Buyer journey mapping is a process used by marketers to define the behaviour of their target audience when they are trying to persuade them to buy their product or service. Most commonly visualised as a marketing funnel, the journeys aim to cover all the touch points across multiple channels.

We sometimes document this with different customer segments that all lead to the desired business goal. But there is a problem. These journeys are more often than not viewed from the business’s perspective and not from the customers. Therefore, response rates are so low as the actual customer behaviour observed simply does not reflect the buyer journeys defined in the often idealistic planning sessions.

Let us give you a typical scenario. Company X needs to launch a new product. So, naturally, they brainstorm all the great things about the product that customers may like, resulting in a list of features, benefits and, ultimately, a value proposition. They take this list and distil it down into a few core messages. They then give these messages to the above-the-line team, the social media team, the campaign team and any other team that will listen. All in the hope they will use these messages in their respective channels. The aim of all this is to deliver consistent messaging across multiple touch points. This is hoping it will drive customers down the marketing funnel or along the journey to the product pages on the website. The website team will optimise the site so that it achieves the best conversion rate.

Content silos

The problem is that companies rarely align these individual teams around the customer, only around the messaging and their own internal objectives. These objectives are often independent of each other and sometimes conflict with each other. Therefore, what we have defined is an internal journey based on the business’s processes and channels and not in fact based on the customer’s actual buying journey.

Because of this lack of customer-centricity, many potential customers are not actually reaching your site. They may have dropped out much earlier due to them perceiving you as being irrelevant to them. This means that all the great UX work on your site offers limited results if the traffic going there to convert continues to decline.

The next obvious question is, therefore, what should a real buyer journey look like and how do you go about it? The answer lies in mapping out a customer’s buying journey from their perspective and not the business’s. This approach to buyer journeys considers their needs and wants via personas. It has a clear commercial goal defined, and then maps out the psychological steps your audience goes through in order to progress along the journey and reach the goal. Effective Buyer Journey Mapping flips the current model on its head to focus on the customer. It defines the information they require at each step of the psychological journey to move them forward towards the goal. This new perspective provides you with all the information required to create more relevant customer-centric engagements.

Engagement is with Content

These engagements come as content. And when we use the word content, in this context, we mean it in the broadest sense of the word. It encompasses everything from above–the-line adverts, direct mail, videos, images, infographics, customer letters, blogs, the website… because all customer communications are content.

Here you take your newly defined customer buying journey and see the information required by the customer at each stage. You then use this to create interesting briefs for content that will enable your audience to progress to the next stage. With this approach, the content and the messages being conveyed are more important than the medium or the channel it is going in. The result is much higher audience conversion as you are providing them with information they want and not with information you want to tell them.

The key thing to understand in this new digital world of marketing is that every customer’s buying journey starts with a single content step. Sadly, few businesses realise this and until they do, they will continue to see the low levels of engagement and not realise the business benefits.