Customer Journey Mapping

Customer Journey Mapping: How to Optimize your Website, Content and Products

With customer journey mapping, you can understand even better than before who belongs to your clientele, what drives them and how they experience their "journey" as customers. In turn, you can use this to improve your content or even your offers and products.

In this article, I'll explain in more detail what makes a customer journey map helpful, how to create one, and what alternatives there are, e.g. an empathy map.

What is a customer journey map?

A customer journey map brings together the two tools "customer journey" and "persona" in an interesting and useful way. It uses the same phases of your customer's journey, which can look like this:

  • Awareness: The person first identifies a problem or need and sets out to find appropriate solutions.
  • Consideration: They learn more about possible offers and products and finally compare several options.
  • Purchase: They make a purchase decision. 
  • Retention: Ideally, this person has such a good experience that they keep coming back.
  • Advocacy: And if the experience is inspiringly good, they even tell friends, acquaintances and colleagues about it.

The special feature of the customer journey map is that it uses a persona to record and visualize the typical sequence for such a journey. See also our article Customer Personas - Identifying and Understanding Target Groups. In other words, while the persona represents a group of customers with similar characteristics, the customer journey map shows their experiences with the company while they are on their journey.

Not: Just as a persona is not an exact representation of a specific person, the customer journey map is not an exact representation of a specific journey of your customers. Firstly, this would hardly be feasible and, on the other hand, it's not even necessary. The map is rather a generalization. Nevertheless, it should be based on real data and not be an idealized fantasy version.

Content marketing guide

Customer journey mapping helps you create target-oriented content. Our e-book Content Marketing for Agencies and Freelancers explains how your content needs to look to reach your target audience.

A customer journey map can, however, still be helpful if you don't yet have such data, for example for products and offers that don't yet exist. In this case, it helps to implement the appropriate landing pages, product pages, and other content and activities. This map is then necessarily fictitious. But it should still be based as far as possible on insights that you've gained from e.g. existing products and offers.

Difference between a customer journey and sales funnel

If you look at a customer journey, at first glance it looks very similar to a sales funnel. After all, both structure the path of a previously unknown person to a new customer and beyond. One crucial difference is that a sales funnel is conceptualized from the company's point of view, whereas the customer journey is conceptualized from the customer's point of view.

In this respect, the sales funnel is a good way to think across the board and fundamentally about whether all the essential phases of new customer acquisition have been considered. The customer journey and especially the customer journey map help you with the details and thus to take the perspective of your customers.

This change of perspective is very important for your content activities: It ensures, for example, that you don't emphasize the features of your offers, but rather how they benefit your customers. And you think more about the questions, problems or doubts that your (potential) customers have.

This is especially helpful in content marketing to encourage the right kind of thinking. You ultimately want to gain trust and build a relationship with relevant and helpful content. It also helps you to write sales pages and product descriptions correctly.

How does customer journey mapping help you?

The basic idea of customer journey mapping is to understand the journey of your customers in enough detail and to present it clearly enough that you can use it to optimize your website structure, your content and, if necessary, your products and offers. At the same time, you can use such a map to create an argumentation basis vis-à-vis superiors to improve certain points. A customer journey map allows you to show why a certain task or investment is necessary in an easily understandable way.

With the help of the customer journey map, you may find that your customers receive a response to a service request, but the team doesn't follow up later to make sure everything was handled satisfactorily. With your customer journey map, you can now not only show that there's a need for supporting software here, but also what effects and advantages spending money on it would have.

Mapping will also help you better understand how and where you reach your potential customers. This will help you better target not only your content, but also your ad campaigns, for example. And that's a good thing, because addressing an only vaguely defined audience and then hoping that your target group can be found somewhere in there will become very expensive in the long run.

Customer Persona Template
Personas can be a basis for your customer journey map

In addition, a customer journey map shows you which touchpoints exist and what role they play. It answers questions such as: Where and how do people interact with your company or at least perceive the products and offers? This makes it clearer where you should focus your efforts or where resources are lacking. 

Example: It could become clear that your own website plays a different role than initially thought as customers first look for information in comparison portals. It would then be crucial that you can be found here with your products and offers.

As you'll see in a moment, the customer journey map is also about people's thoughts and feelings. And that in turn helps you create the right content and implement it appropriately. In this way, you counteract doubts or negative emotions at the decisive moment.

What belongs in the customer journey map?

