All brands want to build better relationships with their customers—especially those in competitive industries.
Customers decide when to interact with your brand, and it’s up to them if they engage with the promotional material you share online about your solution. This means your content needs to show up in the right context at the right time throughout a customer’s journey.
You could guess based on gut feeling or a surface-level understanding of the industry, but that can get very expensive when you consistently need to optimize for performance.
Instead, customer journey maps allow your entire team to truly understand your customer’s journey to solving their problem and exactly what content you need to create to help them along the way.
Shifting Your Mindset to Customer Experience
Customer journey maps are not about selling products.
I repeat: Customer journey maps are not about selling products…
They don’t describe your brand or the benefits of your solution, and they definitely don’t describe any features of your product. A customer journey map is not about your business—it’s about your customer’s problems:
- How do they think about their problems?
- How do they feel throughout the process of solving their problems?
- What do they do at each step of the process?
As marketers, we need to put down our selling tools and pick up our listening and observing tools. This can be hard to do with revenue targets hanging over our head and competitors knocking at our door, but customer loyalty is a long-term game—and it is totally worth it. Why do we all want customer loyalty anyway?
Repeat business and referrals.
This Forbes article has a collection of key statistics about the value of the customer experience—including this powerful stat about loyalty:
“Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend.”
If that’s not enough to convince you, then remember that your customers have expectations for their experience with your brand—and those expectations are higher than ever.
Customers expect you to know them, to understand their problems, to demonstrate empathy, and to design a customer experience that meets their needs.
In fact, 73% of customers expect you to understand their needs and expectations … but only 51% of customers feel that companies actually do this. 👎
Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement. In this post, I’ll share some tips for creating your own customer journey map because, after all…
Great customer journey = great customer experience ✅
The Secret Ingredient to a Great Customer Journey Map
To create a great customer journey map, you need to break customer pain points into micro-sized problems, then analyze each one to find out what information customers are using to make decisions and what might influence them along the way.
The secret ingredient is this:
The more detailed and specific you can be, the richer the experience will be for your customers. When you know exactly why and how your customers research solutions to their problems online, you can be there to support them and demonstrate through content that you understand their needs. This puts your brand in the best position to present a relevant solution.
By organizing these details visually—i.e., in a customer journey map—you can identify patterns and consistent topics of concern. This will help you see where you need to focus your content marketing investment.
Visualizing a customer journey map also makes it much easier to communicate with your own team for customer experience and content planning purposes.
Finding Detail Starts With Researching Your Customers 🤓
We recommend creating personas in order to understand your customers’ pain points, needs, perspectives and challenges before mapping their journeys.
This is because each persona you target may have a slightly different journey, and the more detailed you make your journey maps, the more opportunities you’ll have to create relevant content.
Once you have your persona, you need…
The best way to fill in the gaps is to conduct content marketing research.
Content marketing research typically includes three areas:
- Your customers
- Your competitors
- Your industry
This research will result in a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. There are many topics you can explore when conducting content marketing research; here are a few suggestions for each of the categories mentioned above:
- Pain points and problems
- Current and potential customer perceptions of your brand
- Preferences of current and potential customers
- The buying process
- Content consumed/available throughout the buying process
- Barriers throughout the buying process
- Customer behavior
- Customer reviews
- Keywords customers are searching for
Pro tip: If you’re looking to dive deeper into customer research, I recommend bookmarking our guide to creating a B2B customer persona—we break down the whole process for you.
- Competitive positioning
- The need each competitor is serving
- Competitors’ websites and social communities
- The health of the industry
- Relevant trends
- Barriers or shifts that are having a negative impact
Your personas and your content marketing research should allow you to go through every stage of the buyer journey and identify what your customers are thinking, feeling and doing—and what kind of content you could create in response.
How To Create a Customer Journey Map
Now that you have tons of detail, you can jump into the mapping process.
At this stage, you’ll be exploring what customers are thinking, feeling and doing as they move through the decision-making process.
The typical decision-making process includes Awareness, Research, Evaluation, Decision, Validation, and Loyalty. This process can be customized depending on your industry, but it’s a great starting point.
What Your Customer Is Thinking
Use the research you’ve collected to complete all the sentences and answer all the questions below as if you were the customer.
Awareness: I have a problem.
- I need to improve…
- I need to prevent…
- I need to start…
- I need to stop…
- I need to optimize…
- I need to solve…
- I need to learn…
Research: I’m looking for information.
- What tools are available to solve my problem?
- What solutions exist to solve the problem I have?
- What products or services are available that might solve my problem?
- What brands are most qualified to solve my problem?
Evaluation: I have some information about solutions, and now I have more questions.
- What will address my problem most directly?
- Can I afford it?
- Am I confident in the solution?
- Who else should I collect information from?
- Have others tried this?
- Is there proof that it works?
- What is the benefit of this solution?
Decision: Now I’m interested in a specific solution (yours), but I have a few more considerations before I close the deal.
- I need to confirm pricing.
- I need to confirm it will solve my problem.
- I need to confirm I can trust the company.
- What happens if something goes wrong?
Validation: I am now a customer, and I want information that will help me use the product or service.
- What other aspects of this product or service are valuable?
- What do I do if I need help?
Loyalty: I am now a loyal customer. I want to tell others about this solution.
- How can I share the success I’ve had?
- What can I do to help others in my network?
- What is the best aspect of the company and product to share?
- Can I have a stronger relationship with the company?
How Your Customer Is Feeling
You also need to consider how your customer is feeling at each stage of the decision-making process. These feelings play an important role because most (if not all) decision-making is connected to how a customer feels about their problem, how they feel about the solutions presented, and how others will perceive their decision.
Here are some thought starters:
- Are they anxious during the awareness stage of the decision-making process?
- Do they find the research and evaluation phase overwhelming?
- At what stage do they feel excited and confident?
When we appreciate our customers’ feelings we can craft content with the right tone and in the format they’ll find most useful.
What Your Customer Is Doing
During your research phase, you should have collected feedback from customers about how they discover solutions. You also should have accessed your website analytics and search tools like Ahrefs to understand how they’re searching for answers, both on search engines and on your website. Use this information to answer questions like these:
- Where are they researching online?
- What search terms are most relevant to them?
- What social channels and social groups are they using to gain perspective?
- What information on your own website is most important?
- Are they using live chat?
- Are they calling customer service?
Every action you identify is an opportunity to support your customers. Your brand can be in the right place at the right time with the information they’re looking for, demonstrating that you have what they need to solve their problem.
A customer journey map is all about understanding the fine print behind your customers’ problems and their path to a solution. Stay focused on that, and you will have a wealth of knowledge to create content that is tailored to their needs at every step.
Keep in mind—a customer journey map is not meant to be a one-and-done thing. You’ll need to update it at least once a year, especially once your business realizes how valuable the customer journey map is to your bottom line.
Because guess what? By creating content and distributing it through the most relevant channels, you will improve your customers’ overall experience with your brand. Content marketing and the customer experience go hand-in-hand, and customers won’t hesitate to pay for a great customer experience. In fact, this report forecasts that customer experience will become more important than price in 2020—already, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
You can’t have a great customer experience without content! So what are you waiting for?
Download our free B2B customer journey map template, follow the process we covered in this guide, and don’t be afraid to go into DETAIL.