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Journey mapping in marketing

September 30, 2020

Journey mapping and marketing go so much hand in hand that one might think it’s self-explanatory. But just like for any other person, also marketers sometimes have a hard time empathizing with customers. Customer journey mapping can help marketers to ensure they act for the customers’ sake and that it’s really the customer who’s in the focus of what they’re doing – rather than tools and processes.

Marketing in the context of customer journey mapping

Maybe you are a marketer and feel like you don’t need someone to define your job and how it connects to journey mapping on a higher level. In this case, please keep in mind that in this article, we consider four marketing phases: acquisition – retention – leave – reactivation. Jump ahead to the next chapter if you feel prepared for the deep dive.

visualizing the stages of marketing: acquisition, retention, leave, reactivation

For all the others: Maybe you’re new to marketing. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a marketer, but you need to collaborate with marketing; perhaps you are responsible for some marketing tasks. So let’s start with a short definition of how we understand marketing in this article.

Even within the marketing community, there are very different perspectives, or focus areas, on what their job is about. This is also because marketing tasks are pretty diverse and vary depending on the organization, the product or brand, and the marketer itself.

In this article, we talk about marketing not only as of the art of making people aware of the existence of a product and make them buy it. We also talk about introducing them to the functionality, motivating them to keep using it, and making them loyal customers.

Questions to solve in marketing

Summing up the paragraph above: marketers aim to understand the customer to approach them at the right time and place, with the right pieces of information, along the entire customer journey. A pretty natural combination, right? Actually marketers have -or should have- customer centricity at the very core of what they are doing.

But everyday life is not as straight-forward. There are many moments in which we need a compass that prevents us from assumption-based decisions and that guides us towards the really important customers’ needs. Sometimes we just lose or miss focus on customer-centricity. In these and more moments, journey mapping can help us to get on or get back on the right path. Journey mapping requires us, marketers, to think about the following questions:

Who are your customers?

There is no customer journey without the customer. So the first step is to learn who your customer is – or should be. In the customer acquisition phase, we might rather talk about potential customers or leads.

Hence, the first step is creating a persona that visualizes the target group in a more customer-centric way. A persona will help us focus on the following questions:

  • What’s the persona’s problem to solve?
  • What channels and devices does the persona use?
  • What’s the budget available?
  • What does the persona expect from the product?
  • What values should the product or service meet to satisfy the persona?
this is a marketing persona, visualized in smaply

What is your customers' journey?

One of the most burning questions in marketing is: How can I make this world aware of what I have to offer? The pre-purchase phase is one of the most difficult to understand.

In order to find this out, it is useful to look at existing customers and understand how they got to you – what journey they have made. Likewise, it is interesting to look at customers who decided against your brand and to understand how their journey differentiates. Many marketers would now bring a crucial thought up: there's no one singular journey that brings people to our brand, nor is their 2, 3, or even 10... The sequence of steps is always different, so how can a linear journey map help if it can not reflect all the different paths a customer might take? The concept of a map helps you to navigate complexity. Let’s compare a customer journey map with other types of maps we might encounter: a map in geography reduces complexity to a level that is easily understandable so that you can quickly get the information that you need when you drive from A to B. And not every map looks the same: you have different scales to drive from one country to another or to find a street in a city. A map for driving your car contains different information than a map for navigating your boat or a map farmers use to grow crops. However, all of them reduce complexity so that it becomes manageable. And the same is true for journey maps: The reality is more complex. Often too complex. So start with one map, learn from it, improve, and map the next use case. The journey map will help you think of experiences that impact the customer.

Journey mapping will help you understand what drives people to get in touch with your brand, service, or product.

  • What was the reason for the need popping up?
  • Have they heard about you already? Have you been on top of their mind?
  • Where and how did they look for you?
  • Where and how did they actually find you?
the awareness stage of a journey map visualized in smaply

What information do customers need?

One of a marketers main goals is to inform customers about the product itself. What is it? What can it do for them? How does it work? What value does it provide for them?

To deliver this information, journey mapping helps to understand what questions  customers have, and at what point they come up in their journey. For example, it does not make much sense to talk about prices before the person has really understood what the product does for them.

  • What does a person need to know about the product to make an informed decision and feel safe by doing so?
  • What information does the person need?
  • In what format would the information be most useful?
  • How and when should the information be delivered?

To develop a strong journey map, we must understand the customer, the persona who goes through these experiences – so that we have an accurate picture of their needs and can provide relevant information when it is required. Did the person just start to research alternatives and is trying to get an overview? Is the person ready for more detailed information yet? Or is the person even ready for making a purchase? Marketers know this as the marketing funnel: at every part of the funnel, a person has different intentions, needs, and interests. The task of the marketer is to guide upper-funnel leads down the funnel so they can make a purchase.

Especially in the times of omnichannel marketing, these questions have become challenging to solve.

A journey map helps to align the communication flow across channels to understand and increase your conversion throughout the funnel.

This helps to make sure the lead does not get contradicting information, but rather complementary, helpful resources.

the retention stage of a journey map visualized in smaply

How can you increase customer satisfaction and loyalty?

