It's a funny thing about people: they rarely do what you predict or what you want them to do. If you remember that customers are people then you've got a good starting point for customer journey mapping.
CMSWire hosted a Google Hangout on the ins and outs of customer journey mapping and the panel agreed on many points, the main being that the human element -- on both the business and the customer side -- should never be forgotten.
Putting Yourself in the Customer's Shoes
When people think maps, they often think of set directions which are meant to be followed. But if you look at customer journey mapping as following the natural path a customer takes to interact with your brand, rather than the path prescribed, it will put you in a better position to understand where the pain points are for your customers, the times when you can help or provide more value during their journey and the areas where the journey is working.
While the path people take is no longer linear (if it ever was), Ian Truscott, VP of Product Marketing for SDL Content Management Technologies Division reminded us that the states customers go through are still linear -- from awareness of their problem, to awareness of your company and its solutions/products, and so on. The key is understanding what the customer is trying to do at each of those stages -- looking at your business from their perspective. He likened the customer journey to a stream, and a business's interactions with customers as the equivalent of putting a stone in the stream, influencing the flow of water.
Mitch Lieberman, Managing Partner at DRI pointed out the differentiation between buyer's journeys and customer's journeys, noting the different outcomes and therefore different paths the two take. All panelists agreed on this differentiation and saw the value in separating the two when creating maps.
Are We Measuring the Right Things?
A critical point raised was the focus on what Mitch Lieberman referred to as the overvaluing of "net new" customers. All agreed that there is danger in this emphasis on constant acquisition of new customers rather than recognizing the "lifetime value of a customer" as Brennan Carlson, Senior Vice President of Products & Strategy at Lyris put it. Ian Truscott urged a holistic view of the customer journey to realign priorities, seeing the journey all the way through to the time when a customer becomes an advocate.
Panelists also noted the lack of alignment between the topics being discussed and the realities of other departments (read: sales, CRM) -- pointing to the difference in priorities (and language) between for example the sales funnel and the customer-centric view of the Hangout conversation. Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, CMO of Hippo said the customer journey should belong to all levels of an organization and that it is only through alignment throughout a company that the customer will be properly served.
B2B vs. B2C
When asked what (if any) differences exist in mapping a B2B customer journey and a B2C customer journey, the panelists admitted differences, but saw as many similarities.
generally you're working with different kinds of emotions; you're dealing with people's risk, but basically the techniques are the same ..." Ian Truscott
Brennan Carlson pointed to the convergence brought on by the introduction of marketing automation technology into the B2C world due to the recognition of how these tactics apply to "all of us as digital consumers." Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer was the one voice of dissent -- he points to the focus in B2C on conversion as opposed to the complexities of the B2B journey -- the emphasis being on engagement and information provision.
A Little Big Data Bashing to Wrap it Up
Will predictive analytics and big data do away with the need for customer journey mapping?
The panelists took their gloves off for this question, calling "Big Data a Big Headache" and scoffing at the buzzword du jour. The question brought them full circle to return to the emphasis on the human element. While the insights big data provides can definitely aid in creating extraordinary experiences for customers, this should be balanced with the intuition, knowledge and experience that a marketing team brings, the ability to apply this data in a relevant and thoughtful way.
Technology choices abound for the modern marketer, but by keeping the customer's needs, wants and interests in plain view at all times it should keep the balance between the opportunities the technology presents and the knowledge and storytelling capabilities the marketers possess.
Title image courtesy of Dirk Ercken(Shutterstock)