It can be challenging for you and your company to get into your potential and existing customers' minds. You may sometimes wonder why a customer spends so long before deciding things or why it takes them several steps to get from A to B when it should only take one.
Whatever the problem, the cause is probably that you don't have a clear view of their customer journey, sometimes referred to as the buyer journey. Simply put, the customer journey is the process by which potential and existing customers interact with a company to achieve their goals or solve their needs and requirements.
Potential and existing customers interact with companies in ways that are tricky to pin down. From them first gaining awareness of a company via social media, receiving a "welcome as customer" email after the first transaction, there are usually plenty of steps and stages.
You can't assume or predict exactly what their customer journey will be based on your internal perspective. A customer journey is particular to every customer. Therefore, the best way to understand customer journeys is by asking your potential and existing customers.
This article clarifies the basic things you should know about customer journeys, including what they are and how to map them. But, if you're in a bit of a rush, you can use the links below to navigate to the exact information you're looking for.
Customers don't want to be an email address or a prospect, constantly being nurtured or closed. These steps add absolutely zero value to a potential or existing customer. They're always looking for supplementary information your offering so they can make an informed decision.
Let's define the customer journey and show how you and your company can think it through when working with your pipeline of potential and existing customers.
What is a customer journey?
The customer journey is the process and stages a customer goes through to become aware of, consider, evaluate, and possibly decide to purchase a product, solution or service.
As Doug Bolton explains in our article 'What is a customer journey?', the customer journey consists of these three stages:
The buyer realises they have a problem or need.
The buyer defines their need or problem and researches all available options to solve it.
The buyer chooses a solution.
How to define the customer journey
Suppose you don't have an intimate understanding of your potential and existing customers. In that case, you should conduct some interviews with them and your company's sales and service teams to get a sense of the actual customer journey.
During the awareness stage, buyers identify their challenges and need or realise an opportunity they want to pursue. They could also decide whether or not the goal or challenge should be a priority. To understand the awareness stage for your wished-for target customer, ask:
- How does the potential or existing customer describe their needs, challenges and goals?
- How do they educate themselves on these needs, challenges or goals?
- What are the consequences of customer inaction?
- What are the common misconceptions they have about addressing their needs, challenges or goals?
- How do they decide which of these challenges should be prioritised?
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is your visual representation of a potential or existing customers' path to making a purchase and achieving a goal with your company. With the help of a customer journey map, you can get a sense of your customers' motivations, as well as their needs and pain points.
Merely understanding the buyer journey isn't typically enough. It's best to visualise it into a diagram that you and other employees can refer to as a resource. This is where a customer journey map comes into play.
Creating a customer journey map
The most suitable way to visualise how a customer interacts with your company is by mapping it. Most customer journey maps start as Excel sheets that outline the key events, motivation, and friction points in the customer's interactions with the company.
Next, this input is combined into a visualisation that shows an average customer's experience with your company.
By discovering what this relationship looks like, you can understand how to structure your touchpoints to create the most effective and efficient process for your potential and existing customers. Your buyer journey map must map out the current process, from the first to final touchpoint, to make it possible to see if your potential and existing customers are currently reaching their goals and, if they're not, how they can.
The customer journey should not be visualised as a linear journey from A to Z — your potential and existing customers usually take a back and forth, cyclical, multi-channel journey — which makes it hard to visualise!
For this reason, business leaders use various ways of representing the journey, from post-it notes on boardroom walls to spreadsheets. The important thing is that the customer journey map is accurate and representative and makes sense to the people who will use it.
Before you dive into creating your buyer journey map, you need to collect relevant data from your potential and existing customers. Creating a helpful customer journey map takes time, but the result is enormously valuable.
The benefits of customer journey mapping
Some people believe that they don't need a customer journey map or know their customers well.
But for every company, breaking down the buyer journey phase by phase, aligning each step with a goal, and restructuring all touchpoints accordingly is essential for customer satisfaction. Everything you do should be about solving your potential and existing customer's problems and challenges and helping them achieve long-term success with your product, solution or service.
Refocus your company with an inbound perspective
Rather than discovering your customers through outbound marketing, you can have your customers find you in an inbound way. Outbound involves poorly targeted tactics at generalised or uninterested audiences and interrupts customers in the middle of their daily lives.
Outbound approaches are costly and inefficient and could annoy or deter potential and existing customers from doing business with your company. Inbound methods provide relevant and valuable content that your potential and existing customers search for. Inbound content grabs their attention first and focuses on the commercial part later.
By mapping out the buyer journey, you can understand what is exciting and helpful to your customers about your company and its offering and what turns them away from you. After that, you can create the desired content and functionality to attract them to your company and keep them there.
Create a new target customer base
If you don't correctly understand the buyer journey, you probably won't know your customers' demographics and psychographics. This could be dangerous; it's a waste of time and money to repeatedly target broad audiences instead of focusing on those interested in your products, solutions, services, and content.
