Customer Journey Planning: Making It Personal in 2019

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Ahoy, landlubbers!

You hold in your hands the most valuable map known to man: on one side, a drawing of a person; on the other, a giant X.

That’s the treasure, right there. But it’s not buried jewels or gold or even the friends we make along the way—it’s your product!

The thing is, this map isn’t for you (though you’ll definitely find it helpful). It’s for your customers, and it’s your job to fill the rest of it in.

a customer standing at one end of the road, viewing touchpoints along the way

Understanding your customers’ journey is vital if you want to help them actually reach your product.

Since customer journey planning isn’t one-size-fits-all, you need to be thorough and adaptable in your map-making.

By creating buyer-focused customer journey maps that center the customer experience and leave enough room for personalization, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) can increase their conversion rate, nurture their current clients and leads, and develop future business strategies that make that X at the end all the more enticing.

Customer journey maps and the sales funnel: Where do they differ?

Customer journey maps are typically associated with B2C marketing, rather than B2B. Don’t forget, though, that more and more B2B customers are looking for a B2C marketing experience.

Journey mapping is a tool that’s easily converted for the B2B world by focusing your efforts on those making IT decisions for various companies.

A comparison chart showing the differences between the customer journey map and the sales funnel

One important factor to note here is that while this chart clearly shows the differences between the customer journey and the sales funnel, it also aligns them.

Use the customer journey map to understand your leads and customers better, which—in turn—helps inform your approach to the sales funnel.

Know what matters before you start your customer journey map

Before you begin, there’s one thing you need to know: How you approach your customer journey map creation will greatly impact the end result.

If you come into the process looking to aid specific parts of your business (e.g., your content writers, designers, or your front-end developers), you’ll only be able to see bits of the customer journey, missing out on lots of helpful information along the way.

If you come into the process looking to help your leads and clients rather than yourself, not only will your entire team be aligned, but you can maximize your impact on your company and your clients’ journeys.

Combine quantitative and qualitative information to get a complete picture of your clients

There are two major schools of thought when it comes to gaining insight into your clients.

The first is the data-driven kind, which focuses on quantifiable information such as demographics, conversions, when more purchases are made, and how big your clients actually are.

The second is more personal and focuses on individual client experiences. While this information can be harder to parse, it can provide a strong sense of what your leads and clients went through to wind up at your door. It gives you context.

The key? Use both approaches.

If you just focus on the analytical, you’ll risk misinterpreting the data.

If you focus only on the anecdotal, you won’t be able to accurately predict the reasoning behind any missteps.

By merging these two types of information, you’ll paint a complete picture of your customers’ journeys.

4 ways to collect your client information

There are a few ways you can collect both analytical and anecdotal data to help you with your customer journey planning:

  1. Reviews collection: When you gather feedback from your clients, make sure you collect information on both who they are and their experiences, from finding out they had a problem all the way through selecting your software. Dig deep!
  2. Lead nurturing: As your leads work their way through their customer journey, keep detailed notes on any concerns they raise or obstacles they discuss.
  3. Involve customers in mapping: As you begin to shape your customer journey map, it can be helpful to hear customer voices in the meetings themselves. Get the information directly from the source whenever possible.
  4. Customer experience experts: Though costly, these experts can provide an unbiased third-party view of what your consumers go through, and how you can improve your touch points.

Understand the main steps that your leads go through before they convert

The easiest way to break down the steps your customers take is to borrow the same steps from your sales funnel.

Let’s rename each step from the perspective of your leads to ensure a focus on their actions, rather than yours:

An infographic showing the five steps on a basic customer journey map

Keep in mind that this map has some exceptionally broad strokes and doesn’t necessarily apply to every one of your leads.

3 ways to personalize your maps

Customer journey maps are only as effective as they are specific. You can’t make a single map and feel like you truly understand every customer’s journey, as everyone won’t follow the same path to get to your product.

Instead of aiming for one-size-fits-all, use these three tips to personalize your maps.

1. Focus on one specific type of customer before proceeding

Make sure that the data you’re using comes from the same general customer type. This lets you make a map that is generally applicable to everyone from that group without mischaracterizing other client groups.

2. Populate the steps with specifics from your research

Broad strokes are a good start, but now it’s time to focus on the specifics.

For every stage, include your client’s goals, the different ways they can and do interact with your company, and what questions they might have.

A personalized customer journey plan, though, should go beyond that. Incorporate the anecdotal data you gathered: What emotions were going through their head at each stage? Where were their frustrations and moments of relief? What helped shape their process and their ultimate decision?

3. Make sure every buyer-facing facet of your company is addressed by the map

While it’s vital to the success of the mapping process that you focus entirely on the customer’s experience, this map is still intended to serve your company.

When you’ve mapped out the gist of the customer’s journey, you should be able to identify every touch point where they interact with your company.

You can then bring each relevant department in on the process to review the customer journey map itself and help fine-tune it.

The final product

What you have now is a map that connects the person at the beginning with the X at the end.

This can look like any number of things, from a simple spreadsheet through something like this:

An infographic showing the five steps on a basic customer journey map

An infographic containing your customer journey map (Source)

No matter how it’s presented, make sure that your maps clearly lay out all of the information you need, or else you’ll hinder their efficacy.

What to do next: Use your customer journey maps

You’ve just spent a huge chunk of time, energy, and resources to build these maps. Now it’s time to use them.

If you have no idea where to start, see if any of these ideas fit your needs:

  • Use them to impact any of your extant touch points or build new ones.
  • Learn where your customers might be frustrated by your web design or UX.
  • Determine at what point customers want more information during their research or elimination phases, and use that to influence your content.
  • Use your maps to guide new software and services development to address common concerns across differing customer journeys.

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author

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Adam Rosenthal

Adam Rosenthal is a Senior Specialist Analyst covering Vendor Marketing. He received his Masters from the University of Chicago and worked on several TV shows you might have heard of.

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