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How to Use Customer Journey Maps to Grow Your Business

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Your goal as a marketer is to help prospects achieve their goals, so that they’ll convert and become a customer or client. To do this, you have to understand what motivates your target audience.

Creating a customer persona that delves into the pain points and problems your buyers face is crucial here. (If you haven't created one yet, here’s a great guide for creating custom buyer personas.)

Once you align your offerings with your targets’ objectives, then you can use a customer journey map to keep your marketing on track and grow your business.

I’m going to show you why customer journey maps are so important, and how you can use them to increase leads and sales.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey is the process someone goes through from first interacting with your brand to becoming a customer or client. A customer journey map is simply a way to visualize and keep up with that process.

Representation of the Customer Journey

It will also help you target people in specific stages - similar to targeting prospects in different stages of the sales funnel. Developing this map gives you a holistic view of what customers feel and think as they go from touchpoint to touchpoint.

Why should we use a customer journey map?

80% of senior-level marketers claim customer journey maps are crucial for success. That’s because about half to two-thirds of the customer journey takes place before they ever reach out to a vendor.

That means people are making decisions based on what they’ve seen and heard, mostly online, from ads and other people.

Customers Make Decisions Based on Online Reviews

PC: Neil Patel

Without a customer journey map, you have no idea what steps your targets are going through or where you can fit your company into their decision-making process. But with a customer journey map, you’ll gain insights into the various paths buyers are taking before they purchase.

That's invaluable.

In fact, customer journey maps will help you shorten your sales cycle. So you'll be able to bring in more leads and convert them faster. Sound good?

How do we create a customer journey map?

You would need a supercomputer to contemplate every combination of steps a prospect could take to become a customer. However, every buyer’s journey has a beginning (the first time they interact with you) and an end (the point of conversion). This gives you two common points that you can build off of.

Start by asking questions like:

  • How do people first hear about you, or about the solution you offer?
  • At what point do they purchase?

You can also base your maps off of the common customer behavior phases, which include Discovery, Research, Choice, and Purchase. If you’ve never created a customer journey map before, this is a great way to get started and organize everything.

Common Stages Customer Journey Map

PC: Wayback, BigDoor

Discovery

This is when the consumer realizes something’s missing. They could realize this by stumbling across one of your blog posts, by seeing an ad, or they could think of it on their own.

Research

At this stage, prospects are comparing solutions. Often they know they need to accomplish a goal, but they aren’t sure what kind of product or company will do that best. You might need to think outside the box to communicate your value clearly to these prospects.

Choose

Prospects have narrowed their research down to one or a few choices, but they may still have final questions, or want a free trial or consultation.

Purchase

This is when the prospect officially signs a contract or swipes their credit card.

It’s important to note that the customer journey does not end here. You still need to take care of your customers or clients and continually help them solve their problems. If they’re dissatisfied, they’ll leave.

With enough time and data, you should be able to figure out the most common ways your personas move from first landing on your website to conversion and subsequent actions.

How do we start plotting these touchpoints?

To start, group your touchpoints under the relevant stage (given above) of your customer journey.

For instance, prospects may first see your brand in their Facebook feeds (Discovery), head to your website (Research), and then follow up with a phone call (Choice), before finally moving to your checkout page (Purchase).

You can find the basic touchpoints your prospects take via Google Analytics. And if you use a CRM (like Agile or HubSpot), you’ll be able to see how long it takes for prospects to go through these stages, and what kind of a conversion rate you’re getting.

After you understand the basics...

Over time, you’ll want to pay attention to more specific touchpoints like:

  • Social media posts (broken down by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
  • Organic search (e.g. Google, Bing)
  • Paid ads (Google Ads, retargeting, Facebook sponsored posts, etc.)
  • Website landing pages, blog posts, and your website’s About page
  • Promotions (e.g. email or SMS campaigns)
  • Brand mentions on other websites, or by influencers
  • Online reviews (Yelp, Google, Capterra, etc.)
  • And other online pages and platforms buyers can land on before they commit

Once you have a visually-drawn path that shows how your users move from click to click around the web as they interact with your brand, you’ll begin to better understand where your users may be struggling to advance.

Consumers Take a Multi-Device Path to Purchase

PC: Digital Current

You might see this called “bottlenecking” or your “drop off rate.” It’s where prospects get stuck or lost while progressing through the customer journey, and it can cause you to lose valuable leads (and revenue).

For instance, you can view the Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics to view the path visitors tend to take through your website. You can then set goals to analyze various other channels you have, like social and email.

