When I was asked to write on customer journeys for CMSWire, the brief was to discuss what a customer journey is and how to use them -- and then I read Bruce Temkin’s contribution to this month’s editorial theme “Use Customer Journey Maps to Combat Self-Centeredness” and to be honest, I’d strongly recommend starting there, it’s a great article describing what a customer journey is and how to map out your own customer's journey.
As Temkin says, a customer journey shows how the customer moves through buying stages or you could say emotion, state of mind, or sentiment towards you, your brand, your product or service.
We are not mapping customer touch points or even customer experiences; we are mapping their sentiment from being aware of their need, through adopting your product or service to becoming an advocate. As marketers we need to think about how we nudge them along this track.
In this example I have divided a theoretical customer journey into three main stages, or engagement cycles:
Desire Cycle -- where someone is becoming aware of their need for a product or service, to them become aware of your ability to satisfy that need or solve a problem. In the marketers’ ”attract/convert/retain” model -- this would be “attract” and the consumer now moves to an aware state.
Decision Cycle -- this potential customer is now making a decision, and once they have decided on your products or service they have converted, then they move to the adopt state.
Delight Cycle -- McKinsey calls this the loyalty loop in their Consumer Decision Journey. This stage recognizes that the goal of a contemporary marketer is not just to create customers that will buy from you again, but to create advocates that will amplify your message and provide that all important social validation.
Clearly this is a crude start to what your customer journey should look like, but why should you be thinking about customer journeys?
1. It’s Not Just Marketing
I’d like to dwell slightly on this point, you should think about the entire customer journey when you are mapping this for your organization, it’s easy to think that this process stops at "convert," but creating an advocate should be the goal here -- the destination of the journey.
According to research by Sociable labs -- 81% of consumers who purchase products they learn about through social sharing are valuable social sharers themselves, thus creating a cycle of sharing and buying.
This is critical, because at this point we are not just thinking about the marketing department and involving them in this process -- we are thinking about a holistic customer experience that will drive some to say something nice about us.
Therefore, the quality of what we do in the post-sale has a direct impact on our marketing funnel and we should understand that part of the process. As you map your customer journey, you need to involve your support and customer service folks -- and figure out how they can nudge someone towards advocacy.
2. You Find Your People
Clearly a customer journey is not the same for everyone, but also they are not the same for everyone in your audience. The process of customer journey mapping helps you focus on who those different segments are and what they need to have to progress during this journey.
For example, let’s say you sell an enterprise software package -- it will require a number of people to go through their own journey with you as different folks in IT and the business converge to a consensus that you are the best product for their problem.
3. You Measure the Right Things
It’s a commonly held view that marketing today is awash with data. Thinking about the journey your customer follows puts some of those tried and true metrics you’ve been using into context and helps to locate those critical points where someone moves through the journey that need a closer look.
Is it the dropout rate on the online form that asks for more information? Or maybe it’s the general brand sentiment you need to figure out from social media. The customer journey will tell you what’s important.
4. Because Your Content Marketing Won’t Work Without It
There are lots of lessons to be learned from customer journey mapping, but as a marketer I think one of the primary reasons why you should give some thought to this, is that content marketing won’t work without it.
For example, if you don’t have an understanding of your customer’s Desire Cycle (or nurture phases) or the segments of people you need to move through this journey -- how do you know what content will work, the story to tell, where to tell it or even when?
Customer journey mapping is a great exercise -- it's a first step to CXM and hopefully a more engaged customer.
Title image courtesy of Lonely (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Need more Ian? Let's go back to the archives for his How Context Can Define a Great Online Customer Experience