“The customer is always right” - Harry Gordon Selfridge
You probably have heard of this term, haven’t you? But what does it actually mean? Does it really mean that whatever your customer says is right?
Well, not really. However it means, that when a customer has requests, concerns or questions you should be able to deliver a full blown amazing experience. Your customer should never have the feeling that he doesn’t get the information he asked for.
To deliver such an experience you will need to understand your potential customer from A-Z. This means diving deep into the so called customer journey.
If you are familiar with marketing you most likely have heard of the term already. But it is not just about knowing your customer’s journey. Instead you need to find ways how you will be present with helpful information along the entire way, building a long term relationship from the earliest day possible.
In this post I am going to show you how you can actually map down your customer’s journey starting from the earliest awareness stage to the final sale.
Mapping out this entire customer journey and combining it with actionable marketing tasks from the start will help you a big deal in planning and executing on your entire marketing mix.
To keep this post readable I am splitting it in two parts. In the very first part we will be concentrating on the customer journey until you get the sale and in the second part we concentrate on the customer’s journey after the sale.
Alright, I am going to show you my method of customer journey mapping which I have found to be very effective in the past.
Let’s dive in.
What is a customer journey?
“The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.” - Surveymonkey
As you can see the customer journey is outlining basically each and every step a person will take until the person becomes your customer. Along that way your potential customer will go through different phases and stages before he or she makes the decision to purchase.
Those different stages can also be summarised in the AIDA model.
The appreciation AIDA stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. Every person goes through those stages before buying. However there is no set timeframe for how long it takes a person to go through all of those stages, which basically also represents one part of the buying cycle.
You can either find yourself passing through all the different stages in minutes or hours or it can be months or years. This means that it is your job to be there for your customer in each and all of those stages with the right content and the right information your potential customer is looking for.
Of course in each of those different broad stages your customers will experience different situations or so called micro-moments. I will not go into detail of micro-moments in this blog post. However I will do so in another one.
To get a better understanding of all the different stages let’s take a closer look at them.
In this stage your potential customer does not yet know about your company or even the product you are offering. In order to make your name heard you will need to set up an advanced customer profiling not only to identify your potential customer audience but also to understand them.
You managed to get the eyeballs of your potential customer on your brand or product. Now it is time to convert the initial attention into proper interest in your brand or product. This stage is a bit tricky to manage, because you might be tempted to push for the sale a bit too early. So calm your horses and concentrate on deliver value to increase the interest in your company.
In this stage you managed to provide enough information to your potential customers that they are ready to take action and actually buy. However, sparking interest does not yet mean your potential customer will buy with you. Instead people start to compare prices, look for reviews and see how the can save a buck or two. This is your time to make sure, that you have a deal no one can refuse.
In the action stage your potential customer has decided to buy with you and is ready to purchase. To make sure that you are not losing your customer in the last minute ensure that you have outstanding customer service and a smoothly running sales process. Nothing hurts more than letting the dollar slip from your fingers!
By now you should have a better understanding of all the different stages. To put this theory into practice I am showing you my approach of identifying the customer journey step by step, so you are able to get a better understanding of your own customer’s journey.
Starting with the basics - Understand the purpose(s) of your product
Understanding the customer journey always starts with analyzing and understanding what it is, that the customer is actually going to get! We need to understand the purpose of our product or service.
When I am talking about the purpose of our product, I don’t just mean the thing you can do with it, but usually a product has much more to offer than you might think right from the start. Let’s look at a tiny example and try to get a better feeling for what I mean.
Let’s assume you are selling a tooth brush. What would the purpose of that toothbrush be?
Of course brushing and cleaning your teeth. But is that all? Not quite, there is more to a toothbrush if you dive in deeper (and let your thoughts go wild).
The purpose of a toothbrush can be physical health, it can help in promoting social position (as clean teeth are a sign of wealth). The purpose of a toothbrush can be general well-being, time saving in a tedious task or also a statement (isn’t a toothbrush one of the things you see the most when you visit the bathroom in a friends house?).
Now, you see that a simple and so common product such as a toothbrush can have so many different purposes and meanings. The beauty about this is, that you can use each and every purpose again for your marketing campaigns. Some people you will attract by promoting more health, some want a fancy toothbrush to place in their bathroom the others want that job promotion which they will only get with those extra white teeth. As you can see there is plenty of room for you to play around.
After you have thought more about all the different purposes your product can have for people, it is time to take a closer look at emotions your potential customers will or should feel when thinking of your product.
Applying the FWN Analysis - a simple way to understanding customer emotions
The next step is to dive deeper into the feelings and emotions that your potential customers can have when thinking about your product. To do this we use a method I call the FWN - Analysis (Fears, Wishes and Needs Analysis).
When carrying out this analysis it is your goal to get a better understanding of what your customers are feeling and associating with your product or on the way to buying your product. This will help you in finding the right words and moods for your ads.
