey is far from a straightforward task. New technologies, a complex social media landscape and constantly changing buyer preferences mean that the path to a purchase is convoluted and always evolving.

That’s why you need a map of the customer journey to help your organization find its way. Creating customer journey maps — yes, you will likely need more than one — requires a substantial commitment of time and marketing resources, but the payoff is big. So, let’s dive into how you can best create them for your own organization. 

The long and winding road

First, let’s talk about the customer journey, which is the way in which a customer interacts with your company to achieve their goal. 

The modern customer journey is complex and multifaceted. Fifteen to 20 years ago, marketers thought of the customer journey as a straight-line funnel. If that was ever the case, it’s certainly not the case today. Today, customers move back and forth among various digital assets, interacting through multiple channels for many different reasons. It’s not an intuitive process. 

A customer journey map provides a compact visualization of this complicated path from one end to the other, and it takes many forms: diagrams, infographics, illustrations, spreadsheets, even a collection of post-it notes on a wall. What’s important is that the map takes a form that’s useful to those who need to use them within your company.

How might they be used? Let’s count just a few of the many ways:

  • Uncover opportunities to move customers from one stage to the next
  • Identify the KPIs that measure whether the customer is moving forward in their journey
  • Focus your marketing efforts 
  • Eliminate ineffective touchpoints
  • Inform proactive customer service

Design comes last

As you start the process of building your customer journey map, however, remember that design comes last. And before you even begin researching the customer journey, you need to understand what your goal is. For instance, do you want to:

  • Improve the buying experience for customers
  • Launch a new product
  • Optimize your website to shorten the sales cycle
  • Refine your sales strategy
  • Or something else entirely?

Knowing your goal will inform the type of research you do and the map you eventually construct.

Next, gather data on your customers so you can begin to understand the customer journey. The best way to do this? Ask them. You might want to do this as part of your ongoing Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, or you could do it separately. However you gather this information, don’t neglect qualitative data. Numbers are powerful, but there’s still much to learn from the stories customers tell about their subjective experiences. 

Data collection may take a while, especially if you’re doing the kinds of in-depth interviews you need to go deep into the customer’s experience and perspective. If you have to choose, emphasize quality over quantity. It’s better to have 20 deep interviews than 200 five-minute online surveys. 

Also, as you formulate and field questions, it’s a good idea to work with a third party. You and your team undoubtedly harbor preconceived notions about how customers interact with your company and the needs they’re trying to address. To get good data, it’s important to avoid injecting even unconscious biases into the process.

Customers aren’t the only source of information, however. Customer service and sales reps speak to a wide array of customers on a daily basis, which gives them a great perspective to be an important source for insights. And don’t forget your website analytics data. There’s no better source on how your customers actually behave when they interact with your online presence. 

Once you have your data, look for patterns, identify the different types of customers you serve, and create customer personas. This is a critical step, because each persona is likely to have a different journey and, as a result, a different map. So as you begin designing the map, start with a single persona. Trying to map all of them at once will quickly become far too complicated and confusing.

Building the map

Now it’s time to build the map. List all the customer touchpoints first: parts of your website, paid ads, earned media, email marketing, review sites, conferences, even word of mouth. Look at the data to understand their motivation. What pain are they looking to your company for help with? 

And what prevents them from moving forward in their journey towards a sale? Sticker shock? A feature they need that is missing? Lack of support for a key technology in their infrastructure? 

Once you’ve got a handle on the touchpoints, customer motivations and how they relate to one another, it’s time to begin designing your map. First, decide which of the four main types of customer journey maps will best help you achieve your objective:

  • Current state: This is by far the most common type of customer map. It describes how customers interact with your business today. 
  • Day in the life: This map is much more expansive, because it isn’t restricted to just a customer’s interactions with your company, but instead looks at everything a customer does during their day, within a specific area of focus. This wider lens is helpful for exploring new market development strategies.
  • Future state: This map looks at what customers will do, think or feel in the near future. Typically, this type of map is used to articulate a business strategy from the client’s perspective. 
  • Service blueprint: Here, you create a simplified version of the customer map so you can add all the elements required to deliver an experience.

If you need design ideas, HubSpot has a great repository of free customer journey map templates

Once you’ve created your first map, use what you learned to create maps for additional personas. And make sure to revisit your customer maps regularly, updating them as the customer journey changes … because it will.

Creating a customer journey map and doing it right is a time-consuming process that requires commitment, planning and dedication. But the end result is a powerful tool that can make an enormous difference in your marketing. It’s well worth the effort.

Interested in learning more about customer journey maps? Get in touch

Topics: Marketing Automation, HubSpot

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