A business is all about solving a specific pain for a defined audience. To do this well, you likely engage in a lot of customer research, read industry reports, and follow influencers on social media to stay on top of trends. But how many of you have gone through a customer journey mapping exercise? Even for established companies, a map of how customers go through the process of choosing one company over another yields valuable insights. Insights you can use to make better products and services, and market these offerings better than ever.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

In the simplest terms, a customer journey map lays out how your defined target market ultimately purchases from you. Told from the perspective of the customer, a customer journey map includes:

  1. How your audience becomes aware of the pain that your company solves.
  2. What research they do on potential solutions to their problem, what blogs they read, videos they seek out, search words they use, conferences they attend, etc.
  3. Which features they compare different vendors on, who they speak with to validate their research, and when and why they want to talk to your sales team directly.
  4. How and why they finally select you over your competition.

Of course, there are post-sales activities and repurchase activities, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll focus on mapping out how to acquire new customers, rather than repeat customers. But the principles are the same.
This process may sound simple, but if you’ve gone through this exercise before, you know that there are different journeys for different personas or market segments and that you’ll need to do several maps to understand your target customers. And while you don’t know all the actions performed outside of your walled garden, you can use what you know now and refine as you learn more.

Why Go Through a Customer Journey Mapping Exercise?

A customer journey map is a powerful tool for a lot of aspects of your company. For content marketers, it will help identify what content to create and how to serve it to customers so it’s delivered when they need it. For user experience managers, a customer journey map will reveal when a user switches between devices or channels and where there are gaps in your current system to address this behavior. For sales, a map will reveal the context of how the company has arrived as an inbound lead, or what behavior signals purchase intent and should therefore be proactively acted on.

How Do I Start Mapping My Customer’s Journeys?

The first place to start a customer journey map is with your website analytics. How do your website visitors find you? Which keywords do they use, which ads do they click on? How is this different for top-of-funnel content versus bottom-of-funnel content?  Then, look on social media to gather information about how your audience perceives your brand. Then, ask your current customers and target audience about their behavior with a survey. You don’t need a fancy research firm to run this survey either. A favorite hack for many marketers is to use something like Craigslist and a free gift card to get people to take your survey.
Flush out this data with qualitative data from your sales, marketing, and post-sales support to get a more complete story.
With this data in hand you can work backwards, from closing a sale, to comparison, all the way to awareness stage. Again, it won’t be perfect, but it will help you learn more about your customers. And when you know more, you can add to the map and do even better.


Image: Stock Unlimited