Marketing has always been tied to emotional manipulation.
The best creative message has traditionally been able to evoke a specific, desirable, emotional state within a target audience. Whether we’re discussing text copy, video marketing collateral, travel photography, or something else completely, marketing has always sought to engender a specific emotional response. However, times are changing.
Today, marketers must do more than develop a creative customer experience that incites a desirable emotional response from their audience through one touch point. They must connect their data to the pain points and emotions that drive customer behavior and decision making in the first place. It is no longer sufficient to say, “This is where we want customers to go.”
Today, marketers must have a full understanding of the entire journey.
Customer journey mapping provides the means to unify data used to define and describe a target audience with what motivates that audience, while simultaneously highlighting the emotions experienced at each step of the journey and introducing them to your brand.
Customer journey map definition
A customer journey map is a visual representation of your customer’s experiences with your brand, from first engagement to long-term business relationship.
What is a customer journey map?
A customer journey map is a vital first step in improving the overall customer experience. It’s a visual representation of the various stages involved in a customer’s engagement with your company. As such, any touchpoint can (and should) be included in your journey map, including:
- Initial brand mentions
- Products purchased/used
- Services hired
- Customer service employees
- Brand-tied collateral
It’s essential to flesh out a journey map that includes as many touch points as possible. While that adds complexity, it also provides greater visibility and predictability. With a complete customer journey map, you gain a broad range of business-critical benefits, including:
- The ability to pinpoint customer-business interactions of which you might have been unaware
- A better understanding of customer needs at various stages and how they evolve during your relationship
- A logical understanding of the overall customer journey
- Gaps between the actual customer experience and the desired experience
The customer journey mapping process forces a company to take a long, hard look at everything from a customer’s point of view. It requires shining a light on hurdles you didn't know existed, problems you were unaware of, and issues that could cause a disconnect and interrupt the conversion process.
Businesses and marketing teams are obliged to use customer data and process knowledge to empathize with customers. You are able to experience firsthand how your customers navigate the marketplace, engage with your company’s marketing creative, and move through the sales funnel – all the way through interacting with customer service. Ultimately, it allows you to build from a customer’s perspective rather than from an internal business point of view.
Watch the following video for a more in-depth explanation of what a customer journey map is and how to use one to your advantage.
Customer experience mapping opportunities
Customer journey mapping provides businesses large and small with unique opportunities to build their brand, create stronger relationships with customers at every stage of the journey, and improve and manage the overall customer experience.
A brand’s messaging strategy can be incredibly complex. Unfortunately, that complexity often leads to the creation of unintentional gaps – breaks that can derail the conversation with customers and erode the customer experience. Customer journey mapping provides the opportunity to identify those messaging faux-pas and take corrective action immediately.
Examples of messaging disconnects include:
- A mission statement that puts customers first, but poor customer service delivered by company representatives.
- Outbound marketing creative that masquerades as inbound collateral, creating a one-way flow of information instead of a two-way conversation with customers.
- Blindness to conversion resistance due to missed customer pain points or unclear value propositions.
Customer journey mapping provides the opportunity to visualize these disconnects and take corrective action, rather than allowing them to become an albatross.
Clear, understandable language
All industries have specific jargon surrounding products and processes. However, that language can become a serious hurdle in creating a positive customer experience. The customer should never need to have an expert-level understanding of industry technical terms and other jargon. If that is the case, then you have completely failed your audience and have created a negative, frustrating experience that other companies (competitors) will exploit in order to build their own success while better serving your customers.
A great example of this was the purchase of Geek Squad by Best Buy back in 2002. Home PCs have always been confusing for the average user, and troubleshooting performance issues, upgrading components, and even accessing stored data could be next to impossible without a significant degree of familiarity with technology. By rolling out Geek Squad, Best Buy was able to address these issues and ensure that they were speaking the same language as their customers.
There are dozens of other examples of jargon-heavy industries where customers feel frustrated and angry: the home theater industry, modern automotive technology, Wi-Fi technology, and many others fall into this category.
The inability to speak the same language as your customers can also limit the effectiveness of your brand strategy. In the case of a serious disconnect, it’s akin to speaking a foreign language.
Customer journey mapping allows you to level the playing field, remove jargon, and replace it with verbiage better suited to delivering the ideal customer experience.
Fusing emotion, data, and creativity
Big data is the cornerstone of a successful business. That’s true whether the business in question offers virtual server space within a state-of-the-art data center or sells custom diamond jewelry. Data is the foundation on which a thriving business is built.
However, that alone is not enough. You must also bring creativity to bear, as well as emotion.
Too often, businesses make marketing decisions and engage in advertising based on cold, hard facts. That’s understandable, but the wrong path to take. Humans are emotional creatures, and customer journey mapping allows you to bring together human emotion with data and creativity.
Mapping the customer journey also requires empathy. It informs your marketing strategy because data can only foster marketing success when paired with the right creative context. The combination of empathy, creativity, and accurate data can solve retention and satisfaction problems while simultaneously driving marketing initiatives.
Reviewing KPIs and customer journey alignment
Customer journey mapping allows you to delve into how, why, and where your brand fails your customers. It can highlight where you are losing leads, and where potential customers disconnect from your messaging without taking a further step in your sales funnel.
For instance, customer journey mapping can help you identify and understand how your website serves, or fails to serve, your customers and contextualize how the content or design could be improved to ensure that visitors not only engage, but also convert.
However, this is only a single example. Many other KPIs may be out of alignment with your goal of delivering the best possible customer experience.
Clarity in setting goals
Goal-setting is a vital component in building a strong brand and developing a positive customer experience. However, accurately identifying and then setting goals requires insight into a customer’s journey, their expectations, their emotional state, motivations, and more.
Customer journey mapping provides you with the ability to set clear, achievable benchmarks for process improvement and to design a more resilient message for your brand.
Ultimately, customer journey mapping provides you with the means to create the ideal customer experience based on accurate data and emotion to fuel the development of powerful creative collateral as well as ensuring your company is the best fit for your audience.
Want to learn more about how to reach your customers? Check out our guide on customer experience!