The Ultimate Guide to Customer Journey Mapping for Marketers

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Journey Mapping for Marketers - (4)

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the steps customers go through when considering, making, and utilising a purchase.

It’s a valuable marketing tool because it defines the path to purchase from the perspective of the customer—not the company. Because journey maps are developed from the customer’s perspective, they can be used to form a plan for engaging prospects and customers, earning their attention and trust, in order to guide prospects deeper into the sales funnel and improve customer retention.

Agencies can use customer journey maps to create a timeline of the purchasing lifecycle, for both their own business as well as client businesses, and identify the goals customers have at each stage.

Knowing where customers are in the journey and what goals they have at each stage allows you to deliver the right information, on the right channel, at the right time.

The end result: increased engagement, revenue, and brand loyalty.


Customer Journey Mapping Examples

To better understand what a customer journey map is, it’s helpful to look at some examples:

Source: Business 2 Community

A basic customer journey map shows the major stages prospects move through before making a purchase.

The steps in the buying journey will vary based on the product, selling model, and industry.

Source: Accent

A more advanced customer journey map might detail the stages in the journey, along with the types of content that should be delivered to prospects at different stages.

Source: Forrester

An advanced journey map can be developed over time to include many additional details that can be helpful for companies and marketers.

It may contain details on key decision-makers, customer needs and goals, influencers, appropriate content types, and appropriate channels for each stage.

It may also extend beyond the purchase to map the entire customer lifecycle.


How to Create a Customer Journey Map in 6 Steps

A customer journey map can be an extremely useful tool for hitting, or exceeding, your digital marketing goals.

Map out the stages of the journey for different buyer personas to engage prospects and customers with more targeted and personalised communications.

Follow these six steps to developing a customer journey map. 


Step 1: Conduct Research

The starting point for creating a customer journey map is collecting as much information as possible about your prospects and customers.

There are many ways to do this:

  • Interview existing customers. Existing customers are a wonderful source of information. Gather their input by conducting user research—send surveys, schedule interviews, and organise discussion panels.
  • Interview sales and customer service staff. You also need to gather information about prospects who didn’t convert, and former customers who left. Salespeople are great sources of information on why some people don’t become customers, and customer service reps can provide common reasons why customers fail to renew.
  • See what your competitors are doing. Review the websites of your biggest competitors. Take note of how information is organized on the site, and look at what CTAs are used on different pages. This can provide insight into competitor maps.
  • Collect user behaviour data. If you have an existing website, you can use an analytics program like Ruler Analytics to create a map of how users interact with your website and its content across multiple sessions.

Once you’ve collected as much research as possible, review the information to find themes. The behaviours, concerns, goals, and actions that are repeated across multiple sources will become the stages of your customer journey.


Step 2: Define Your Customer Journey Stages

As you’ve taken time to conduct research, you should have a good idea of the steps your prospects and customers go through when considering, making, and utilising a purchase.

The most important thing at this stage is avoiding making things overly complicated. Because you have a lot of data, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details that you end up creating complex flow charts with dozens of steps and points of diversion.

Keep it simple.

Remember that you’re not trying to account for the detailed experiences of every single customer over every single touch point.

You’re simply creating a high-level version of the journey based on the majority of the research you collected.

Start with a basic set of stages that you know prospects and customers go through.

Here’s an example:

  • Awareness – The prospect becomes aware of a problem or need.
  • Exploration – The prospect is actively researching solutions.
  • Comparison – The prospect is researching vendors.
  • Purchase – The prospect decides to make a purchase.
  • Validation – The customer uses the purchase to solve the original problem.
  • Renewal – The customer decides whether or not to renew.

Go through your research, sort customer goals and behaviours into these stages. When you’re finished, you may have additional information that doesn’t fit into any of these stages.

In that case, you may need to add a new stage.

For example, say you have a lot of research where prospects tried to solve the problem initially with a free service.

It wasn’t until those services failed to solve the problem that customers decided to make a purchase.

In this scenario, you may want to add an experimentation stage before the purchase stage.

You may also find that the steps are out of order.

Say for example that most of your customers start with a free trial.

In this case, the validation stage may need to be on the timeline before the purchase stage.

You can also remove stages if you find they don’t apply.

If you only sell one-time purchases, you probably don’t need a renewal stage.

When you’ve finished this exercise, you’ll have a complete timeline showing each of the most important steps your customers take on their journeys.

To keep things simple, create the initial draft in a program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Step 3: Adjust Stages for Different Buyer Personas

Not every buyer will take the same journey, so you may need to go one step further and refine the stages based on specific buyer personas.

Say your company targets both SMBs and corporations.

Review those personas and your research to determine if either persona needs a distinct journey.

For example, your SMB persona is probably more likely to experiment with free solutions before deciding to make a purchase.

Your corporate persona probably doesn’t bother trying free services.

For the corporate persona journey, remove the experimentation stage.

However, the corporation is more likely to have an implementation stage, where the SMB is more likely to self-service the purchase and its onboarding.

The corporate persona journey, then, will have an implementation stage that doesn’t appear in the SMB journey.

List each persona above its journey on your draft, and edit the stages of the journey as necessary.

