According to a study from Salesforce, 51% of marketing leaders measure success with revenue growth. Only 22% look at customer satisfaction, and a mere 18% look at customer retention rates. In today’s digital world, that’s a little bit backward.

What drives your business? If it’s not your customers, you’re making a big mistake. In a world where a single poor Yelp review or negative mention on social media lives on the web for all eternity, and where a single bad customer experience takes 12 positive ones to make up for it, happy customers need to be your number one priority.

There are plenty of ways to make this happen in your organization. One method is to follow the principles of design thinking — a human-centric way of designing everything from products and services to production and logistics chains. That’s all well and good, but how do you focus on your customers? What is their experience like? How do you turn what you know about them and their experience with your company into actionable information?

This is what a customer journey map is all about.

 
Learn how to connect every interaction across email, mobile, advertising, and the web — along with sales and service — into a seamless customer experience.
 

Ninety-four percent of businesses use a corporate website, 83% use email marketing, and 79% use social media marketing. Chances are you’re using all of these strategies and more. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to fully coordinate your marketing efforts? What if each of these components were perfectly synced to lead your customers on an enjoyable and satisfying journey with your brand — a journey that not only put money in your pocket but inspired raving fans and positive reviews?

There is: It’s called a customer journey map.

In the simplest terms, a customer journey map is a diagram of the touchpoints a customer has with your company. The map helps you understand how your customer interacts with your brand in every portion of the sales funnel — and how you might improve those interactions and make them more efficient.

There are many different types of maps. Some look at the entire customer journey, from their first knowledge of your existence to initial purchase, to their experience with the product and customer support, upgrading, replacing — or (hopefully not) switching to another brand. Others look at a small portion of the journey, such as a customer’s path through the marketing process or their support experience.

On the television show Mad Men, Don Draper and company pioneered the future of marketing firms everywhere by pushing for market research and getting inside the heads of customers so they could tell people what to buy.

But this way of marketing has run its course, and so has the business strategy behind it. With today’s digital and social media landscape, telling customers what to buy simply isn’t effective anymore. More and more, consumers turn to people they know and trust, not companies, for advice on what to buy. This makes individual customer experiences more important than ever. Whatever a customer’s journey with your company, they’re now more likely than ever to share that with hundreds (or thousands) of their closest Facebook friends, too.

So how do you control what people say about you on social media? The answer is: You’re asking the wrong question. You can’t control social media. Sure, you can take Buzzfeed’s advice on writing great headlines and create posts that give your brand a better chance of controlling its story, but social media is unpredictable. It’s more like a force of nature than a mathematical equation.

That doesn’t mean you should completely relinquish control. Instead of asking how you can control social media, focus on what you can learn from it — how it can help you shape your business into a successful brand that consumers want to be a part of.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an ecosystem as “a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.” If we forget about the literal definition of the word “physical,” we find that social networks fit right in. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all ecosystems of people and brands interacting with one another.

You’re part of that ecosystem the moment you set up a profile, create your first post, or are mentioned by another user. The principles of digital marketing say, therefore, that you can change the ecosystem with what you add to (or take away) from it, but you’ll also be changed by what others say and do on the network.

Just like nature’s ecosystems, social networks are:

  • Growing or Shrinking
    From a starting point of just a few friends to 1.13 billion daily active users on average for June 2016, Facebook has been growing since its creation in 2004. Meanwhile, Myspace started the same year, growing from 1 million users to more than 75 million in 2008, and then declining. As of January 2015, Myspace’s numbers were closer to 50 million.
  • Evolving
    Most networks start out as a community of individuals with an interest in sharing something, whether that’s business contacts, cool stuff they find on the web, or photos. It’s only after enough individuals become invested in the network that it becomes a great place for marketing. That, and the gradual addition of features, such as business pages/profiles, paid advertising options, and analytics.
  • Organic
    There’s no way to control the conversation on the web. Sure, you can pay for ads or boost your posts, but ultimately networks are living, breathing things that need organic participation from the community. What user wants a feed full of ads — even targeted, interesting, well-produced ads? You don’t, so why would any other customer?
  • Unpredictable
    Because the web is organic, there’s no way to know what’s coming next. You can plant the right seeds and water them, but your success rate is completely unpredictable.

In a digital marketing ecosystem, consumers are collectively in charge. A system like that demands a consumer-centric approach. Luckily, social networks and other web traffic already produce a lot of data. Companies like yours just need a way to harness that data so you can carve out some space for your brand.

Enter the customer journey map.