Once you have converted the lead to a real customer, the job of a marketer is not over yet. A big chunk of what marketers care about is: how can we make sure people stick with us? How can we increase their satisfaction and turn them into loyal customers that love using the product and maybe even recommend us to their peers? In this case, marketing’s job is not about lead generation anymore, but rather about keeping people informed and enthusiastic about the product and its benefits.

A journey map will make many marketers discuss the following questions.

  • How do customers experience communication after they’ve converted?
  • How easy is it for them to stay updated about new offers, changes, anything they need to know to fully embrace the product?
  • What keeps them active and engaged?
  • How are loyal customers incentivized?
an excerpt of a journey map visualized in smaply

What if a customer leaves?

You might think when a customer leaves, marketing is out of the game. No. Again, marketing changes its focus back – first, it was the acquisition, then retaining, now it gets to leaving and reactivating.

“But if the customer left, it means he was not satisfied with the product, right? So why should they come back?”

Not necessarily: a customer leaving you does not always mean that they’re unsatisfied – maybe you have fulfilled their need for now. Customer journey mapping can help you understand why a customer left, what the customer does afterward, and at what point the need might pop up again.

In any case, the question for marketing is:

  • Is there anything that could let the journey continue?
  • How does the customer experience the goodbye process? Do we manage to leave them behind with a good feeling and stick to their memory?
  • Does the customer recommend the product or service to others?
  • What makes the customer rebuy a product, or reactive a service?
the leaving stage of a journey map visualized in smaply

How to create a journey map for marketing

A good customer journey map consists of more than just a satisfaction score. The following type of information can help you to analyze a journey map from a marketing perspective.

Channels of communication

Customers use multiple channels to keep themselves informed about and connected with your service, product, or brand. Visualizing the channels used can help you to see how these channels influence customer satisfaction. You might also want to visualize the devices the customer uses along the journey, as well as communication channels that you don’t own, e.g., rating platforms, forums, or offline communities.

KPIs

The success of marketing activities must be measured; hence KPIs are an essential part of a journey map in marketing. For example, use KPIs to visualize the conversion rates at every step between different channels. Together with the qualitative data from the journey map, these KPIs will give you a holistic understanding of how your activities influence the customer journey.

Backstage processes

If a marketing department is rather large, many different actors could influence one specific experience. For example, the marketing department fills the blog with content, however, the design department is responsible for the look and usability and developers help with download forms and newsletter integrations on the blog. Hence, every experience a customer has with the blog is influenced by at least three different actors.

In such cases, it makes sense to include a lane that is dedicated to internal and external stakeholders that influence the experience. For each step, analyze what physical evidence you have, what interactions take place with the customers, what they see, and what happens that they don’t see of your product or service delivery.

View and example journey map for backstage processes in e-commerce

View an example journey map for marketing

Typical challenges of introducing journey mapping to marketing

Marketers instantly understand the potential value of taking a customer perspective and taking up a journey mapping project. The challenges they need to master when it comes to a journey mapping project are rather connected to the implementation of the project.

A tendency to see the customer journey as a digital-only process

For quite some years, the digital part of marketing has become more and more important. Almost every organization owns a website, social media channels, an online shop, or other digital appearances and wants to understand how customers use them.  

However, actually only a small part of a human’s life takes place in the digital world and those moments should not be overlooked. A journey map will support you to analyze channels holistically, not only by looking at your customer through the lens of a website tracking tool but also by adding qualitative insights to it.

Other tools and processes need to be integrated

Most marketers use a couple or many digital tools at work. They use tools to illustrate internal processes, for feedback collection, for data tracking, and much more. Hence they usually run into the issue that they need to open multiple applications if they want to collect information about a specific step. If they want to know how customers like the content of the blog, they need to dig for the text document with the usability test, the blog’s tracking tool for reading times, and the customer survey tool for qualitative feedback on this specific step.

A journey map, or more specifically: a journey map repository can help to condense all this information right on one map. If you decide to analyze and improve one specific step of the journey, you will have all automatically or manually collected qualitative and quantitative, in one place and can immediately dive into it. And if the sales department wants to better understand a specific step, they have access to all the information right away.

Keeping the journey map up to date

A marketer’s world changes quickly. On the one hand, market competition is high for many products, and marketers need to become creative to distance themselves from competitors. On the other hand, technology is advancing quickly and gives marketers new opportunities or challenges regularly. Hence, a journey map that is valid today might not be valid tomorrow. For a marketing team, this means they need to embrace journey mapping and make it part of their daily work.

Hence, a one-time workshop will not do the job. The results of this workshop will be outdated soon. The solution to this is to keep the journey map in a digital format so everybody can access it readily, update it, enrich it with new information, and share it with others.

In a nutshell

Journey mapping can help marketers to increase customer-centricity if they are stuck in the details of their daily routines. A journey map allows us to see the big picture – not only the single experience or a single stage a customer may be going through, but the entire journey they have with a product, service, or brand. Journey mapping can assist marketing efforts along the entire customer lifecycle, combined with their other tools and data insights, this facilitates an increase in holistic and customer-focused marketing activity.

Create your own journey map for your marketing project