Today’s customers have a myriad of means and methods to interact with brands. From simply viewing a banner ad to signing thirty-page mortgages and everything in between, the touchpoints through the client engagement process are never-ending. Cataloging each of these interactions is part of a process known as customer journey mapping, a critical framework useful within agile organizations.
In this post, we’ll explore the rationale beyond journey mapping and the process to help you create one. With that in place, you’ll be able to download our customer journey template and start building your own immediately.
Why Build a Customer Journey Map?
Every customer purchase has measurable moments or stages. These stages are distinct. Customers arrive at each step through discrete moments – and generally have similar questions and concerns as others within the stage.
Likewise, brands have produced content designed to answer questions and concerns, intending to move the prospect onto the next step of the journey. With an established journey map, organizations can ensure that content is properly aligned with the stage in the sales process. Setting discrete stages of the customer journey is also useful when juxtaposed with value stream mapping, whereby we detail the internal processes that align with movement through the journey.
Ready to start building your own customer journey map? Download our template!
Determine the Stages of Your Customer Journey
The first step in building the customer journey map involves determining the actual stages of the sales process. These need to be specific enough to your organization to be helpful, yet general enough to include most (if not all) purchases.
A highly generalized example of the sales stages is AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action:
- Attention. Here, the prospect realizes they have a problem to be fixed or a desire to move to a new state.
- Interest. Once the problem has been realized, more profound research is required to determine available options to remedy the challenge.
- Desire. At this point, the prospect has acknowledged their problem and actively seek remedies.
- Action. Here, the prospect decides to purchase the solution.
Though AIDA is useful for some verticals, companies that rely on repeat purchases might include stages for further purchases. In other models, like SaaS products, the “demo” phase is often seen as a distinct stage, as well. Though it would be simple enough to lump “demo” into the Interest stage, the decision to attend a thirty or sixty-minute demo (often including multiple stakeholders) is often so important that it’s measured separately.
What matters most when crafting your stages is explicit agreement as to when a prospect is or is not within a given stage.
Inside Each Stage of the Customer Journey
Within our free customer journey mapping template, each stage asks for the following information:
- Actions. What is the prospect doing that tells us they’re in this stage? Are they talking to their friends about the problem? Are they searching the Internet for advice? We’re looking for the observable behavior that signifies a prospect is within this stage.
- Thinking. What questions is the prospect asking at this stage of the sales process? Knowing these answers is the framework espoused by many, including Marcus Sheridan in “They Ask, You Answer.”
- Feeling. Mostly ignored by all but the savviest of organizations, capturing the buyers’ emotions is a critical step in ensuring your company is operating from a state of empathy. Is the prospect excited or scared? Are they confused or angry? The answers to these questions should directly impact the content and tone of your materials. Because feelings are emotional, customer journey templates often express how prospect attitudes shift throughout the process. We’ve kept it simple in our template, offering you either sad, neutral, or happy faces to signify your prospect’s mindset. This single activity is often a critical part of the process. While most salespeople are “excited” to pitch you something, many buyers come into the stage with fears and concerns. Noticing this disconnect is the first step in improving it.
- Experience. This is the field where we’re collecting the brand elements that have been put into place to respond to the prospect’s actions, thoughts, and feelings. Whether it be website content, banner ads, or downloadable templates like this one, the best content will be aligned with where the buyer is within the sales process.
But it’s not just content, either. Your organization might determine that the stage of the sales process depends if the customer is interacting with a chat agent, a sales development representative, or even a vice president. The goal is to ensure your organization is clear about how best to respond to the prospect at this stage in the sales process.
Customizing the Customer Journey Map
Because your organization is unique, you likely won’t find the perfect plug and play template online. Ours’, for instance, includes three different sales stage examples, but there are dozens more.
Simultaneously, some companies’ buyer personas are so different from one another that they’ll build separate journey maps. Whether or not you need to go to that level of complexity will be determined by your buyers, but don’t hesitate to make customizations if they are pertinent to your world. But when you’re doing customer journey mapping, make sure that your customizations will inform the customer journeys, rather than complicate them.
Analyzing the Customer Journey
Once a journey map has been created, the exercise may be complete. It’s more likely, however, that now you have a better understanding of where energies need to be focused.
Frequently, organizations find that they have heavily emphasized one or two stages of the journey, while others wither on the vine. Similarly, the tone of your content might not align with the buyer’s emotions at the same stage. Finally, you may find some critical questions that perhaps you answered within an altogether different stage of the journey. Properly analyzing your map will help you see where you are within the process.
Today, much of what was formerly known as the “sales process” would more likely be better redefined as the buying process. Further, responding to this new dynamic requires a deeper understanding of a buyer’s questions and emotions as they navigate the options available, so that you can offer them a compelling experience. Customer journey maps are the tangible framework that allows your company to measure – and eventually optimize – the client experience.