Whether you’re selling something as simple as t-shirts or something as complex as automation software, every sale is the product of a buyer journey that takes users from interested prospects to paying customers.
From the point they realize they have a problem that needs to be solved to the time they’re pulling out their credit card to solve it, every buyer’s journey is filled with unique touch points and opportunities to show your prospects why you’re the best choice for their needs.
Your job as a marketer and/or entrepreneur is to figure out what those touch points are and what your customer needs at every stage in their journey to encourage them to purchase from you and not a competitor.
Here are some key stats as to why focusing on the customer behavior, experience, and needs are important:
- 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs.
- More than 80% of companies who prioritize customer experience are reporting an increase in revenue.
- Customers will spend 17% more for a good experience.
- Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t.
Let’s look at some tactical activities and tips you can start using today to map out your buyer journey that aligns with your business objectives.
Defining the Buyer’s Journey
If you’re looking for a technical definition, the buyer’s journey refers to the steps a person takes to solve a problem that results in purchasing a product or service.
Here’s a simple example:
You move from Florida to Alaska and find your lightweight jacket isn’t enough. You start researching online for the best types of coats or jackets that will keep you warm. Google suggests a longer parka versus your sheet-thin warmup jacket you wear to the gym. You start looking for stores that sell parkas, preferably ones in your local town so you can try them on and test them against the cold. Finally, you find the perfect parka and make the purchase.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
A traditional customer journey maps includes four stages: Awareness, Consideration, Decision/Purchase, and Retention.
Mapping this journey gives you a visual idea of these steps. As your buyer moves from one step to the next, your goal is to figure out what friction they experience that may prevent them from moving to the next step. Once you discover their roadblocks, your next priority becomes adding value to them at that particular moment.
How to Create a Customer Journey Map that Works
The concept of a customer journey is simple enough, but putting it on paper can be challenging. In most cases, your customer journey doesn’t flow straight down your sales funnel. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, especially in an omnichannel sales environment. And even though most of the customer journey is now buyer-led rather than salesperson-guided, buying cycles are getting longer and more complex.
People are using more sources and taking more time to research and evaluate their purchases. This makes it more challenging for marketers because they have more pain points to discover and more points of friction to dissolve to keep buyers moving toward a purchase.
Still, it’s hard to argue with the fact that mapping out the buyer’s journey is invaluable to your sales and marketing strategy. Here’s how I approach the buyer’s journey from a visual perspective:
Create Your Buyer Personas
If you haven’t done this already, develop personas for the different types of customers that already buy from you or otherwise interact with your business. Not all customers are going to have the same needs or priorities, but they all will eventually make the same buying decisions.
I offer a free template for creating buyer personas on my blog that you’re welcome to use.
Focus on a Specific Persona
The whole point of mapping the customer journey is to focus on one type of customer and the specific path they take to buy from you.
You might have several unique personas that buy from your company. But for our purposes here, let’s focus on one or two of them. When you include too many different users and their unique priorities, your customer journey map can start to look confusing. You can always go back through the mapping process for your additional personas later.
I recommend starting with your most popular persona — the one that embodies the majority of your customers. Consider the route they take to go from awareness (this could be awareness of their problem or awareness of your company) to purchasing.
List Your Touchpoints
Touchpoints are all the different ways your customer interacts (directly or indirectly) with your company.
Some examples of touchpoints include:
- Your website (including contact forms, live chat, product pages, landing pages, blogs, and other content)
- Social media
- Paid ads
- Email marketing
- Third-party review sites, such as Google My Business
- Guest blogs or third-party mentions
You can do a quick Google search of your company to see who’s talking about you. You can also use Google Analytics to find your traffic sources and backlinks. Look for the touchpoints that are seeing the most action, as these will be the ones your persona is most likely to interact with.
Also, consider how each of these touchpoints play a role in each stage of the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision, and retention). If these touchpoints are being used by your customers at certain stages of their journey but don’t adequately support their needs, you’ll know where you need to make adjustments.
For example, if you’re only using email to market to previous customers, you could be missing an opportunity to continue nurturing the relationship with visitors that didn’t make a purchase but might buy from you in the future.
Take Inventory of Your Resources that Support the Customer Journey
Using the touchpoints above, take inventory of your resources that make up the customer experience. For example, if content marketing is part of your strategy, you might look at whether you have content that caters to the awareness, consideration, and decision-making stage. If you find that one stage doesn’t have the resources it needs to support customers, you can prioritize improvements in that area.
Embark on the Customer Journey Yourself
Once you create your map, follow it like a customer would to see if you can find any gaps or opportunities for improvement. You could also enlist the help of a friend or colleague to give you an outsider’s opinion on what you can do to improve it.
Final Thoughts: The Buyer’s Journey Isn’t Always Linear.
Keep in mind that mapping out a customer journey doesn’t always follow a straight path. Creating content and developing messaging for each stage of the buyer’s journey allows you to meet your customers wherever they are and produce an optimal outcome for both of you.