By John Kennedy on 2017-03-30 15:26
Think about the last time you made a major online purchase. Was it a holiday? A mobile phone? A dishwasher may be?
Now, think about where in your buying process did a particular brand stand out for you? If you bought a dishwasher, perhaps you found it by searching for "best dishwasher for the money" or "discounts on big brand dishwasher machines". If Google was the first place you went to search for your dishwasher then you have joined the over 80 percent of us that conducts online research before they make a purchase.
When we as customers follow a sales conversion path, logically, the company that we ultimately buy from needs to be present for us to interact with somewhere along that journey. As customers in today's 24/7 world that multi-channel journey can move across mobile, laptop, TV, or in-store without us even giving it a passing thought. So companies now need to think about how to go beyond the “what” and “how” of customers’ behaviour to reveal the “why” by understanding a customers’ needs, motivations and preferences.
Conversion Paths Are Getting Longer & More Complex Than Ever Before.
To get a positive return on your sales and marketing efforts and stand-out, you'll need to offer value and a great customer experience (CX) all the way along the buying journey. Being able to offer advice and value to prospects regardless of whether they’re ready to buy, builds credibility and authority for your brand.
In an ideal world, as companies we would like to think we have the time for one-to-one conversations with every prospect to build trust and momentum toward a sale. But lack of time, money and limited resources have prevented such an approach.
Fortunately, the new world of digital provides a possible middle ground - where we can scale-up the volume of our personalised interactions. The key is to understand more about your customers, to then be able to focus your time on developing the right message and content, distributed at the right time through the preferred channels.
To be able to increase your powers of engagement and long term success it is necessary to combine your buyers persona profile, a carefully mapped out customer journey and an empathetic approach to the key "moments of truth" to turn inefficiencies into opportunities.
One of the biggest challenges facing companies when they want to become customer focused is the lack of a "customer or buyer-centric" view within an organisation. A way to overcome these barriers is to breakdown and review the total customer journey from the customers perspective.
So how do we map the theoretical framework of a customer journey and integrate it into a sales and marketing strategy to improve the customer experience?
What Is A Customer Journey Map?
It is important to understand how your customers find you, and the journey they take from their first point of contact, through to a sale, after-sales and hopefully to repurchase. You need a visual time line of stages and touch points that your customer passes through.
Megan Grocki writes in How to Create a Customer Journey Map: “A Customer Journey map is a visual or graphic interpretation of the overall story from an individual’s perspective of their relationship with an organization, service, product or brand, over time and across channels.”
Viewing the journey from a customer’s perspective, to understand what they would like to receive compared to the experience you are providing, enables your company to spot the gaps that impact the customer experience. Removing these inefficiencies not only improves customer experience, it may also save the company money and increase revenue. And of course bring you closer to the customer.
In order to become a journey driven organisation, you’ll need to understand the customer journey and what actions to take. The HubSpot inbound methodology below lays out the stages of a customer journey, the actions and the tools used to lead a stranger toward becoming a customer and a brand promoter.
Each step in the customer journey will probably have a number of touchpoints, a company needs to ensure at each point that the customer receives the required level of experience to keep them satisfied.
So When Should Customer Journey Mapping Be Used?
If you want your company to achieve any of the following:
- Understand your customers
- Improve your overall customer experience metrics
- Expose changes and trends in customer behaviour
- Locate customer issues and work on addressing the priorities
- Identify areas in which you can differentiate your customer experience
- Discover how customers engage with your brand across different media
- Uncover operational inefficiencies and reveal unmet customer needs
- Breakdown organisational silos
- Identify customer segments that matter most to the bottom line
- See and approach things from a customer’s point of view
- Track customers across multi-channel journeys
- Provide a shared internal vision of the customer
- Design a new customer experience
- Uncover and document differences in customer journeys
Going Beyond Drawing Up A Map - Barriers To Success
A customer journey mapping is a valuable tool in documenting customer interactions, but it will not drive change all on its own. Through internal workshops, customer research and senior managment support it provides a platform to shift to a customer led and insights driven company.
We have listed below some of the "bumps in the road" when embarking on this journey for you to avoid or address early on in the process:
1.) Thinking of this as only a workshop exercise
To help set the correct expectations, participants need to be educated on the purpose and given exercises pre-workshop (i.e. mystery shopper, visit competitors, etc.) to get them making notes about the customer experience and feel the practical applications of the exercise.
2.) A touchpoint map
A customer journey map outlines the entire sales conversion pathway from end-to-end, whereas a touchpoint maps details only the interactions that a customer has with your company.
3.) Speaking to like-minded colleagues
There can be a tendency in an internal workshop to gravitate towards views that reflect common or strongest opinions. It would be useful to form a cross-functional group to accurately reflect the different mix of departments and their experiences of the customer’s journey.
4.) "if only they had asked me..."
Involve all the right people from the beginning, those responsible for the different points along the journey - you want to make sure that you tap into all available expertise, sooner rather than later.
5.) Support from senior management
Without support or sponsorship from the leadership team, as an exercise mapping the customer journey will fail.
6.) Remember to speak to customers
Often we believe that we know more about our customers than we actually do and forget to validate our thoughts by reaching out to the actual customers and taking an "outside looking in" view.
7.) "One size fits all"
With different personas, you’ll usually have different journeys. And even if two personas are taking the same journey, they may have a different perception of it - so there is no such thing as a generic customer journey.
You may have finished the workshop and drawn a beautiful map, the hard work comes now to keep it alive, updated, used and understood.
9.) More than just website data
In reality, analysing website behaviour is only one part of the many sources of data available to mapping the customer journey.
10.) A single customer-centric view
Companies often work within silos, the impact of this can be a fragmented and inconsistent customer experience across various points along their journey.
11.) You can't grow what you can't measure
If you want to manage customer experience you must measure it, and review and share the metrics regularly.
Salesforce reports that “86% of senior-level marketers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey.”
To get a better understanding of this end-to-end journey, we as sellers need to know how to map it to be able to influence it. This isn’t possible without first understanding the journey, the key customer touch points, the buyer persona and how this links to your company.
What’s next for customer journey mapping?
The true value from creating a map is not derived from the exercise itself but from the actions that follow it, how well you operationalise the information and knowledge that you have gathered. Using it for example in a comprehensive inbound marketing programme.
Below we have compiled a list of 61x questions to help you fully understand your B2B customer journey. These will enable you to become more informed of what the journey looks like for your customers and your company and where you need to focus your efforts.
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