November 1, 2016 V3 Printing

Customer Journey Mapping: The Road to Relationships

Left: Laura Patterson, President
VisionEdge Marketing
Right: Katrina Busch,
Roberts Communications


Customer Journey Mapping: The Road to Relationships

As marketers, we can be guilty of chasing the next shiny toy, but does customer journey mapping fall into that category? No, say many marketing pros. “Journey mapping isn’t new. It’s rebranding what we used to call pipeline engineering,” says Laura Patterson, President of VisionEdge Marketing. The funnel is another buzzword for the same concept. “Journey mapping is a fancy name for what marketers have always said—know your customer,” declares Katrina Busch, President of Roberts Communications.

“The concept of customer journey mapping puts a practical process to something that just comes naturally, which is building relationships.” Customer insight is essential for true relationship building, and the only way to do that is by truly knowing someone. With a journey map, you do.

Many Journeys to Map

Customer journey mapping can include other pathways, not just those leading to a purchase. There could be an upselling journey, a service journey, or a referral journey. What are all the journeys a customer makes to be successful with your services or products? Does their experience along the way match up to their expectation? What do you need to improve?

Even the same product sale can involve different journeys. “Consider all the ways Starbucks reaches consumers and makes it easy to access their product,” notes Laura. “You can get it at home, at the airport, or on the way. You can get it on the plane, in a hotel kiosk, or from room service.” Clearly, Starbucks thought about all the paths their customers could take, and this is a “simple” B2C transaction!

Spigot Projects: Turn on Some Help

Marketers sometimes hesitate to ask for assistance, because they’re afraid to appear underqualified to do mapping. If you don’t have the skill or expertise, there’s no shame in reaching out. Even elite athletes depend on their coaches.

Your people know your customers best, but many experts recommend a third-party facilitator for journey mapping. “A facilitator is a great idea,” says Katrina. “An unbiased third party keeps you on track and asks good questions. This is where to invest if you have to prioritize.” And a strong customer journey map can be used across all marketing and sales disciplines, greatly increasing its value.

Think about what’s the best use of your time, too. Customer journey mapping is a “spigot” project, meaning you can turn it on and off. If it’s not something you need every day (and it’s not), why take on the overhead of a full-time role?

Tips for a DIY Journey Map

If it’s not in your budget to hire a facilitator, consider running an internal focus group yourself, but be sure to have internal support. “Having been part of building many customer journey maps, I can tell you that it can’t be done in a vacuum,” says Katrina Busch. “The project leader may not have much customer contact and, therefore, needs input from a team; and a team of colleagues will be more likely to get behind the map if they have a hand in it.” These tips will help you get useful results:

  • Talk with sales, customer service, and other employees. Invite a group of internal “touch points” to share their organizational knowledge and workshop a journey map. Include as many people who touch customers as possible.
  • Make it an open-ended effort, not a one-time project. Don’t just post the map on a wall. It must be a living idea that employees will return to as they make discoveries and decisions.
  • Start a customer advisory board. Have them validate the journey map.
  • You don’t need a special tool. “Just have a lot of Post-it® notes,” Katrina says. You just need brains and the openness to think differently.
  • Refresh your journey map when you initiate a campaign, and incorporate it into the campaign plan for greater success.

Think of the map not as a final document, but as a snapshot of behavior and communications. It’s never a one-and-done effort, since customers are always moving, and what they want changes.


Customer Journey Mapping: B2B or B2C? Does It Matter?

Journey maps work for both models. The two categories aren’t as different as we sometimes assume. “You can’t always separate the world that way anymore, because some B2B commerce is transactional, and some B2C involves complex selling,” explains Laura Patterson.

Whether you’re talking B2B or B2C, consider first the complexity of the sale. Ask questions that get into the details of the process. Is it a consultative or customized engagement? Is it a simple, self-serve or transactional encounter? The interactions and content will be different for each.

Here are other questions to help build a customer journey map:

  • At the front end, are you targeting new customers or existing ones?
  • Are you asking an existing customer to change something about their relationship with you, such as upgrade to a newer product?
  • Is the purchase a complex decision involving multiple stakeholders?
  • How does that create a different process and experience for your customer?
  • What do you know about the typical sales cycle?
  • What indicates that a customer is moving from one buying stage to the next?
  • What are your internal touch points with customers and prospects?
  • What are gates or roadblocks to a successful end result?
  • What geographies are involved in the journey?
  • What’s the financial impact to the buyer or their company?
  • What is the perceived risk?


Customer Journey Mapping: Benefits Beyond the Customer

Customers benefit from use of a journey map when the brand becomes more focused on delivering what that consumer wants. The journey map also delivers benefits for your internal teams. Use your customer journey map to:

  • Build internal relationships: The journey map encourages cross functional, collaborative relationships within your organization. It leads to a harmonized, customer-centric team, instead of one that’s product-centric or sales-driven.
  • Experience the customer experience: What’s it like being a customer of your brand? With a map, you can walk a mile in their shoes. Many departments have a hand in how the business engages with customers and need to understand the experience.
  • Motivate your best resource: Employees become empowered when they clearly understand who you sell to and how they affect the outcome. Customer service, sales, marketing writers—anyone who touches a customer can benefit from a true understanding of the buyer.
  • Understand the business: Your team better understands what the business does in the marketplace and how the customer fits in the context of that.
  • Anchor a marketing plan: Without a good view of the customer, marketing efforts are directionless. With a map view, your plan can be built around your customers’ objectives.
  • Find common cause: Whether you need to grow share of current customers, expand geographies, or bring new products to market, a journey map puts all the team on the same page.

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