For years, marketers intuitively knew that delivering better audience experiences would produce greater results. What they lacked was data to support the investment and effective tools for driving the process. That’s all changed. Recent data is suggesting off-the-charts returns on effort, and the tools are now in place.

The Relationship Era of Marketing is in full swing. An era where delivering greater audience experiences matters more than anything else.

Recently, my colleague Rebecca Gill presented an in-depth look at building content marketing personas, mapping journeys, and how to leverage them into highly effective marketing strategies and tactics. These tools are found at the foundation of every successful customer experience undertaking.

For some time now, I’ve been working with clients to define audiences, build personas and conduct journey mapping workshops. Through all these experiences I’ve come to realize there are clear factors separating the successful projects from the scrap heap of good intentions.

Persona and Journey Mapping is Not a Do-it-Yourself Type of Project

First and foremost, seek an outside professional to provide assistance in persona and journey mapping. Now I realize this might sound a bit self-serving, but I can’t tell you how many times after conducting a journey workshop I’ve heard the client say, “we’ve been trying to do this for a year now and you show up and we get it done in a day”.

In reality, these projects span several weeks of preparation, interviews, and persona development to get to the day of the workshop. What makes it seem so efficient is an underlying proven process.

I cannot stress enough, don’t try this on your own. Using experienced outside professionals assures the project is completed in a specified time period, with a minimum of client time and disruption to all the other projects competing for attention.

Outside Professionals Bring Experience and Expertise Critical for Success

I’ve conducted countless engagements and I learn something new from every experience. Over time I’ve developed a repeatable, highly efficient process for persona and journey mapping. This allows the client to focus on adding value through their own customer knowledge and experiences, without having to worry about whether the process is working.

Outside professionals also bring audience and market expertise with them. External shared knowledge built over all the other projects which serves to supplement and validate the commonly aggregated anecdotal information on the client side. Without the shared knowledge that comes with outside expertise (and we’ll talk about primary data in a minute) you’re building a less than accurate model. When you consider all the downstream investments you’ll ultimately make based on this work, ‘good enough’ is not where you want to be.

The Right Professional Should Also Bring a Completeness of Vision

Audiences are not one-dimensional in their journeys. They may begin with a search online for information but may also reach out to reliable networks for validation, seek references, visit multiple websites, and/or confer with organizations similar to yours, depending on the need, brand, and market.

Look for someone who has the experience in creating a work product with the completeness of vision to positively impact all aspects of the enterprise. In other words, don’t spend all the time and effort to end up with a deliverable that takes a narrow look at just one part of your business.

The personas and journey maps should be built to address all client touchpoints and experiences, including your website structure and search strategies, scheduling and service processes, associate structure and training, as well as leveraging technology to create convenience, higher levels of participation, satisfaction and brand advocacy. Remember, it is the cumulative experience that influences decisions.

Anchor Your Work in Fact

Starting with your own internal experts who have first-hand knowledge and insight. I like to include the doctors and nurses, patients and caregivers, sales representatives, and other front-line people from the client organization. They often have a wealth of factual information.

Secondary sources of market research can round out many of the missing elements but should be used only when primary sources are unavailable.

Audience interviews are the absolute best primary source – and at times amazingly insightful. Listen closely, ask open-ended questions, and let them tell their own stories. Done correctly, these individuals will define key aspects of the customer journey, provide the exact words you will need to use and most importantly, deliver the emotional aspects underlying their approaches and decisions that no other form of research can provide.

Persona and Journey Mapping Sets the Stage for All that Follows

You did all of this work to serve a higher purpose – creating audience-driven experiences throughout your enterprise. Make sure whoever you work with has experience in applying the project output to all the activities that should follow.

Specific to your website, you’ll want to create high-value user flows, inform architecture, drive design, and assure greater usability and relevance, to name a few.

Equally important is to establish audience-specific strategies for all your SEO, paid search, and social media marketing efforts. You’ll want to assure that your content strategy is persona-driven as well.

Finally, there are a wealth of other experience touchpoints you’ll want to consider as explained above. Think about a mix of high-tech and high-touch components to match the demographics and associated behaviors, wants and needs of your individual audiences.

Do You Need Help With Creating an Audience-Centric Strategy?

The world of marketing changed overnight. In the relationship era, product and service strategies simply do not work anymore. You must be constantly producing better customer experiences at every touchpoint, ultimately turning your audiences into loyal brand advocates. It all starts with defining these audiences, creating personas and journey maps and leveraging them into everything you do, starting with your website and online marketing.

If you need help with audience-centric strategy, including user interviews, audience definition, persona and journey mapping we’d love to speak with you. Just reach out and contact us so we can start discussing your audiences and how you can connect with them in ways that increase engagement, relevance and brand advocacy.