You understand your customers and your product, but how are your customers getting to your product? Don’t know? Then it’s time for you to map out your brand’s customer journey.
Customer journeys are a key tool in any digital marketer’s toolkit – but how do you map out your customer journey?
In this post, we’ll take you through the basics of mapping your customer journey and how understanding your customer lifecycle can help you realize the full value of customer experience management.
What is a customer journey?
A customer journey is a visual representation of the process a customer goes through when they have an experience with your brand. For this reason, we often refer to this as a user experience map.
Mapping out your customer journey is a form of customer care, as it allows you to understand your customers’ pain points, motivations, and how your brand can best help them.
Of course, not all customer journeys will result in purchasing a product, but these are important, too. We love to know why customers purchase our products, but it is just as important to understand why they choose to leave our sales funnel.
When we map out our customer journey, we generally look at customer experiences as a process following three distinct steps on a timeline:
During the pre-purchase stage, customers form their initial impressions of your brand, your parent company, and your products. First impressions can be hard to shake, so during this stage, we want to prioritize customer education and positive sentiment over a hard sell.
During the purchase stage, customers make one of three decisions: they go through with their purchase, they plan a purchase but don’t complete it, or they walk away from the sale. This is the area that can make or break brands, so it’s crucial to use analytics to understand (as best you can) what led customers to each of those three outcomes.
During the post-purchase stage, customers who purchase a product form strong opinions about your product, and its value. For that reason, post-purchase customer care is the priority of any good customer service team, and it can lead to high customer retention rates.
So what makes a good customer journey map? Every customer will have a different experience with your brand, so mapping a customer journey is more about overall trends than individual experiences. In general, a good map:
is straightforward enough for every member of your organization to read and understand.
is realistic about your customer’s experiences.
uses data to back up conclusions.
allows you to see the pain points in your current sales funnel.
Good customer journey charts won’t always be Pinterest-worthy, but that’s okay! This isn’t an art contest, but mapping out a data-driven journey can radicalize your marketing approach.
Before creating your customer experience journey, though, make sure that you’re using data to gain audience insights that will help make sure you know your customers as well as you think you do.
The importance and benefits of customer lifecycle stages
You already understand your customers and your product – so why is a customer journey important?
A customer journey map is not strictly for your marketing and content team. Everyone working on a product can benefit from understanding the customer’s experience and a customer map is simply a communication tool at your disposal.
There are four key benefits to using a customer journey map:
They allow you to visualize your customer’s motivations.
They allow you to create alignment within your product team.
They allow you to make improvements in your sales funnel so you can turn visitors into customers.
They help you identify internal silos in your sales funnel
An internal silo is basically your worst nightmare as a digital marketer. These are holes in your sales funnel that prevent your customers from moving into the purchase and post-purchase stages.
A typical example is a web page with no links back to your homepage and product pages or a Facebook page with no link to your website.
To create your customer journey, let’s start by looking at the five stages of the customer lifecycle. These are also the stages of our sales funnel, and they act as the headings in our customer journey map.
The top of our sales funnel is referred to as the awareness stage. During this stage, customers are hunting for a solution to their problem but they might not be aware of your brand or how you are able to help them.
While hunting for a solution, customers may stumble on your website or notice your ads and first become aware of you and your products. The most effective platforms for discovery and awareness include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and your blog.
Tip: In many cases, customers feel the symptoms of a problem without understanding the root of their issue. For example, customers who are sleeping poorly may need a new mattress, so content like “How to Sleep Better” is a great way to engage with directionless customers.
Once customers have become aware of your product and brand, they reach the interest stage. During this stage, their primary motivation is research and understanding.
They want to know what your product does, how it works, and whether it will work for them. Here, customers have become hyper-aware of their problem and are looking for a solution that meets a specific set of criteria.
The most effective platforms for education include your blog and YouTube videos.
Tip: To engage with customers in the education phase, consistently craft good content that piques their interest. This includes quizzes, videos, and informative blog posts.
In the relationship stage, customers make their initial purchase and form a relationship (good or bad) with your product. To make this process easier, many services offer customers a free trial or a discount to increase customer retention.
These are great strategies, but they will fall flat if your purchasing and product education process does not address a customer’s primary motivation: a solution to their problem.
Tip: To increase your customer retention rate during this stage, use data analytics software like Power BI and Tableau to analyze your sales data. This will give you business intelligence that will help you craft customer-centric marketing strategies.