Step 4: Identify Customer Goals for Each Stage

Now that you have timelines created for each customer journey and have identified the major stages in those timelines, it’s time to take the most crucial step: determine what goals customers are trying to achieve at each stage.

The research you did upfront is very helpful in this step.

Ideally, you’ll have information directly from your customers on what goals they were trying to achieve.

If your research doesn’t provide answers, you can still move forward.

Just imagine that you’re the customer in that stage, and think of exactly what you would be trying to accomplish.

You’ll come up with the right answer from the start, but if you don’t, it’s really not a big deal.

Your customer journey map should be a living document that you test, edit, and refine frequently as you gather new data.

For the initial version, use your best-educated guess, and take time to validate the information later.

Add a “customer goal” row to your draft, and add at least one goal to every stage of the journey.


Step 5: Map Stages to Different Digital Touch Points

Once you know what customers are trying to achieve, you can determine what sources of information they’re likely to use to achieve those goals.

Start by seeking these answers in your research.

If that doesn’t work, educated guesses, that you’ll validate later, are just as effective in an initial customer journey map.

Add another row to your draft, this time for “digital touch points.”


Step 6: Map Goals and TouchPoints to Content Types

The final step in creating a digital customer journey map is identifying what content types are appropriate for different stages of the journey and different goals.

Use your research or make your best guess, and validate the information later.

Add a content row to your draft, and add types of content that are appropriate for each stage.


Using the Customer Journey Mapping Process for More Effective Marketing

With a draft of your new customer journey map complete, you’re ready to start using the information to boost engagement with anonymous visitors, undecided prospects, and existing customers.

The information you’ve collected can be used to improve the effectiveness of many different digital marketing approaches.


How a Journey Map Helps with Content Marketing and SEO

First, use tools like Moz Keyword Explorer, LSI Graph, or Google Keyword Planner to build a list of search terms that are relevant to your business, products, and services.

Once you have a list, conduct a search for each keyword. Click each page-one search result, and see what type of content appears.

Click each page-one search result, and see what type of content appears.

Compare the content types that were in the search results to those that you recorded for the different stages of the customer journey. This should give you a good indication of what stage of the journey users are in when they search for those keywords.

This should give you a good indication of what stage of the journey users are in when they search for those keywords.

For example, if the results are all third-party comparisons, user reviews, and price comparisons, people searching for that keyword are most likely in the comparison stage.

The content you create for that keyword should be designed to help the user meet their goal of narrowing down her options for potential solutions.

Not only does this help you cater content to the user’s specific needs in that stage, but it also provides you with clarity on potential CTAs or related information to include in the content.

You know users in this stage are also interested in case studies, so link to relevant case studies from that content. You also know that they’re considering free options, so you may want to link to a feature comparison chart that compares your product to free services.

Finally, since you know the prospect probably isn’t yet ready to make the purchase, you can avoid wasting your CTA on demo and purchase offers. Instead, consider using a subscribe CTA to encourage users to opt-in to receiving marketing emails.

This will provide you with an opportunity to stay at the top of their mind while they’re in the process of testing free solutions.


How a Journey Map Helps with PPC and Display Advertising

The process described above can also be used to point PPC ads to relevant and contextual content. After conducting the research, you know where people are in their journey when searching for the terms you plan to bid on, so you can link to the types of content and promos that are most likely to meet their current goals.

In terms of display advertising, the customer journey map becomes very helpful for retargeting campaigns. Setup retargeting ads to trigger when users visit specific pages of your site that indicate what stage of the journey they’re in. Then, use display ads to either re-engage those visitors or guide them further along their journey.

For example, say someone looked at your pricing page and then left the site. You can assume they’re in the comparison stage. Show them ads across other sites and social media channels that promote case studies or free trial offers.


How a Journey Map Helps with Email Marketing

The best approach to email marketing is to segment your audience so you can deliver personalized content. The journey map allows you to do this easily.

If you’re sending introductory-level blog post promotions to your entire email list, you’re missing an opportunity to drive prospects deeper into the sales funnel.

Instead, you should be segmenting your email list by each subscriber’s stage in the buying journey. You can identify stages by reviewing the types of content subscribers engage with. If they’re engaging with introductory blog posts, they’re probably in the awareness stage. If they’re engaging with promotional offers, they’re probably in the experimentation stage.

If you know what stage the user is in, you can follow up with content that’s designed to cater to that stage, as well as to guide buyers into the next stage.

Keep in mind that segmenting your subscribers into the appropriate lists and sending personalized emails to different segments is a lot of work if you’re trying to do it manually.

If this is an approach you’re interested in, you may want to look into a drip email or marketing automation platform that will perform these tasks automatically.


The Importance of Digital Customer Journey Mapping

The spray and pray approach to digital marketing no longer works. The most successful marketers and agencies are those that cater to their audiences.

Take time to build a customer journey map. Abandon your business goals briefly, and learn more about the goals of the people you’re trying to engage. This is the best approach to driving true engagement—and one of the simplest ways to hit, or exceed, your marketing goals.

Written by

Director at Ruler Analytics with a background in online marketing, lead generation and analytics. Ian’s role includes designing automated workflows and integrations to help clients attribute the marketing effectively