A person planning a trip with a map on a table
Customer Journey Mapping Helps Understand Your Customers Pain Points PHOTO: Shutterstock

Customer journey mapping sounds like it could be yet another technical exercise that your team could probably do without but according to these experts, it's quite the contrary. They are a necessary part of understanding and breaking down the barriers between your business and it's customers. 

Customer journey maps are just as simple as they sound but they can be more useful than you could imagine.

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation (get those pencils ready) of the experiences your customers have with your brand. For example, in one scenario, a customer becomes aware of your brand via an Instagram post, visits your website, signs up for your newsletter and then, after receiving some valuable content via email, they go on to buy a product from your online store. That’s one example of a simplistic customer journey map. Sure, your customer journey maps could get a little complex if you have an omnichannel customer experience in full flow, not to mention if you get detailed with how the customer feels at each stage, and what kind of value they need to progress, but generally speaking, you’re just trying to understand each interaction your customer has with your brand in a visual way.

Once you understand how your customers interact with your brand, you can begin building strategy to improve each step in their journey to convert them faster, more efficiently, all while providing more value along the way — a sentiment echoed by Michel Ballings, Business Analytics and Statistics Professor at the University of Tennessee. 

“Brands should care about customer journey maps because they are the foundation for improving customer experience and ultimately customer lifetime value,” says Ballings.

Getting Started

As you might imagine, customer journey mapping is the process of detailing each interaction your customers have with your brand. It’s an exercise that shouldn’t be looked at as a chore, but instead as an opportunity to step into the customer’s shoes to experience their digital pain points. “[Taking time to research and take in the process of creating a] customer journey map can help a company gain insight into how their buyer moves through the sales process from visitor to lead to marketing qualified lead to sales qualified lead, to customer,” says Lisa Masiello, CMO and Founder of Nashua of NH. based TECHmarc Labs.

According to her, using customer journey maps will help businesses uncover points at which processes and programs can be improved as well as areas where you are excelling. "It will also enable you to deliver the right messages at the right time using the right format, and ultimately increase conversions,” says Masiello.

First, Look Within

CMSWire reached out to Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at Feasterville Trevose, Pennsylvania-based-based SEMrush for his take on what a brand’s initial approach should be when it comes to customer journey mapping. According to him, you want to analyze the data you have to hand in order to identify your ideal buyer. “You should always start with yourself. Look at people who are already among the ranks of your purchasing customers. Customer mapping ensues from your buyer personas, so see which customers you can align with the overall image of your “ideal” buyer, and make sure you learn about each and every audience segment,” says Adrienko.

Once you know who your ideal buyer is, you can begin learning everything about their digital behavior. Adrienko shares that brands should learn all they can about their ideal buyers including their behavior, how they interact with various marketing channels, whether or not they’re active on social media, and so forth. “Eventually, you can start looking at what strategies — remarketing, landing page optimization, special offers, etc. — will work best to convert your ideal buyer into a purchasing customer,” he said.

Lisa Masiello agrees adding, “The first step is to work with members of your management team to establish your target customer based on your company goals. Don’t assume that your largest customers will be your best customers. Customers with the highest revenue impact, which close most quickly, may not be the largest customers."

She continued by explaining that, in a B2B space for example your best customers may be companies in a specific industry, in which case, the next step is to review each of those companies and determine who the key players are and what their motivations are. Before you begin to actually map your buyer’s journey, it’s important to have an understanding of both your target company and the different stakeholders within the organization,” she cautions.

Define The Stages Of Your Customer's Journeys

Your customer research shouldn’t stop at learning all you can about your potential buyers. In fact, the most important part has to do with defining stages of a customer journey, according to Andrienko. So, identifying the stages that your customers go through is the core of customer journey mapping. “Only once you uncover the process of how [a customer] gets from Googling a search query like “how to ask your boss to give you a raise” to your self-confidence coaching blog, who then makes a purchase of your training course, will you be able to really solve the biggest challenge of all time — to get that customer acquisition dilemma covered,” he said.

Once you understand where your customers (and also, where your best customers) are coming from, you’ll be in a position to spot patterns. For example, you may notice that case studies and real-life stories convert your warm leads into customers. If that's the case then you can make sure that you target more warm leads with that kind of content.

Identify The Barriers

With a customer journey map (or a set of customer journey maps) in hand, it’s time to embark on some internal research. Brands should start by talking to their salespeople and researching their website and it's data, according to Ballins. But putting your internal teams and data pools to one side, you should also consider the "voice of your customers" when it comes to locating their pain points. “When it comes to customer journey mapping, the voice of the consumer is essential,” says Mark Nicholson, VP of Marketing at Vancouver-based NiceJob.

“In addition to providing insight for identifying gaps between channels, departments and devices, it can help a business consider the customer sentiment, questions and needs, says Nicholson. He also shares that for those starting out that don't have a lot of customer feedback data, analyzing online reviews can provide a foundation to better understand many consumer concerns barriers and pain points.

When you have a list of potential barriers — like a relatively long sign up, or a limited set of payment gateways — you can start addressing them to make the customer journey map as smooth as possible.

Check Out Your Competitors

Finally, to ensure that your maps are covering all bases, you want to check out the competition to identify channels and strategies that your customer journey maps don’t already encompass. “If you aren’t sure or need a double-check for your customer journey mapping and marketing strategy, the most cost-efficient and effective strategy always starts with competitor analysis. Analyze how your competitors attract customers - look at their traffic sources, which channels work or don’t work for them and where they attract their most loyal audience. Stealing your competitor’s most effective strategies is not a crime, it is wisdom,” says Andrienko.