woman standing on street corner in Malaysia, looking at a street map
PHOTO: elCarito

Customer journey maps are a critical tool for guiding your brand toward a more complete — and more actionable — understanding of the customer experiences you should be delivering. Going through the process of mapping out the customer journey is the very foundation of targeting in marketing. It yields valuable insights from the mentalities of your varying customer types and sets the path for optimized marketing that meets each customer’s specific needs at the right time and through the right channel.

The quality and longevity of your customer journey mapping — and the marketing plans you base around it — are functions of the information included on your map and the care with which the map is constructed.

If you read part one of this two-part series on customer journey mapping, you already know what factors to consider when building a customer journey map. Now, here are four tips for your customer journey map creation strategy that will help it stand the test of time.

1. One Buyer Persona at a Time

Too often, brands believe they can save time or improve efficiency by combining multiple personas into a single customer journey map. Unfortunately, doing so blurs the lines between different customers, which goes against the reason you’re creating a customer journey map in the first place. A sharply detailed image of each customer type is what you need for developing effective strategies. Don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

You should begin with a single specific persona, and then build a customer journey map based around that persona. Then focus on other individual personas and build out their journeys. Making each as specific as possible will yield more accurate and valuable insights — and it will be worth the effort.

Related Article: Why Customer Journey Mapping + Journey Analytics = 5-Star Customer Experiences

2. Develop Personas Using (Real) Data

Because accuracy is so crucial to producing effective personas and customer journey maps, be sure to rely on research and factual information as much as possible — not on hunches. 

One of the best ways to get real information is by interviewing actual customers. You’ll also want to practice social listening and conduct surveys of prospective customers whenever possible. Additionally, your salespeople are often sitting on a trove of useful information, so check to see if analyzing sales data and related analytics helps make your customer journey map a more data-informed tool. 

Various market research sites have tools you can use to collect data on your target audiences. (I compiled a list of market research sites in a blogpost on my company’s website.)

3. Answer the Right Questions

Your potential customers ask specific questions as they progress through the purchase funnel, and the answers they receive can determine whether they choose your brand or not. Be sure your understanding of those questions — and your answers to them — is based on data and not just assumptions. Performing a competitor keyword analysis can determine the top keywords and phrases your audience is searching for, which will provide insights into the questions potential customers have in mind.

Related Article: Time to Burn the Customer Journey Map: Channels Don't Matter Anymore

4. Recognize Your Most Advantageous Opportunities

At the end of the day, the purpose of creating a customer journey map is to identify those key moments when approaching the right person with the right experience at the right time can win that individual over as a customer. Here are some specific tips for how to find those opportunities:

  • Closely examine the customer experience. Walk in the customer’s shoes and go through the customer’s journey. Have an eye out for chances to improve the experience along the way.
  • Consider each brand touchpoint. Improve (or even add) touchpoints where more resources or guidance could help push customers forward on the journey. If possible, make your most effective touchpoints more prominent.
  • Identify marketing potential. Consider brand touchpoints and the websites customers frequent, and plan how to reach them there through marketing and content.
  • Find content gaps. Review your current content, and look for gaps where customers would benefit from further content you don’t yet offer. Competitive keyword analysis can help to suggest popular keyword topics your customers and competitors might be using and targeting — and which you probably should be using too!
  • Design content to advance customers through each stage of the purchase funnel. Content creation and delivery should serve a careful strategy that moves customers forward in their journeys. Early-stage top-of-funnel content — including blog entries, infographics, videos, guides, checklists and social media posts — should answer customers’ initial questions and suggest solutions to their concerns. Middle-stage content like landing pages, case studies, ebooks, webinars and free product demos should focus on proving your brand is the customer’s best choice. Near the end of the funnel, content should target keywords that demonstrate intent to buy, and it should focus on steering customers to the point of making a purchase.
  • Be aware of customers’ touchpoints with competing brands. By maintaining an awareness of competitors’ efforts to win over customers, you can better ensure you’re competing on all the right fronts, and you will be in a better position for creating marketing material that differentiates your brand’s value.

A well-developed and optimized customer journey map is not only a guide that will help your brand more effectively connect with — and convert — potential customers; it is also a tool you can use in setting your course as you pursue future marketing objectives.

Customer journey maps rooted in solid data and insights will remain relevant and accurate in the long term, and that same valuable information can help to give your marketing strategies their greatest chance of success.