Researching your typical customers' needs and pain points and mapping out their buyer journey will give you and your company a good view of the kind of people trying to achieve a goal. It allows you to hone in your content and communication to that specific audience.
Implement proactive customer service
A customer journey map is a representation of potential and existing customer's experiences. The map must show you moments where people experience delight and situations where they face friction. Being aware of these moments allows you to plan your customer service accordingly and intervene at ideal times that maximise your company's value for the buyer.
Proactive customer service makes your company appear more reliable to your target customer base. As an example, if Christmas is approaching and you're anticipating a customer service surge, you can inform your customers about your team's holiday availability.
You could also let them know about possible additional support options if your team is unavailable and what to do if something needs immediate attention.
This way, your potential and existing customers have alternative options to choose from — like asking your chatbot or accessing your knowledge base — if they need to find a fast solution.
Improve your customer retention rates
When you have your customer journey mapped out, it's much easier to pick the areas you need to improve. When you do, the customers experience fewer pain points, leading to fewer people leaving your company for competitors. After all, some customers consider switching supplier after just one poor experience.
Customer journey mapping can help you spot individuals who are on the path to churn. If you log the common behaviours and actions that these customers have, you can spot them before deciding to leave your company. While you might not keep them all, it's worth trying since attaining a new customer is more expensive than retaining an existing one.
Create a customer-centric mentality throughout your company
It's always challenging to coordinate all departments and make them customer-centric in sales, marketing support, and service.
It's much easier if you share your customer journey map with your entire organisation. The map shows a representation of the whole customer journey from initial interest to post-purchase proactivity and satisfaction. Having this specified and shared centrally helps all your company's departments understand what customers want.
Hopefully, you now understand the importance of your buyer journey map. To take the next step, we've come up with the following steps to create a customer journey map that will help you, your company, and your potential and existing customers prosper.
How to create a customer journey map
The steps for creating an effective and accurate customer journey map are as follows:
- Define clear objectives.
- Create personas and define their goals.
- Highlight target customer personas.
- List all the touchpoints.
- Identify the main elements.
- Determine your existing and additional resources needed.
- Take and test the buyer journey yourself.
- Make the necessary changes and updates.
- Update the map objectives, decide how to measure and follow up.
Define clear objectives
Before you dive into creating your buyer journey map, you must ask yourself why you are making one:
- What goals are you directing the buyer journey map towards?
- Who is it specifically about?
- What experience is it based upon?
Based on the objectives, you want to create buyer personas, fictitious customers representing your average customer. Having a clear buyer persona reminds you to direct every aspect of your buyer journey map towards them.
Profile your buyer personas and define their goals
Now, you should conduct persona research. One great way to get valuable customer feedback is through questionnaires and user testing.
It's essential to only reach out to actual and relevant potential and existing customers. You want feedback from the people interested in purchasing your solutions, products and services that previously have interacted with your company or plan to do so.
Examples of questions to use in your questionnaires:
- How did you get to know about our company?
- What attracted you to our website?
- What goals do you want to achieve with our company?
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- What was your deciding factor in purchasing from us?
- How easy is it to navigate and find what you're looking for on our website?
- Did you ever require support? If so, was it helpful?
- How can we further support you to make your process easier?
Highlight your target customer personas
Once you've learned enough about your customer personas that interact with your business, you need to narrow your focus to one or two target customer personas. And remember, a buyer journey map tracks the experience of one customer type who takes a particular path with your company. If you group many personas into one buyer journey, your buyer journey map won't truly reflect your customers' experience.
If you're about to create your first buyer journey map, pick the most common target customer persona and consider their typical routes when engaging with your company for the first time.
You can use a dashboard with online data to compare and determine the most appropriate fit for your buyer journey map. Never worry about leaving some out, as you can return and create a new buyer journey map specific to these customer types.
List out all the touchpoints
Touchpoints are all the online places where your potential and existing customers can interact with you and your company. Based on your research, you shall list out all the online touchpoints your potemntiaö and the existing customers currently use, as well as the ones you believe should be used.
This step is essential in creating a buyer journey map because it gives you insight into your customers' actions. If the customers use fewer touchpoints than expected, it could mean that they are quickly getting turned away and leaving your site early. If they are using more than expected, it could mean that your website is complicated and requires several steps to reach its end goals.
Understanding the online touchpoints will help you understand buyer journeys' ease and objectives.
And this doesn't only cover your website. It will help if you look at all how your customer might come across you online. These might include:
- Social media touchpoints
- Paid ads
- Email marketing
- Third-party review sites or online mentions
You should run a Google search for your company to see all the mentions. Verify these mentions by checking in your Google Analytics to see where your online visits are coming from.
Refine your list to keep the most common touchpoints, and you will most likely see actions associated with it.
List the actions your potential and existing customers perform throughout their interactions with you and your company. This might be using your chat, clicking on your emails or performing a Google search. You sometimes end up with a relatively long list of possible actions, which is fine; you'll get plenty of possibilities to rationalise your information and content moving forward.