A customer journey map ultimately consists of these components:

  • Buying process: Here you take the typical phases of the customer journey (see above) and list them horizontally, for example.
  • Activities: What do the people in question do at each stage? Do they talk to friends or colleagues? Do they search on Google? Do they use a test offer on your website?
  • Emotions: How does the persona feel at each point in the customer journey? What are the worries and thoughts?
  • Pain points: What are the biggest difficulties and challenges in each step?
  • Solutions: And finally, you record the ways in which you want to better accompany the customer journey. Is more content needed? What about software and services to better interact with your customers?

Steps to the customer journey map

Looking at the numerous details of a customer journey map, you may feel overwhelmed. At this point, I would like to repeat a point from above – this map is a simplified and generalized representation of reality.

But because these maps can still be elaborate, you'll only need to create a few. Ideally, you start with your most important persona and only gradually add more maps. These should then be easier for you as target groups are often similar enough to use the first customer journey map as a basis.

If you haven't created personas yet, however, this step should come first. You need to understand your real customers before you get started. In general, see which insights are already available here and which are not:

  • Web analytics tools are one possible source for gathering information.
  • Social networks usually offer you insights into your followers. 
  • The next step would be to survey your customers, for example via a survey form on the website. Limit yourself to the questions from which you can learn the most – the shorter, the better.
  • In addition, it's generally recommended to talk directly with your customers. You could schedule interviews with a few selected people and chat with them for 20 or 30 minutes. Of course, this isn't going to be easy in most cases because like you, your customers have a lot to be getting on with. But it's worth a try.
  • Talk to colleagues who have direct contact with the target groups. This includes sales and customer support. Naturally, they only see part of the customer journey and it's up to you to classify it correctly. But their experience and insights can still be very valuable.

If you're completely new to the topic, Wolfang Stefani explains in detail in his article What personas are for and how to create them step by step. He talks at length about customer interviews. Our e-book on targeted customer acquisition can also be a helpful resource to get you started.

What is the final result?

Customer journey maps can look very different, as the examples linked below show. The key is that they show the course of time, the different touchpoints, as well as the thoughts, motivations and feelings of the persona.

The result should not be so complex that it would take someone a lot of effort to understand and apply it. But it should also not be so generalized that it no longer makes clear statements or has little relation to reality. So find out which points are particularly important.

Your goal should be that as many people in your company as possible can understand your customer journey map. After all, what's the point of all that effort if the end result ends up in a (virtual) drawer, never to be seen again?

In the end, this customer journey map could become a poster hanging on the office wall, for example. This helps to anchor it in people's consciousness. The following examples can serve as inspiration:

One alternative: The empathy map

A customer journey map can be quite complex and elaborate. An empathy map, in contrast, is a simpler variant that pursues similar goals. Instead of mapping the entire customer journey with its phases and touchpoints, however, the empathy map is more of an extension of a persona.

At the end, you'll have a visualization of the person in question surrounded by six paragraphs:

  1. Think and feel. What is important to these people? What are they concerned with? What worries and hopes do they have?
  2. Hear. What do family, friends, colleagues, influencers say is influencing this person?
  3. See. What or who do they see as a role model in their environment? Which competitors are there? What do friends and colleagues do?
  4. Say and do. What is this person's attitude toward others? What do they do in public?
  5. Pain. What fears, frustrations, or obstacles do they face?
  6. Gain. What does this person want to achieve? What does success look like to them?

Here, too, real insights should ideally serve as a basis, as already described above in connection with the customer journey map and the persona model.

You can design the categories of an empathy map differently if it makes it more meaningful or easier to implement. Based on his experience, Paul Boag recommends the following modification, for example:

  1. Tasks. What is the person trying to accomplish? What tasks are pending? What questions do they want answered?
  2. Feelings. How is the person dealing with what they're experiencing? What is important to them?
  3. Influences. What other people, things, or places influence how this person behaves?
  4. Pain points. What difficulties is the person experiencing that they want to overcome?
  5. Goals. What is the ultimate goal of this person? What do they want to achieve?

Admittedly, a customer journey map probably seems like an enormous task, especially for a small team and even more so for self-employed people. Keep in mind that this map doesn't have to be perfect right away. It is a living document. 

Also, at the creation stage, it can already serve as a reminder of what you don't yet know about your clientele and their problems, questions, and challenges.

Your questions about customer journey maps

What questions do you have for Jan about the customer journey? Feel free to use the comment function. Do you want to hear about new online marketing posts? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or sign up for our newsletter.

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