The Importance of Customer Journey
A journey is far more than traversing from point A to point B. A lot happens during the customer journey that can make them turn back and quickly lose sight of the destination. Thank goodness for roads and trails.
These beaten paths are ultimately a way to reduce the friction between points A and B. They can save us time and headaches along the way. Your customers are on a journey. Have you beaten a path for them?
At the heart of every business there’s a solution to a problem or problems that a person or entity has. It is the job of marketing to help the customer understand that your solution is the answer they have been waiting for. Unfortunately, marketing doesn’t work like manna falling from the sky. It’s never instantaneous. The customer always has doubts, questions, and sometimes they don’t even realize they have a problem. That is where the customer journey comes in.
Let’s cover some basics.
The Customer is Random. The Customer Journey is Not.
Without a doubt, most businesses don’t even think about this. They don’t make a plan to make everything connect. They have social media, they have a website, and they have an email list. But none of those things are working together. The customer journey is a strategic plan through marketing activities to move a customer through the marketing funnel. There is a reason why highways connect to towns and cities. You can’t make it from Phoenix to Atlanta on a single tank of gas.
Just because there is a neat funnel and clear path toward conversion does not mean any potential customer will even remotely behave that linearly. The goal here is to show them the way forward with the least amount of friction possible. Think of it like Google Maps recommending a route you take because it knows the fastest way to the end goal. It considers all kinds of variables that make the path clear. The one thing that Google can’t quite take into account – the driver. The driver can really make a mess of that route if it chooses.
When creating a customer journey, it is crucial to understand that the customer is the driver. You are going to have to reroute them to get them back on track. Plan for that too.
Start Planning a Customer Journey by Asking Questions
Commonly, marketers and business owners forget to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. This leads to a neat marketing funnel, but rarely a customer journey that ends with positive results. Here are some questions to ask when planning a customer journey:
1. Who is my ideal customer?
2. Where do they spend their time online?
3. How do they like to consume content?
4. Where do they seek information about the problem I solve?
5. How can I make my website more useful to them?
6. How do they prefer to be contacted?
The best way to answer these questions is to actually ask an existing client that is a good fit for the business or solution. Doing some quick customer interviews and building a profile around that information will help inform various aspects of the customer journey. Answering these questions will lead to an understanding of who would even embark on the customer journey, what channels to leverage to make them aware, where to send them for more information, why this solution works for them, when the best time to start the process is, and how they can get started.
Use the answers to these questions to identify what channels will be best for each stage of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty. Then plan out content that fits the needs of each of those channels and stages to keep the customer engaged in the process.
Bring it All Together
What makes any customer journey work is how well the channels feed into each other. To make sure that this transition between platforms and funnel stages is seamless, a lot of work needs to be done in three essential areas:
2. Credibility (reviews, testimonies, etc.)
3. Clarity about the next step
The customer has questions that need to be answered. First, about their problem. Second, about the solution to the problem. And third, about your business. Customers are tuned into WIFM Radio. They are asking, what’s in it for me? Content is how they get that answer.
Everyone who buys anything for the first time online now requires some type of social proof. Too many people have gotten terrible products from companies that sent them cheap stuff that doesn’t even look like the product picture online. Reviews, testimonies, associations, awards, or the word of a friend is the way people verify they won’t get screwed. Don’t ignore eWord-of-mouth.
Clarity about the next step
As I said in the introduction, it can be easy to lose track of the end destination. The website can make or break the customer journey. There are now dedicated professionals to user experience design. There needs to be clear messaging and clear calls to action that make sense for the stage the customer is in. These calls to action are presented in every channel, leading the prospective customer to the desired next step.
Example Customer Journey
Here is a fundamental customer journey using custom lip balm as an example:
Facebook advertisement for custom made lip balm > clicks through to Lip Balm Company Facebook page > scrolls more content from the company > checks Facebook reviews for legitimacy > clicks through to website homepage > lands on hero section with Call to Action “Take the Quiz” > takes the quiz > results are produced in the form of a product page with pricing and “Check Out” button > prospect is now a customer and part of the company’s email list where the company will nurture loyalty.
That was a pretty linear journey for that prospect. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way. Most likely, the prospect would abandon the cart, follow the social media page, and need to be served a retargeting ad three or four times before making a purchase. Remember when I said there would need to be some course correction? Course correction is totally normal. However, nobody can course correct when the course was never set to begin with.
In our example, the customer journey boils down to this:
Facebook ad > Facebook page > Website > Quiz > Check Out > Email List
This customer journey is comprised of six distinct steps but only three channels. One channel is not even used initially. Email will be used to get repeat business on new product releases and encourage repeat purchase based on the estimated time needed to replace a stick of custom lip balm.
Nearing the End
The customer journey is a powerful tool. It can make marketing better by increasing empathy for the customer, decreasing the amount of friction in the process, generating more meaningful content, and creating a clear path for both the customer and the business. The greatest thing about the customer journey is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or wildly sophisticated. The important thing is that it is done on purpose. Nobody buys anything by accident, so marketing shouldn’t happen by accident either.
Ryan Mann is the director of Lean Marketing. A great strategist and experienced marketer that has worked in agencies, freelance, and business marketing. He is driven by using marketing to connect people with their goals, and helping businesses grow. His biggest motivation is his family and turning amazing ideas into reality for businesses. With passion and hard work has led each member of his team, promoting their best qualities, building team confidence, and amazing team collaboration. Ryan is a fervent writer, he delights in blogs, essays, short stories, songs, and Haiku. Mr. Mann studied General Studies and has 3 minors in Psychology, Sociology, and Human Resources Development.