The principles of customer journey mapping

Jun 28, 2023

Share

by | Jun 28, 2023 | Data and Insights, Strategy

Share

Understanding customer journey mapping is a useful tool in designing marketing communications, marketing operations and business workflows. They’re used extensively in consumer marketing to ensure frictionless experiences. Now, they’re being considered in B2B, and rightly so. 

With customer interactions being predominantly digital in today’s world; how a customer interacts with your digital properties and the information that’s carried from one touchpoint to another is critical to creating awesome customer experiences. 

As B2B organisations invest more and more in marketing technologies and CRM, there’s an even greater impetus to maximise the investment through better experiences that ultimately lead to higher revenue. The secret to that is understanding and designing the customer journey.

 

The story of the customer journey ‘scroll’

We’ve been working with a Chief Marketing Officer who’s been carrying around a rolled up scroll – a blueprint of the customer journey from his previous company (a global bank). It’s his bible and something he’s trying to recreate in his new role.  

It’s funny, because he carries this around with him, bringing it to meetings and using it as a cue to anchor strategic discussions around customer experience, marketing technology, database structures, communications and automation. He literally unravels it across the desk to highlight his points and bring colour to the conversation.  

For him, the journey blueprint provides the overarching strategy for much of the marketing operations structures and framework. By thinking about the experience and how you want the customer to engage (or how they might engage organically), it ensures that you have the right tech, the right message and the right data collection points at each stage of the journey. The aim is to make the journey frictionless and positive.   

For me, it demonstrates the power of mapping the customer journey thoroughly.  

In the CMO’s new role, he’s seeking the same blueprint in order to guide and direct his next actions. His aim is to re-engineer the customer experience to ultimately drive revenue from a new market segment. As an organisation, they’re increasingly digitising their processes and automating workflows, and they’re considering new tech solutions to enable their new world. So, it makes sense to determine the customer journey, map it out and then align the message and technology with each touchpoint.

As we went through this process with him, I wanted to share the major considerations and logic behind mapping a journey, particularly when considering the technology and data requirements.

 

Customer knowledge is paramount

First and foremost, you need to understand your customer – put yourself in their shoes. Think like them and ask yourself how they’re likely to respond. This means, any customer journey mapping should be supported with insights-rich customer personas that align with the segment you’re mapping. At this stage, understanding their communication preferences, buying habits and information watering holes (media preferences) is important, as these can all play a part in informing the journey and the experience. 

 

Map out the stages of the customer journey 

With most sales processes, there are well known steps and stages. At each stage the customer thinks and feels something. To support this, information is shared by the organisation to the customer, data is collected, a workflow is triggered and a classification is changed.  

Each stage is supported by sub stages at each linear stage. Examples might be:

  • Lead
  • Prospect Stage 1
  • Prospect Stage 2
  • MQL
  • SQL
  • Opportunity
  • Quote

When mapping a journey, these linear stages would go right through the customer lifecycle to churn risk and renewal.

If you’re using a digital demand programme connected to a Customer Data Platform (CDP), your audiences can also be captured as part of the journey, as the CDP will allow them to be connected back to customers at the later stage in the journey.

 

Bring to life the customer touchpoint

Journeys can be very fact-based with little emotion, so adding a bit of life through verbalising what the customer is doing, how they’re feeling and what they want to achieve is always really helpful to paint a picture of intent. This also helps to frame what’s happening, what the technology needs to do and the customer’s state of mind.

This part of the journey map is frequently used to direct communications and help channel the appropriate response from the customer.

Customer journey mapping

Defining the data points when customer journey mapping

Every touchpoint creates a digital record that needs to be recorded. This is only useful if your technology is set up to capture the data and store it. Therefore, when mapping the journey it’s critical to understand the data created by the touchpoint, what needs to be captured and where, and how it will be stored. From this, you can design the workflows, personalisation and automation later in the journey.

A key principle here is the concept of ‘frictionless’. In our day-to-day experiences as digital buyers, we know how slick the experience can be. We know that organisations are collecting and storing data about us to enable a better experience.  

In B2B, we’re playing catch-up, but now, as marketing technology has been developing specifically for B2B use, we’re finding B2B organisations are keen to provide the same frictionless digital experiences as B2C.

Some examples might be:

  • Only inputting the data once (if you have the data, you don’t need to ask me again)
  • Remember my preferences 
  • Get my personalisation right
  • Have my details easily accessible when you talk to me
  • Don’t make me repeat myself – you already know what products I’ve purchased

This level of data comes down to data integrity, quality, visibility, accessibility and permissions within your CRM.

Quite simply, if the fields aren’t there or aren’t in the right place, or the information isn’t structured in a way that enables a frictionless experience, then the journey will break down.

 

Know the technology required in your stack

At each stage, you need to map the technology involved. First of all, identify the technology at each stage and also the data the technology uses or collects, and finally how the customer interacts with it.

Then, tell the story of how the technology works and how the customer interacts with it. This helps showcase what the technology is doing at each stage and how it supports the journey.

For example: (Lead to Prospect conversion stage)

Customer Journey

 

To do this effectively, you need to know the capabilities of the technologies and how they can serve the journey. This process also creates a gap analysis and the opportunity to create a business case for a new martech vendor, or retirement of an existing technology that’s not fit for purpose.  

 

Identify the data fields and calls

Each stage has various data components that can be collected within each marketing technology. The fields that are populating should be identified so that any future mapping can be effective and built into the roadmap.

As the journey develops, new data is captured at each stage that should be mapped out. By the end of the journey, you’ll have a clear picture of the data being captured by the technologies. This includes identifying the data flow between different sysytems, determining necessary field mapping, and creating appropriate field names.

This also starts a conversation around application programming interfaces (APIs), data warehousing and automations.

 

 

Customer journey data fields

 

 

Identify the technology vendors at each stage of the journey

As part of the journey, it’s always good to document the vendors at each stage. The role of technology and the data points are already documented above, but this gives a quick-glance, visual cue to the technologies involved along the full customer journey. 

 

The customer journey mapping process in practice 

The process for customer journey mapping is complex and requires input from multiple stakeholders – it isn’t a piece of work that you do regularly. It needs a lot of consideration since what it’s doing is creating the framework for business processes, marketing communications and technology architecture. All of which takes a lot of time and thought. 

 

Subjectivity in the mix

It’s worth saying that whilst effort is taken to pull from different insights and data sources, the journey itself is subjective. It’s what ‘we think’ the journey should be.  

Whilst the data collection points, fields and technology won’t change, the comms and engagement points are likely to evolve over time as learning and performance feed into crafting the best customer experience.

 

Seek best practice from industry leaders

Often it’s hard to draw upon what good experience looks like, so it’s best to consider other practical examples. The ideal approach is to participate in a workshop alongside others. By doing so you’ll have the opportunity to capture personal experiences of ‘wow’ moments linked to digital experiences, knowledgeable call handlers or a thoughtful piece of personalisation.  

What sits behind all of these is a solid and well thought through customer journey – where technology is linking data and insights to automated experiences.  

 

Get buy-in from senior leadership

When tackling this kind of exercise, there isn’t much point in doing it on a whim. It typically happens when a new CMO starts, the business is transforming or there is a technology revolution in progress. All of these present significant change and therefore senior stakeholder, preferably board sponsorship, is required to carry through the recommendations of the customer journey.  

 

Next steps
If you’re thinking about understanding your customers more, building a frictionless journey or augmenting the one you have, talk to us.

Further reading

Google’s new SGE & what it means for your SEO & PPC strategy

The future of marketing research