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 Maps – 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 Journey Mapping 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.

Customer Personas and Their Journey Map 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.

What is a persona in journey mapping?

A persona refers to a detailed and fictional representation of a specific user or customer segment. Personas are created to embody the characteristics, needs, behaviors, and goals of real individuals within a target audience. These representations help businesses and organizations understand their users better and design products, services, or experiences that meet the diverse needs of their customer base.

When creating a journey map, which is a visual representation of a user’s experience with a product or service over time, personas play a crucial role in providing a human-centered perspective. Each step of the journey is often associated with a persona to illustrate how different users may interact with a product or service at various touchpoints.

Key elements of customer personas in journey mapping may include:

  1. Persona Key Demographics: Information such as age, gender, location, and occupation helps in creating a realistic representation of the target audience for your journey maps.
  2. Customer Journey Goals and Motivations: Understanding what the persona is trying to achieve and the motivations behind their actions helps in designing experiences that align with their objectives.  This can help your business to better understand the customer experience.
  3. Customer Experience Pain Points and Challenges: Identifying the obstacles and challenges that a persona may encounter during their journey helps in addressing areas that need improvement.  These pain points can provide important data for new marketing programs at each stage of the customer journey, that address and overcome the pains customers may be trying to solve with your production or solution.
  4. Persona Behaviors and Preferences: Knowing how a persona typically behaves and their preferences helps in tailoring the user experience to better suit their needs.  This information can also help guide marketing decisions to align with the user’s preferred customer journey and the marketing channels that may prove most effective in reaching those customers.
  5. Journey Map Touchpoints: Mapping out the various interactions or touchpoints a persona has with a product or service throughout their journey provides insights into the overall user experience (UX).

By incorporating personas into journey mapping, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of their users, empathize with their needs, and make informed decisions to enhance the overall user experience.  Buyer personas help businesses to better understand their customers and the unique selling points that appeal to them in the decision making process.  The persona journey can add a deeper, more personal level to the research that informs our business and marketing decisions.

What are the 7 steps to map the customer journey?

Mapping the customer journey involves several steps to understand and visualize the end-to-end experience a customer has with a product or service. While specific approaches may vary, here are seven general steps to guide you through the process of mapping the customer journey:

Define the Objectives and Scope of the Journey Template

  • Clearly articulate the purpose of the customer journey map. Understand what specific goals or questions you aim to address through the journey mapping process.
  • Define the scope of the journey map, including the target audience and the key stages or touchpoints you want to analyze.

Identify Customer Personas

  • Create detailed personas that represent different segments of your target audience. These personas should embody the characteristics, needs, and behaviors of real users.  Many businesses give their personas a name that embodies key characteristics, such as Early Adopter Ned, or Tech-Savvy Millennial Martha.
  • Assign each persona to the appropriate stage of the customer journey.  Do your personas typically start at the top of the funnel with research around broad topic categories?  Do they typically compare several solutions within your product category?  Key insights into the place they enter their journey map can help you tailor marketing to speak to the exact points your persona needs addressed.

Gather Data for the Journeys

  • Research and collect relevant data about customer interactions, experiences, and feedback. This data can come from various sources, including customer surveys, interviews, support tickets, marketing research, and analytics tools.
  • Use quantitative and qualitative data to gain a comprehensive understanding of customer behaviors and pain points.  Create a list of these common pain points as potential avenues for marketing at each step of the customer journey.

Map Customer Touchpoints and Channels

  • Identify and list all the touchpoints where customers interact with your product or service. This could include website visits, social media interactions, customer support calls, and more.  Where can the customer experience be improved at each of these touchpoints?
  • Determine the channels through which customers engage with each touchpoint.  Which parts of the marketing mix need to be included in the user journey for each customer persona?  Which areas overlap?

Outline the Customer Journey Stages

  • Break down the customer journey into distinct stages, starting from awareness and progressing through consideration, purchase, and post-purchase stages.  The data may offer key insights into how to help your personas progress from one stage to the next by addressing key concerns, or communicating unique selling points.
  • Research and define the key actions, emotions, and expectations of your personas at each stage of the journey map.  At what stage do your personas typically enter the journey map?

Create the Journey Map

  • Develop a visual representation of the customer journey, incorporating the identified touchpoints, stages, and personas.
  • Use a timeline format to illustrate the chronological flow of the customer experience. Include details such as customer actions, thoughts, emotions, and potential pain points at each stage of the journey map.

Analyze and Iterate:

  • Analyze the completed customer journey maps to identify patterns, opportunities, and areas for improvement in each of the customer journeys.
  • Identify areas in the journey where customers experience challenges, frustrations, or dissatisfaction. Pinpoint pain points to prioritize areas that need improvement.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of each touchpoint on the journey map in meeting customer needs and expectations. Identify touchpoints that have a significant impact on customer satisfaction and those that may require optimization.
  • Relate quantitative data, such as customer satisfaction scores or conversion rates, to specific points on the journey map. This integration helps validate the map’s accuracy and provides a more comprehensive view of the customer experience.
  • If applicable, analyze how customers transition between different channels (e.g., online and offline). Understand the coherence and consistency of the experience across these channels.
  • Share the journey maps with relevant stakeholders and gather feedback. Use this feedback to refine and iterate on the customer journey map.
  • Regularly update the map to reflect changes in customer / persona behaviors, business processes, or product/service offerings.

By following these steps, organizations can gain valuable insights into the customer experience, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions to enhance overall customer satisfaction.  Journey mapping is an important tool in marketing and the customer experience.

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.