Understanding Your Customer’s Journey
Any good marketing whiz will tell you that one of the most important parts of effective targeting is knowing your consumer inside and out. We’re talking more than their household income and gender. Truly knowing your consumer means you’re privy to everything from what their favorite drink at Starbucks may be to what their morning routine looks like. Sound a little nutty? It’s not! As business owners, we must be able to fully place ourselves in our prospective consumer’s shoes in order for our message to resonate with them. Understanding their experiences could be the difference between your prospect walking, or making the sale.
How does your consumer feel about your business now? What would drive your prospects to take action? What’s important to them? What makes them a repeat client or customer, and more importantly, what makes them walk away? Knowing the answers to these questions will keep your business not only maintained but consistently growing. Cracking the code on exactly who your consumer is can seem like a large to-do, but it’s proven to begin with something called “customer journey mapping.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the good people at Big Door define it as “a framework that enables you to improve your customer experience.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Your customer journey map follows your customer’s experience from their perspective to help your business understand how they are interacting with you. This in turn allows you to improve how your business interacts with them.
You want to start by figuring out how your prospects and current consumers engage with your business. Your customer journey map will pinpoint the steps they use to reach you. This is a process. It’s starts from when your consumer finds you online, to when they engage with your content, down to the moment they are being billed for your product or service. These are all “touchpoints” in their experience with your brand. Each of these touchpoints has the power to impact your consumer’s perception of you and ultimately drives their decision to conduct business with you or not. This isn’t always a linear process and it will vary from business to business.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what this process may actually look like. I’ve listed what the typical stages of customer journey map might be below.
1. Awareness – This when your customer takes notice of your brand for the first time. An email or some other form of an advertising campaign are common first steps for discovery.
2. Consideration – This may be as simple as checking out your website, or social media pages to review your message. Comparison between you and the competition happens at this stage as well. They may pursue customer review platforms.
3. Purchase – Here is where your prospect becomes a customer and makes the decision to buy the product or service you are selling.
4. Experience – Your customer now experiences your product or service for themselves.
5. Advocacy – Customer shares that experience, good or bad – with others.
6. Retention – Your business now has the opportunity to reel the customer back in using different tactics.
7. End of journey – Customer chooses to continue to use your product or service or goes to a competitor to restarts their journey there.
This journey can look very different depending on the nature of your business. There is no wrong or right way to go about accomplishing your end goal. A quick Google image search will show you different customer journey maps organizations have employed. They all look very similar to the steps listed above. Here’s ours visually:
What the step-by-step list above doesn’t give you is the nitty gritty on what to look for at each stage. This is where you have to do your homework. It boils down to these four words: Action, motivation, questions and roadblocks. Here are some vital questions to ask yourself throughout the entire process.
- What ACTIONS are your customers doing at each stage. Perhaps more importantly, what actions are they taking to move from one stage to the next?
- What MOTIVATES them? People buy emotionally and justify those decisions logically. What motivates your customers to contact you, and to continue using your product or service? What motivates them to buy your other services or products? What emotions are they feeling? Remember – people either buy to gain pleasure or to reduce pain.
- Are there unanswered QUESTIONS? Do your prospects have questions or concerns? When we are speaking to consumers through advertisements or written marketing material, people will have questions they want answered in real time. Are there unknowns that may scare them into perusing alternatives that may be more transparent in these areas?
- What are the ROADBLOCKS that could prevent your prospect from moving between stages? These could include everything from cost, ease of doing business with you. Things like not so favorable yelp reviews and or lack of availability are common roadblocks that may get in the way.
Once you’ve discovered how exactly your prospects think, feel and react to your business, you’re ready to use this data for bigger and better marketing activities. You should be using your findings to both improve the efficiency of your current strategies and create new ones if needed.
Consider your company’s SWOT analysis for a moment. The term SWOT is commonly used by marketers and business owners. It reveals your brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, but this time we want to focus on these sections solely from the perspective of your consumer. For example, a strength from a business standpoint may be securing a well-connected investor to fund HR programs. From the perspective of a consumer however, things like having your brand readily available to them in big-box stores, and being the only brand in your lane to provide live customer service are big strengths. After you’ve established the specific values related to your business within the SWOT analysis, you can then develop a strategic plan.
The four quadrants of your SWOT analysis will inform the information you gather from customer journey mapping. The only way to gather valuable and accurate data is to ASK! Consider using a business consultant at this stage for unbiased feedback. Because we business owners and internal executives can only make educated assumptions about our consumer’s experiences, surveys and focus groups become invaluable at this stage.
Your survey or focus groups will focus on the details that are crucial for truly understanding a customer’s experience. Ask your consumer to map out their journey from their perspective. You’ll find that this road is not often linear. Some consumers skip the consideration phase and jump straight to purchases. Others may spend months researching, discovering new brands and comparing before making their purchase. For them, the costs of doing business with you is an investment worth their time. They want to get it right!
A well-researched customer journey map will unlock countless questions for you in the marketing process. You’ll be able to use it to find which platforms your consumer is listening to you on and how to effectively reach them at the awareness stage.
You’ll discover how your consumers evaluate your business against competitors and what questions you can answer before they make the decision not to buy at the consideration stage.
After the purchase stage, surveys from your customer journey map will inform you how to retain your current customers and what motivates them to share their experience at the advocacy stage.
Ultimately, there is no one size fits all when it comes to a customer journey mapping. The more touchpoints your customers face, the more complicated this map will be. Your company will have to tailor this process. The fundamentals provided above should give you a jump-start!
Done carefully, your organization can take charge over how your consumers engage with you.