The sales funnel does not end once the purchase has been made. Customers form a strong opinion of your product once they receive it.
Good customer experiences prioritize more than the sale. While we care about selling our product, we also care about our customers post-purchase. After all, a customer who has a negative experience with a brand is more likely to share their experience than a customer with a positive experience.
The most effective platforms for post-purchase engagement include Facebook and Instagram.
Image via Oberlo
Tip: To ensure your customers have a good post-purchase experience, work on your customer service skills. Good customer service is proactive, highly knowledgeable, professional, and efficient.
Action is the final stage of our sales funnel. Here, customers’ experiences and behavior will divide them into one of four groups. Public relations professionals often call these publics:
Non-public: These are people who tune out your brand, and will only re-enter the sales funnel if motivated to.
Latent public: These people remain aware of your brand, but do not actively engage with the sales funnel again.
Aware public: These people keep up-to-date with your product and brand, but do not vocalize their support or criticism unless asked. These customers will follow your social media, but won’t engage with you directly.
Active publics: These people are brand advocates. They like to leave reviews, will engage with the brand on social media, and will speak with other customers online.
Naturally, active and aware publics are the most likely to make a repeat purchase – so it is this group we want to focus on when crafting a customer journey. The best platforms for advocacy include your blog, product forums, Instagram, and Facebook.
Tip: When crafting your customer journey, you will get the best results if you engage with your customers. Don’t be afraid to send customers a feedback survey! Information can’t hurt you, but it will help you design a better customer journey.
Now that we’ve discussed these areas, mapping your customer journey is easy. Simply draw your own sales funnel or map, and fill in the blanks using customer data. For best results, ask several members of your product team to test it out and compare your results.
Enhance customer experience journey with social media
Now that we’ve covered the basics of customer journeys, let’s discuss how you can enhance your customer journey with social media.
Social media is an essential part of the customer experience journey. It allows brands to improve their customer service, engage with their customers, and provide real-time responses to customer questions.
Social media is also free, making it an excellent tool for every digital marketer. Want to know how? Follow our step-by-step guide below.
1. Map your current customer experience
Before making any significant changes to your sales funnel, you’ll want to map out your current customer experience. What channels are customers using to find you? How well are you addressing their pain points?
It’s important to start with a good self evaluation so that you can analyze the areas that need improvement.
2. Identify areas that social media can help improve
Once you’ve mapped out your customer experience, you’ll be left with several pain points. These might include internal silos, a lack of educational web content, or a bland social media presence. How do you fix these? Here are some ideas:
Establish a regular posting schedule
Build a social media chatbot
Implement dedicated internal links in every post
Create a customer survey to get feedback
Spruce up your posts with quizzes or new design images
3. Identify project constraints
Before you start sprucing-up your customer journey, it’s important to identify your project constraints. Project constraints will determine which social media platforms you should pursue and which you should ignore. Common constraints include:
4. Set your objectives
The best marketing campaigns are goal-driven – so make sure you choose SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) objectives to keep you on track. Here are some ideas:
Increase Facebook post engagement by 10%
Place optimized calls to action in every new blog post
Increase click-through rate by 2%
5. Tweak your sales funnel
Start by making small tweaks to your sales funnel. With each tweak, measure your results for a month so you can see what works and what doesn’t. If your goal is increasing social media engagement, here are some ideas of small changes you can make:
Answer every customer question within 12 hours
Post questions for customers weekly
Implement social media monitoring software
Use audience segmentation tools to understand your followers
After making some changes to your sales funnel, you’ll want to assess what went right and what went wrong. Ditch the ideas that didn’t work, and integrate the right ideas into your regular social media practices.
To keep you on track, try using project management software like monday.com to organize your social media team around your goals.
It will likely take a lot of trial and error to build the perfect sales funnel, but practice makes perfect. Your marketing will change with your customer experience, so be sure to map out your customer experience regularly.
Designing an ideal customer experience is tricky, but a good customer journey can help you get there. This tool is a great way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, which will ultimately help you implement marketing that meets your customer’s needs at the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages.
Every brand will have different customer journeys, but as long as your map is in-line with your customers, you’re golden. And one great way to make sure you are aligned with your customers is through a voice of the customer solution.
No brand ever gets it right straight away, which is why it’s essential to invest in your customer care.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.