 
Join us for the webinar where we will provide you with real-world, no-fluff guidance for mapping and implementing journeys in your organization.
How do you tell the story of a customer’s journey? After all, isn’t every customer’s experience different? Of course it is. You couldn’t possibly build every customer’s journey map, but that’s what data is for. It will help you outline several potential customer journeys, including common touchpoints, to focus on.
You’ve already been collecting data from your website analytics, marketing platform, CRM, sales data, and other sources. Patterns emerge. Fanatics , for example, noticed their users were fans of multiple sports teams. Most often, they were fans of teams in their region, their alma maters, and those that their friends and family rooted for.

Got your data? Great. Now get more. You could be up to your ears in numbers and statistics, but without the right kinds of data, your map will be off-base. If you don’t have enough data yet, you’re not alone. Forty-three percent of senior-level marketers expect to see an increased need for data and analytics expertise over the next 12 months. Just make sure you have both kinds of data: analytical and anecdotal.

  • Analytical Data
    There’s a good chance that what you have so far is analytical. How many of your customers live in the United States, what are their ages, and which products have they bought? Those are all analytical data points. These are great starting points for choosing specific customer journeys to focus on because you can compare them directly with the data points of other customers and discover broad trends.
  • Anecdotal Data
    Without anecdotal data, you miss the details that fill in the full picture. Anecdotal data is based on direct customer stories and experiences. Unfortunately, it can’t be aggregated into a single chart. Pay attention to what people are actually saying with social media monitoring (not just whether they Like or Share your posts) and conduct interviews. You can still get some analytical data in an interview by asking questions like, “On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel about our brand?” But the point is to understand individual journeys.

Once you understand how you interact with leads and customers both online and offline, you need to put it into an easy-to-understand graphic representation — a map — to share with your teams. Most customer journey maps follow a basic structure. Time, or rather the different stages of the customer lifecycle, will form a spine to structure the map. Your map’s spine might have areas such as:

  • Inquiry
    The customer decides to shop for your product or service.
  • Comparison
    The customer investigates several competing brands to find the best one for their needs.
  • Purchase
    The customer decides on a brand and takes action to buy the product or service (successfully or not).

Add customer interactions along the spine. Start from the beginning, when your customer realizes they have a need. What specific needs does your company fulfill? Then list the ways customers may become aware of your brand, like:

  • Searching for general information on Google
  • Asking a friend for advice
  • Speaking with a consultant from your brand

Include how you engage, educate, and entertain your audience, both before and after the relationship is formed and the purchase is made. Through every stage, important thoughts and emotions drive customer behavior. (We discussed such factors in the anecdotal customer discussion above) Chart these as they come up along the spine of your map, and identify where you can make the process more enjoyable for your customers.

The last step is the most important: annotations and interpretations. Take some time to study your customer journey map: Pinpoint a customer’s most positive moments and where they struggle most. Where are those points in the journey? How can you reshape those touchpoints at each stage to make the journey easier, faster, or more pleasant?

Write your recommendations on the map right next to their touchpoints. Now you have a baseline customer journey map that anyone in your company can understand in minutes. Use this map to guide the creation of maps for other segments of your customer base, or try to create a map that helps you understand the most common journey customers take from awareness to relationship with your company.

You’ve put together your customer journey maps that focus on getting consumers from discovery to “yes.” It’s a lot of work, although some tools make it easier. Either way, don’t let your efforts go to waste. Here’s how to get the most out of your customer journey maps.
Remember the digital marketing ecosystem? You now have a map of how you can thrive there. Share it with everyone in your organization who can update your website, social media profiles, and other marketing materials. Share it with anyone in a customer-facing role. Only 17% of companies have fully integrated customer data across their entire organization. Simply sharing your newly minted customer journey map across all departments will put you ahead of the curve.
With a customer journey map, you can see how everything your company does affects your customers. Having an official, well-researched, beautifully executed map could be the difference between data reports that gather dust on a shelf or companywide policy changes that put the customer first. In today’s digital marketing ecosystem, that’s essentially the difference between folding up shop or taking the market by storm.
Don’t forget that your customers’ expectations and feelings toward your brand are constantly in flux. Customer journey maps aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Invest in gathering new data to fine-tune your customer journey maps regularly. When you introduce a new product or service, change the purchasing process, or launch a new marketing campaign, revisit your maps. Any time you make significant changes in any of your touchpoints, ask for feedback. Keep gathering and analyzing data so your company stays dynamic, relevant, and powerful.
Kathryn Casna is a digital marketing and travel writer with customer-facing retail, hospitality, and event production make up her professional roots.
 <a href="https://www.salesforce.com/products/marketing-cloud/best-practices/customer-journey-maps" target="_blank"><img src="https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/images/marketing-cloud/hub/customer-journey-maps/customer-journey-maps-how-to-guide-your-leads-to-customers-embed.jpg" alt="Customer Journey Maps: How to Guide Your Leads to Customers"></a> 

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