Customer journeys. That age old process adopted 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, customer journeys aim to cover customer touchpoints across multiple channels and 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 the customers. This is why response rates are so low as the actual customer behaviour observed simply does not reflect the customer 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 them down into a few core messages and give these to the above-the-line team, the social media team, the campaign team and any other team that will listen, and ask them to use these messages in their respective channels. The aim of all this is to deliver consistent messaging across multiple touchpoints in a bid to drive customers down the marketing funnel or along the customer journey to the product pages on the website. The website will have then been analysed and tested to the nth degree to create a UX (user experience) that increases the rate of conversion of the people that arrive on the site.

The problem is that these individual teams are rarely aligned around the customer, only around the messaging and their own internal objectives e.g. number of views, likes, opens, page visitors, visitor conversions, etc. that are often independent of each other and sometimes conflict with each other. Therefore, what has been 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. And because of this lack of customer-centricity, many potential customers are not actually reaching your site as they have dropped out much earlier due to them perceiving you as being irrelevant to them, meaning 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 customer 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 customer journeys takes into account their needs and wants via personas, 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 Customer Journey Mapping flips the current model on its head to focus on the customer and defining 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.

These engagements come in the form of content. And when we use the word content, in this context we mean it in the broadest sense of the word to encompass everything from above–the-line adverts, direct mail, videos, images, infographics, pdfs, 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 and use this to create compelling briefs for content that will enable your audience to progress to the next stage. With this approach, the content and the message being conveyed is 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 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 as a result.