There is considerable amounts of noise and “trending” around customer journey mapping at the moment. While it is good to see that this now includes more about what content is required to guide customers through the stages of the marketing and sales cycle, there appears to be a lack of depth around the customers’ actual decision-making process with the focus of the mapping exercise being on the stages of the marketing and sales funnel. Although this will yield results (any focus on the processes will improve the customer experience), the customer is still missing.

State of journey templates today

Most template journey’s today look something like this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Evaluation
  3. Buy (Decide)

There are, of course, variations including extra steps but in essence this is the format. Here is an example from a hotel company describing what they do now and what they did before mapping the customers’ journey:

While this is better than simply going straight to the sale this is not how people make decisions. If we want the best (most effective) customer journey we should match the customers’ decision-making process and not our sales process.

In the article “Mapping the buying journey” I described what this decision-making (buying) journey is and explained why it is the same for all of us and for any considered purchase.

The first step in mapping a journey this way is to understand who the customer is – i.e. who is taking this journey and why which, of course, throws up a mountain of challenges. For a start, you will always have multiple audiences and purists will argue that every single individual person is a unique audience. They may be right in theory but the practical delivery of such a one-to-one marketing approach makes it largely untenable unless you happen to be a hyper-focussed B2B brand. For any other company it is about bundling your audiences together into logical persona groups.

You will note that I have used the neutral term ‘persona groups’ not ‘segments’. Yet again this is not semantics, this is about breaking with some of the bad habits of most existing marketing strategies. Most traditional segmentation fits criteria that has only limited bearing on a customer journey. Rather than comparing and contrasting, let us outline what we are looking for when defining a persona grouping: What are their interests and needs? What are their goals and aspirations? What do they care about or kept awake thinking about (pain and frustrations)? Who do they listen to, respect and turn to as influencers? What are their actual buying intents?

You can probably see that questions such as these (and there are many more) are quite different to standard approaches to segmentation, although there are still some basic things we need to know such as what do they read, watch and consume? However, such insight is only the start of the audience insight process. It needs be layered on top with some attitudinal understanding that will allow us to, ultimately, understand their personas.

Once we have this first “layer” we can then use these needs as the catalyst for the journey but as they progress through the journey we must recognise that their needs will evolve and change. So, we need to map their needs for each step in order to create the content that supports them in that part of the journey.

For more information on mapping the customer journey this way see this eBook. (this content is not gated!)