From there you can create a diagram of all these touchpoints and determine if they’re as effective as they could be. If you think you could do better, change something.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow Example

PC: Crazy Egg

Are customers achieving their goals?

Once you can see the stages and steps buyers are going through, you can analyze each step to see what you can do better.

What roadblocks are customers hitting? At which points is their journey being slowed down, or stopped altogether?

For instance, if you see that a significant number of prospects are abandoning purchase at checkout or are bouncing from your landing pages (conversion pages), make a change to help prospects get to the finish line.

Prospects might want more information, or your solution might not be what people think they need. Every situation will be unique, but a few changes you can make include:

  • Increasing your page speed
  • Moving a button or piece of content up or down on the page
  • Adding another step or page to your funnel (or taking one away)
  • Adding email automations to nudge prospects to finish the journey
  • Or any number of things

What should we focus on?

There’s a lot going on in any customer journey, so focus on two things: intent and motivation.

Intent

What is a user trying to accomplish at each stage? What did someone search for to find you, or which blog post were they referred to you by? What can you learn from that information?

When you understand your prospect’s intent at each stage, it becomes much easier for you to help them accomplish their goal.

Motivation

Continually ask How can I motivate customers to take the next step?

What can you do or give to prospects to get them to next stage of the customer journey? Motivation is often best thought of as an emotion. I.e. how is the customer feeling during each stage?

If you know what the prospect is trying to accomplish (their intent), you can brainstorm a few ideas on what might motivate them to take the next step.

4 Steps to Fix Your Customer Journey Map

1. Make each stage more efficient.

As you find bottlenecks or slowdowns in your funnel, brainstorm ways you can make things faster - how you can remove hiccups and create a smoother flow. One easy method is to always ask “How can we make this better?”

For instance, if a lot of people abandon their shopping carts before purchasing, consider reducing the number of form fields required to purchase. If people spend a lot of time on your landing page but don’t take a next step, add or change your call-to-action.

2. Experiment and test different types of content.

Consider offering different types of content - blog posts, videos, webinars, downloadable guides, etc. Your audience may have preferences that aren’t immediately apparent, so try a few things to see what works best.

During the Discovery stage, for example, your audience might respond better to a downloadable whitepaper than to a blog post, or vice versa. You won’t know unless you try both and compare results.

Look for averages and trends in your data, and do your best to determine if the content you’re using is the best vehicle for delivering your brand’s message.

During the Research stage, adding more case studies, hosting a live event, and sharing more reviews could go a long way toward curing bottlenecking issues in your customer journey. Again, you won’t know until you try.

Other ideas include creating demonstration videos, offering a free assessment, quote, or consultation, or even a free trial.

Whatever you do, your goal should be to produce quality leads, not quantity. If the leads aren’t good, you’ll struggle to convert.

3. Enlist brand advocates.

You can grease the skids of your customer journey by taking advantage of your brand advocates. These are people who love what you do and are happy to share their positive experiences with potential customers.

Related: How to Get More 5-Star Online Reviews for Your Business

Sometimes the best people are ones who recently converted and are still high on your solution. Sometimes the best people are ones you’ve worked with for a long time. Either way, build on these relationships to keep their interest in your brand high.

You should also encourage them to talk about you more, leave reviews, or take part in a case study. You can do this by offering them a financial incentive (like a gift card or 50% off), free marketing (like a co-branded whitepaper or email), or some other perk.

With fans doing much of your marketing for you, your customer journey may become shorter and faster from top to bottom.

4. Overcome objections (barriers to entry).

Experiment with various elements on your pages, posts, and platforms to potentially overcome objections. Common problems include:

  • A complicated product or pricing structure
  • A product or service that doesn’t solve your targets’ problems
  • A company value system that doesn’t align with your targets’ values

A lot of this is easy to overcome by tweaking your messaging, or by moving elements around on the page. Machine learning can help in some cases.

Most of the time, though, the best thing to do is to ask customers (or potential customers) what’s missing. They'll tell you what they think, and then you can give it to them.

Final Tips for Successful Customer Journey Maps

Prospects rarely move in a straight line when interacting with your brand. Moving from Point A to Point B often involves missteps, double steps, and any combination in between.

That’s why developing a customer journey map is important. As you dig deeper and deeper into your customers’ patterns, you’ll get a microscopic look at each step a prospect takes - from their unique perspective.

This will help you keep your organization on the right track to increasing leads and conversions.

Related: 5 Steps to Drive Targeted Viewers to Your Website