Here is how it goes:
Step 1: Create one analysis per persona each
It is best if you have already all your marketing personas in place, as this analysis can and should be applied per persona. If you haven’t identified your personas yet you can keep it general by applying this method for your entire potential customer base.
Step 2: Prepare your tracking sheet
What you want to have in the end is a document which allows you to keep track of all the information you have collected, sorting all the different emotions directly to certain topics. Based on that you are able to categorize and also rate them by how important you feel they are for the purchasing decision of your product.
Step 3: Brainstorm
This part is the most fun. Basically all you need to do is use your common sense and understanding of your target group so far and add all the different feelings and emotions you think your target group will experience across different stages of the customer journey.
Step 4: Interview your customers or people that match your potential audience
This part can be done face to face or also online in bulk. This is up to you. In the end what you want to get out of this, is a better understanding of what your target group has been experiencing or is currently experiencing. This part is a bit tricky because it all comes down to the questions you are asking.
Step 5: Match all the gathered emotions to problems
Add them to the different stages in the AIDA model and to your personas. It is important that you are writing down all the different problems your customers are facing and spread them over the different stages in the customer journey. This will help by creating content topics, that are actually solving those problems.
If you follow all these steps, you will have a much better understanding of how your customers are thinking and what they are feeling. This will identify a lot of problems your potential customers are having.
Now we move on to the next part, which is connecting all the different informations, we have gathered about the real purpose of our product and the emotions and problems of our potential customers, with actual content that will help solve those problems at all the different stages.
Introducing the content to persona map
Now we are ready for the most important and core part of the entire customer journey mapping procedure. The first step is to prepare your content to persona map that covers all the different stages in the customer journey.
This process will be the first step in defining a detailed content marketing strategy. In this stage you are actually drilling down the different problems your personas have and combining them already with content topics, which are solving or helping those problems, in all the different stages in the entire customer journey.
To show you how powerful this step is, let me explain it at the hand of an example.
Let’s assume that you are selling stairlifts for people that cannot walk stairs any longer. Of course you will have different personas within your target group and each persona will have a slightly different customer journey, but to simplify this example let’s only look at one persona.
As you can see I have chosen a worrying daughter with elderly parents as the ideal target persona for this example. She will be looking early on for ways how to improve the life of her parents.
In the awareness stage she might be looking for domestic help, elderly homes, selling a house due to old age, renting out a floor as senior citizen or pain release for hip and knee problems.
As you can see, she is not yet interested in your product. This can be either because the exact problem of not being able to walk stairs has either not yet occurred or she is not even aware of this solution.
In this situation it is essential that you produce helpful content that addresses the current problems of your potential customers, without asking for a hard sale. By providing helpful content you will generate awareness about your brand early on and build a trusting relationship because you have been able to help out.
If you are now wondering why you should start producing content that you cannot even tie to a potential sale then here is why:
Of course just helping out is not enough, but you need to make sure, that you are not losing people that have viewed your article. To do this you have to options to rely on, the first one is setting up a 2nd tier retargeting campaign. And the other one is asking for an email address, phone number or any other kind of contact information of the people that are viewing this content.
Moving on to the next level: The interest stage. Here, our worrying daughter has already experienced or identified the real problem: Her parents are no longer able to walk stairs, which limits them to the ground floor of their own house.
In our example the worrying daughter is not yet aware that stairlifts exist. So she is looking online for help by searching for topics such as: “how to get up the stairs without pain”, “living in a two story house in old age”, “house lifts”, “lifts for old people”, “lifts for seniors”. As you can see, the topics are much closer to your actual product, now again what you need to do is provide relevant and helpful content for those searches.
By providing helpful content this is your chance to again capture leads and drive people through another retargeting campaign down to the next stage. The game is getting hot and your visitors are closer to making a purchase.
In the decision phase our worrying daughter is interested in buying a product like yours and is aware about your company and brand. However she is comparing and waving all her options. In this stage you want to make sure, that you are the chosen one by providing detailed and transparent information about your product or service.
Our worrying daughter is looking for testimonials, press articles, third party reviews and price comparisons. There you go, this is some content you should be providing.
The last phase in this part of the customer journey is the action phase. Here you want to trigger an action that brings in the sale with a very high certainty. To encourage an action you can offer different options that make sense for your product or service, such as free consultation calls, free trials, discounts or in store visits.
If you did a great job in all of those different stages our worrying daughter is going to buy her stairlift from you and you won one more loyal fan and helped another family in living a better life.
Understanding the different stages your potential customer can be in, is one of the most essential parts of our job as marketers.
Outlining and understanding the full journey of your customers should be one of the very first things your are going to outline in your entire marketing strategy. It not only lies the foundation for a detailed content plan, but it also shows you how you are going to build different conversion funnels to generate sales out of visitors!
Let me know in the comments below, if and how you are currently tackling customer journey mapping. Looking forward to your thoughts!