4 Steps to Customer Journey Mapping Nirvana

Hey, there. Yeah, you. I’ve got a secret. A little insights secret. Come a bit closer. There. Can you hear me?

Over the last decade or so, we’ve all seen the marketing funnel splinter. The customer – her, them, us – has so many choices, so many ways to access and vet options. The power dynamic hasn’t just shifted, it has quaked. Who hasn’t heard this: “I always do my research before I buy ____ .” “I’m the research queen.” If you are a brand marketer/product designer/innovation strategist (insert other consumer-facing position here), the road forward is fragmented, and each step has its corresponding emotions, actions, and distractions. Wouldn’t it be great to have some sort of insight tool that can shed light on the real customer path? The behaviors, attitudes, delight, and pain points that she encounters on the way to your product/category/experience. Behold: The customer journey map. A straightforward process and framework that aims to capture the full customer experience. And, when done well, it can coalesce often siloed consumer-facing teams and inspire a more nuanced marketing and product development roadmap. Here are my 4 broad steps that can help you make this work within your organization:

Benchmark: Ground yourself

As with all fact-finding missions, before starting consumer fieldwork, gather your major stakeholders in any way possible (e.g., individual interviews – face to face, phone, short workshop, google doc, survey) and build alignment.

  • Download what is known across teams (marketing, product, CX, data science, etc.): in-going hypotheses, perceptions of the journey, CRM survey open-ends, personas/segments we want to pursue, competitive analysis, etc.
  • Identify what is unknown: What confuses, what are barriers to entry, underlying motivations, who is the real customer (parent or child, HH decision maker), duration of this journey – have we deemed it too long, too short, perceived competition, etc.
  • Agree on what success looks like: How should the final deliverable look, what does it need to achieve, what will this work impact within the organization – communications development, product development/refinement, innovation workshop, all?

Discovery: Define your target and design your methodology

  • Who will you talk to: Think through the key identifying variables of your broad user base: demographics, frequency of usage, awareness of category, awareness of brand, etc.
  • Go into discomfort zones: Journeys capture the full lifecycle which extends beyond purchase. Talk with power/passion users, latent users and rejecters.
  • Focus on the individual: I strive for pristine data so choose one-on-one interviews (video, F2F) vs focus groups. Use your analysis to uncover patterns.
  • Kickstart participant memory: We’re asking people to recall experiences which is inherently flawed (humans forget). Shore up memories with real-life artifacts: calendar entries, receipts, credit card slips, social media posts…. these items spark authentic stories and emotions.

Analysis & Visualization: Show your story

If you’ve done your job well, you are sitting on a trove of data (yikes!) with a need to synthesize in both a meaningful (make sense) and compelling (resonate and inspire) way.

  • Plan ahead: Talk with your client in advance to decide on best form of deliverable(s). They might not have a final vision so guide them towards what’s possible. They also might want to validate quantitatively so talk through how you can be of service to bring it all together without losing the humanity.
  • Sparring partner: It’s likely that you will be lost in the data weeds. Pluck someone from the team, the office (the street?) to share your findings. Telling a stranger the research story reveals its strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t answer their questions, you have more work to do.
  • Bring on the [design] professionals: Unless you have some serious design skills, work with a professional. They’ll elevate your work.

Action planning: So, what do we do now?

Admittedly, this isn’t integral to the journey map process, but it’s an important part of your client’s path. I try to bake it into the workflow. You’ve started the project with full team inclusion, help them all put this valuable information to use.

  • Can you share it to the full team, and have a Q&A session after?
  • Can you conduct a workshop/sprint to inspire some new ideas which they will prioritize?
  • Can you overlay it with jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework so the team can see how their respective plans match/meet where users are, and how they feel in that moment?

In my line of work (insights & strategy), I’m often asked to do what sounds impossible: Find the unknown, the latent, that which people can’t articulate. The pressure. Within this context, journey maps relax me. They reveal what’s just beneath the surface. They’re power tools that drill down to the customer experience and empower all customer-facing teams.

To learn more, watch the webinar Customer Journey Mapping: The Swiss Army Knife of Insights Tools

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