Did you know that your customer’s “journey” with your brand begins long before they ever make a purchase?
As business owners, we’re often taught that our #1 goal is to get customers to make purchases. I’m even guilty of thinking this way myself at times. However, the truth is that it can actually be more effective (and lucrative) for your company in the long run to prioritise the experience that your customers get when they purchase a product or service from you.
This means focusing on the overall customer journey, not just the sale.
What is the “customer journey?”
The customer journey is the entire process that your customer goes through from the moment they discover your brand to when they actually make a purchase.
For example, think back to the first time you discovered one of your favorite products. Maybe you learned about it on social media and were interested, so you ordered a free trial. After your trial, you weren’t convinced, so you decided not to purchase — until you got an email from the company a few days later offering you a discount on a full-sized product. You took the risk and ended up loving the product after continued use. Now, you’re a loyal repurchaser every four months.
This is just one example out of the millions of potential customer journeys that exist, but it does demonstrate the importance of being able to meet your ideal customer where they are and really make the experience of buying from you and trusting your brand a positive one.
Why is the customer journey so important?
Understanding your customer’s journey can help you visualize how customers feel at all touchpoints of the buying process. This information will allow you to circumvent objections, increase customer retention, and make key decisions that can drive sales for your business.
One of the best ways to better understand and improve the journey you are providing to your own customers is to create a “customer journey map.”
What is a “customer journey map”?
A customer journey map is a visual documentation of your company’s customer experience that allows you to see the current process your customers go through, from their first to final touchpoint with your brand.
I’m going to show you how to map out your customer journey, but before I do, I want to warn you that the customer journey isn’t exactly linear. In fact, sometimes it’s a bit of a rollercoaster, with customers constantly going back-and-forth on their decisions or remaining inactive. This can make accurately mapping out your customer journey feel tricky or intimidating at first.
Pro Tip: To get a better handle on the actual customer journey process of your existing customers, send out a customer feedback survey asking them about each step of their buying process.
In the end, all that matters is that you understand your customer journey and are able to communicate the process to all the relevant parties on your team. You don’t need to stick to any specific format — experiment and figure out what works best for your company based on your unique target customer, goals, and journey!
What to include in your customer journey map
Your first step is to draft the intended process your customer needs to take in order to reach a goal. For example, if your goal is for a customer to make a purchase, how do they get there? List each “stage” your buyer will go through to achieve the desired result. Typical stages include awareness (customer becomes aware of your product/service), consideration (customer becomes interested in your product/service and is considering purchasing it), purchase (customer purchases your product/service), service (any interactions you have with customer after they make their initial purchase), loyalty (customer enjoys your product/service and the overall customer experience so they continue to purchase from your business).
The next element of the customer journey map details how your customer behaves during each stage of the buying process. In the awareness stage, they may be looking for a solution to a pre-existing problem and come across your product/service that way. In the consideration stage, they may look closely at reviews of your product/service or sign up to receive a free trial. If all goes well, this will lead to the purchase stage, when they will actually make a payment and purchase your product or service. From there, it’s up to you to provide an excellent quality product/service and exceptional customer service in the hopes of retaining a loyal repeat customer. Think about each action your customer is taking and how it adds up to result in a purchase.
If you are marketing your product/service correctly, it should work to elicit an emotional response from your ideal customer — whether that response is joy, relief, motivation, etc. This means that your customer may be experiencing a variety of conflicting emotions at different stages of the buying journey. To get an even better grasp on what your customers are feeling, you should anticipate the emotions that each stage of the buying process is designed to bring up and record that information on your map.
Keep in mind that not all emotions your customer is experiencing as a result of your buyer’s journey will be positive. If you are speaking to their pain points, there will be a time where they are experiencing more negative feelings, and it’s your job to understand why and how to solve it. For example, your customer may feel shock when they first see the price of your product/service, but if the next step in your customer journey is strategic, that shock could turn into an even deeper desire to experience the benefits that your product/service may provide them.
This part of your customer journey map is designated as an area where you can brainstorm potential ways to improve your buying process so customers encounter fewer pain points and associate your business with somewhere they want to patronize.
How to actually draft your customer journey map
Now that you know what to include in your customer journey map, here are the steps you should be actively taking in order to create your first draft.
Why are you making this map in the first place? What information about your ideal customer are you trying to gain? Do you want to understand the gaps in your buying process, or get a clearer picture of what works well? You need to know what your objective is in creating the map (i.e. what you want to discover about your customer) in order for it to be effective.
Getting feedback from customers who have already purchased a product/service from your company is invaluable. It can also be helpful to hear from serious prospects who are planning to purchase from your company after repeated interactions. The reason this kind of feedback is so important is because it gives you true insight about your customer experience from the people who are actually on the other end of it!
Some good questions to include in your survey…
How did you hear about us?
What first caught your attention about our company?
What problems are you trying to solve? How can our company help?
Have you ever made a purchase with us? If so, what was the deciding factor?
Have you ever interacted with our website with the intent of making a purchase but decided not to? If so, what led you to this decision?
Have you interacted with any members of our team before? If so, how was your experience receiving customer support?
Is there any way that we can further support you to make your process easier?
You may have multiple types of buyers who each take a different path on their way to purchasing from you. For your first map, you’ll need to narrow your focus to one or two of them to avoid confusion. It’s best to pick your most common customer persona and consider the process they would go through. Later on, you can go back and focus on more niche/less common buyer pathways.
Touchpoints in your customer journey map are all the places where your business comes in direct contact with a potential or existing customer and allows them to form an opinion of your brand.
You are going to want to list out every touchpoint your prospects and current customers are currently using. Think about all the ways your ideal customer might come across you. Some examples include:
- Social media channels
- Your website
- Paid advertisements
- Email marketing campaigns
- Word of mouth/referrals from other customers/online reviews
- Search engine results
Once you have a list, go back and do a little data analysis to figure out what the most common touchpoints are. This will give you important insight into the actions your customers are performing. From there, you can create a final list of touchpoints. This is also where you will lay out the customer actions, emotions, and pain points we went over earlier.
Your customer journey map may reveal important gaps in your customer’s buying process that you need to fill by bringing in new resources. For example, if you don’t have a proper follow-up process in place after a customer service interaction, your customer journey map will indicate that and reveal to you a need for increased customer service support or a new customer service tool.
The most important part of the entire customer journey mapping process is to analyze the data so you can see what is and isn’t working. Your finished map should be able to identify your most lucrative sources of traffic AND areas where customer’s needs aren’t being met. When possible, always use hard numbers and analytics to back up the customer journey you are aiming to cultivate for prospects and returning customers.
Your customer journey is ever-evolving. Based on what you learn through your feedback collection and data analysis, you should be constantly tweaking and fine-tuning your customer journey to ensure that the needs and pain points of your customers are being addressed at every turn. Reviewing your map on a monthly or quarterly basis is a solid way to identify gaps and further opportunities for streamlining your customer journey.
Creating a customer journey map can be a time-consuming process, but it is well worth it in the end. Once you’re able to truly understand your customer’s experience with your business from start-to-finish, you can serve them on an even deeper and more meaningful level.
In my 10+ years of digital marketing experience, I’ve helped dozens of clients optimise and refine their customer journey to foster big results (in the form of new sales AND repeat customers). You don’t have to tackle this crucial but complicated step alone, which is why you’re the perfect candidate for my 90-minute strategy intensive if you want an award-winning expert to help guide you and give you feedback as you draft your customer journey map.
You can learn more about booking in with me for an intensive here!