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March 24, 2016

Mapping the Customer Journey

How well do you know your customers? And just as important—how well do you know the journey they take from the time they identify a need, discover your products and services, or make a purchase decision? The buyer’s journey is something sales and marketing teams should be evaluating on a regular basis so they can help new customers navigate it as efficiently as possible. Many sales teams would be able to give you a good overview of who their customers are, but most would struggle to identify the workflow of how they typically interact with your company.

This is where the valuable practice of customer journey mapping comes in, as it allows sales and marketing teams to see who, when, and with what tools and content they should be approaching prospects throughout the sales cycle. The typical customer journey can be broken into three phases: awareness, consideration, and decision. The touch points and content used during each phase can have a dramatic impact on the duration and ultimate outcome of the journey. So how do we make sure sales reps are presenting the right content to the right individuals at the right time in the customer’s journey?

Mapping the customer’s journey is becoming an important tool in modern sales and marketing, and for teams with long, complex sales cycles, the mapping process itself can be challenging.  Here are a few things to consider when mapping the customer journey:

  • Sales reps typically learn a lot about a customer throughout the process, but that information may not be compiled in a way that can be shared with other members of the team or compared to other customers’ similar information. Put together a process for documenting experiences with prospects and customers so the data can be compiled and accessed in a way that enables you to see patterns in the buying behavior. Track which individuals, job titles and divisions were involved in the process at which stages. Also track the questions customers asked and the answers provided to help build a map of the people and information exchange involved in the process. Templates like this one from the Content Marketing Institute will then help your team to distill the collected data and create content that matches the needs of each individual at each stage of the journey.
  • While high-performing sales reps may know who they need to interact with during the process, there’s a stage of the customer journey that occurs before the sales rep is even involved. With the amount of information prospects can find on the Internet and the variety of communication channels available today, that first stage of the process is becoming longer and more involved. In order to make sure you’re not falling short in understanding this early phase of the journey, it’s important to have comprehensive tracking of visitors’ interactions with the content you have made available on your site and other digital channels. This can quickly become a massive data set, so having the right tools to analyze it is important. A presentation by McKinsey & Company says “Reporting just tells you what happened. Analytics, however, is about unlocking not just what happened, but also why and what to do. Far too many companies focus on reporting, but analytics is what you need to make decisions.” There are many marketing automation solutions available today (a topic for future posts) that can help you leverage analytics and make sense of the massive amount of data accrued across all your channels.
  • The map you are creating is more than just a timeline. As referenced in this article from HBR, it’s important at each stage of the map to think about the actions users are taking, what motivates them, the questions they may have, and what obstacles they may come up against. Knowing these things in advance will help you to better understand issues throughout the sales cycle and combat them proactively.
  • Use all the data you’ve collected and analyzed to create content and training materials for your sales team that will help them understand the journey prospective customers take on their way to a buying decision. These training materials will help your sales reps present better solutions at the right stages throughout the journey and really excel at consultative sales.

Sales and marketing teams will benefit from a better understanding of the customer journey—knowing who’s involved at each point as well as what content and tools will be needed to guide those individuals through the process. Mapping the customer journey gives reps the information they need by taking data from past experiences and turning it into useful insights and targeted content, thereby speeding the journey and directing it in your favor.



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