Recognising when potential and existing customers need to take too many actions is crucial to achieving their goals. Reduce the number of mandatory steps a customer needs to take can feel risky but pays off higher conversion rates.
Emotions and motivations
All marketing and communication result in effect and cause. Likewise, every customer action is emotionally motivated, and your potential and existing customer's emotions will change depending on which part of their buyer journey they're at.
A pain point or a problem usually causes the emotional driver of each of your potential and existing customer's actions. Being aware of this will help you provide the right content at the right time to make the potential and existing customer's emotional journey smooth.
Obstacles and pain points
Please get to know what roadblocks that stop your potential and existing customer from taking their desired actions. A common obstacle is a cost, e.g., one of your potential customers might prefer your solution but abandon their decision on discovering unexpectedly high prices. Hightlighting potential obstacles when creating your buyer journeys will help you to mitigate them.
A lot of companies have the same pain points in their customer journeys - you can find out more about what they are and how to fix them in our article Customer journey: Common pain points.
Identify the prioritised elements
There are many types of buyer journey maps that have their benefits. Depending on the purpose you and your company have for the buyer journey map, you should choose the proper one.
Determine the existing and additional resources needed
Your buyer journey maps shall touch on almost every part of your company and organisation. This highlights all the resources that go into creating the customer experience. So, it's necessary to make a resource inventory and the ones you'll need to add to improve the customer's buyer journey and your companies possibility to be relevant and guiding.
For example, perhaps your buyer journey map will highlight some flaws in your customer support offer. You will notice that your organisation doesn't have the tools to follow up with potential and existing customers after a service interaction properly. Using your buyer journey map, you can advise the decision-makers and management to increase customer support tools and processes to help the support team fulfil potential and existing customers expectations and demands.
By including these new tools in your buyer journey map, you will be able to accurately predict how they'll impact your company and drive outside value. This will make it much easier to convince gatekeepers and decision-makers to invest in your proposals.
Take the buyer journey yourself
Just because you've created your buyer journey map doesn't mean your work is ready and done. The most important part of this creation process is analysing the results.
To analyse the results will show you where potential and existing customer needs aren't being met. By approaching this, you will ensure that your company provides a valuable experience and clarify that your visitors can find solutions to their challenges and problems with guidance from you and your company.
The whole exercise of mapping the buyer journey remains hypothetical until you test it and try it out yourself.
For each of your target personas, follow the journey they take through their social media activity by reading their emails and searching online.
Make the necessary changes
Your data analysis shall give you a sense of what you want your online presence to be. You can continuously make the appropriate changes to your online presence to achieve these goals. Usually, making more specific call-to-action links is prioritised. Or creating longer the description of the offerings purpose more clear.
No matter the changes' size, they will be effective as they directly correlate with potential and existing customers listed as their challenges, needs and pain points. Instead of making changes in the hopes that they will improve experiences, you can feel confident that they will. And, with the help of your visualised buyer journey map, you can ensure that those needs and pain points are always addressed.
Your buyer journey map should be a constant work-in-progress. Reviewing it monthly or quarterly will help you identify gaps and opportunities for continuously streamlining your buyer journey. Use all available data and analytics along with feedback to check for any roadblocks.
Keep all relevant stakeholders involved, which is why your maps should be visualised and accessible for everyone. It's also beneficial to have regular meetings to analyse how new products or offerings might have changed the buyer journey.
For some additional tips on mapping your customer journey, take a look at this article: Customer journey mapping: How to do it
Customer journey examples
Buyer journey maps based on the current state of the journey are the most common type. They visualise the thoughts, problems and actions your potential and existing customers currently experience when interacting with you and your company. The best usage is for continually improving the buyer journey.
A day in the life
These buyer journey maps visualise your customers' actions, thoughts, and emotions currently experience in all the activities in which they partake daily, whether or not that includes your company. This type gives a broader lens into your customers' lives and their pain points in real life. The day in life maps is best used for addressing unmet customer needs before customers even know they exist.
These buyer journey maps visualise what you believe will be the emotions, thoughts and actions your potential and existing customers experience in their future interactions with you and your company.
Based on fresh experiences, you can map out where you want to be. The future state buyer journey maps ate best used for illustrating your vision and setting a clear objective.
The service blueprint buyer journey maps start by creating a simplified version of one of the above-described maps. Then, you add a layer on the factors responsible for delivering that experience, including organisation, people, policies, technologies, and processes. The service blueprint buyer journeys are best used to identify the root causes of current buyer journeys or identify the steps needed to attain desired future buyer journeys.
Get the customer journey map template
To make the job of mapping your customer journey easier, we've created a template with a few different customer journey maps. Each one focuses on a different aspect of the customer journey, and gives you prompts to help you analyse it - what is the customer thinking or feeling, what content are they consuming, and how can you make it easier for them to move to the next stage? Get the template below, and start getting a better picture of how your prospects become customers.