A customer journey is one of the most important aspects of sales and marketing in general.

By definition, a customer journey is a process that customers are led on from the first moment of initial interest, leading down the sales pipeline, and ultimately arriving at the purchase point — or even better, conversion into a loyal customer.

Present-day marketers that focus too heavily on marketing tactics that don’t involve the customer at each step of the way, are missing the most valuable sales tool of them all — the customer themselves. Setting up a perfect customer journey isn’t something that happens overnight.

However, it’s imperative to determine not only the correct flow that customers should be led through but also the steps it takes to establish truly invested, loyal customers.

Creating The Customer Journey — Step by Step

Step 1: Determine your preferred Persona or Segment

The first step in any customer journey is identifying the segment and or target customer for your specific business. Ideally, you should have multiple customer persona’s and segments created, to reflect the different types of customers your business attracts.

Customers can be segmented by many different methods. For example, where they live, what they do for work, their annual income, their interests, etc. With your customer base already segmented by behavior and demographics, you have the most important piece to then start crafting your customer journey.

However, for the purpose of building a singular customer journey, it’s best to focus on the persona or segment that has performed best in the past, and to double down on why that is, and to make the journey even better. To do this, review the funnel data for your past lead generation and/or lead management campaigns.

Ask yourself questions like,

“Which customer segment responded the most to the content I offered?

“What type of persona asked the most questions at the beginning?”

Asking these type of questions, and looking over your funnel data will help you predict the “winning segment”, AKA the type of customer you should be building your primary customer journey around.

Step 2: Visualize the stages of the customer timeline

Pointing back to Customer Journey Maps, which we mentioned in the introduction of this guide, this is the easiest and most efficient way to visualize the specific stages of the customer timeline.

Here are the 5 typical stages of the customer timeline which we’ll be following to help you structure your customer journey:

Awareness

Awareness is the uppermost stage of the customer funnel. Potential customers reach this stage by first having a need they want to be fulfilled. For this section, we’ll use a social media scheduling platform as an example. They’ve done some research on the best tools, and they eventually stumble upon your blogs and or social media posts detailing the best ways to schedule a week of posts.

This is the awareness section as it’s the first exposure a potential customer has to your brand. From here, lead generation can take place, as a potential customer signs up for your newsletter, blog, or follows your social profiles.

Interest

Once leads are initially generated, they move on to the Interest phase of the buying process. This is the time to introduce the prospect to more aspects of your business, it’s products and any other valuable information you have to provide. This is the opportunity for brands to begin to develop a relationship with the people who have submitted their lead generation information and qualify them accordingly.

From here, leads can be placed in a lead nurturing cycle, where they are delivered content and messaging that is more targeted around the general industry and brand information.

Consideration

In the consideration phase, leads have been converted into qualified prospects, and are seen as prospective customers.

Here, marketers can send prospective customers more information about their products and how they’re suited to the prospects specific needs. This can be achieved through automated email campaigns, while at the same time continuing to nurture them with targeted content, relevant case studies, free trials or discounts, and more.

Intent

To reach this stage, prospects have had to demonstrate their interest in purchasing a product. This can be done in several ways, such as a survey after a free trial, or adding an item to an e-commerce cart.

This stage gives marketers the opportunity to make their strongest case to the customer, as they know that they are just on the edge of purchasing.

Evaluation

In the evaluation stage, buyers are making their final decisions on whether or not a brand’s product or service is right for them. Typically, marketing and sales teams work closely together in this stage to nurture the decision-making process and convince the potential buyer that their product is the right fit for them.

Purchase

Woohoo! You made it to the purchase stage. This is the last stage in the marketing funnel when a prospect has made the decision to become a buyer. However, this is not where your work as a marketer ends just yet.

Even after the purchase stage, by staying available and eager to answer any questions a customer may have, you’d be reinforcing their idea to continue to choose your product or service, and better yet, send referrals your way.

Step 3: Define the steps in your journey

Not every funnel will perform exactly like the one outlined in the previous step. In fact, there can be considerably different funnels depending on the type of business you are in.

For example, the marketing funnel can very well differ between B2C and B2B businesses, therefore it’s essential that you layout the correct steps in the customer journey that’s most suited to your business and your customers.

The key difference between a funnel for B2C businesses is that most customers will go through this journey primarily by themselves (apart from friends or family), and will not have as many direct touchpoints with your marketing or sales team. While B2B businesses have a larger group that they go through the journey through (team members, bosses, etc.), and they do interact directly with the businesses, typically at the lower ends of the funnel.

Step 4: Identify your customer touchpoints

Now that you know the stages of the funnel your potential customers will be going through, it’s important to identify the points at which you can communicate with them and aid their decision-making process.

To do this, list all of the physical or digital interactions a customer will experience during their cycle with your product or service. Depending on your business, this might include things like:

  • Social Media
  • Your Website Contact Forum
  • Sales Reps
  • Email Newsletters
  • Direct Mail
  • Search Results
  • Etc.

Once you’ve identified the touchpoints that you have with potential customers, it’s time to decide the best way’s to capitalize on these opportunities. Whether it’s through targeted content, free trials, or simply learning more about the customers needs to best provide them with the help they’re looking for.

Step 5: Create customer questions for each stage

As you review each stage of the buying process, it’s incredibly helpful to identify the most frequently asked questions or information your prospective customers are looking for.

As an example, the discovery and awareness phase is often where targeted content can make the most impact. Content at this stage shouldn’t be sales focused, instead offering valuable industry information that solves a problem the prospect is having. This type of content could come in the form of blog posts, videos, infographics, and webinars that educate your audience. This part is crucial in providing them with the confidence needed move to the next stage of the buying funnel.

For each question, provide answers and general topics that suit the question. This is important as those answers will steer the direction of your content strategy with each potential customer.

Finally, decide upon and test the best formats for delivering these answers to your prospects along with how you’ll be delivering them. (whether it be social media posts, email, blog posts, e-books, webinars, tutorials, etc.)

Step 6: Identify pain points

Similarily to identifying the most frequent questions that customers ask at each buying stage, it’s also important to identify the pain points and barriers that prospects face, stopping them from making a purchase.

To find the pain points at each stage, simply listen and observe how the prospect interacts with your business. For example, if they’ve placed an item in their cart several times, but have not yet purchased it yet, consider that price/shipping may be their barrier.

Or, if a prospect does not engage with the content you provide to them through a marketing automation funnel, consider that it is not the right content fit for the problems they’re having or the solutions they’re looking for.

Understanding the barriers and limitations your prospective customers have when interacting with your business is crucial for correcting and improving your customer journey.

Step 7: Define trackable metrics for each stage

Without data and clear metrics, how are you really able to see the journeys your customer goes on, and more importantly, improve these journeys?

The most efficient way to do collect and track the data of your customer journeys is by understanding and utilizing the data that your company is already tracking.

This could be as simple as tracking the open/click-through rates of emails that you send in the awareness/discovery section of the funnel, or tracking how much your customer uses the demo version of your product.

It’s important to survey each stage, and realize the data that is already being collected, then use this data to either double down on what is working, or cut out what’s driving customers away.

Step 8: Assign Clear Roles

Planning and implementing an effective customer journey is no one-man effort. Review the responsibilities that the members of your marketing and sales team currently have, and delegate the positions accordingly.

Different disciplines typically know their strengths best, from community development to customer service, to strictly sales professionals, having a team dedicated to different aspects of the customer journey is crucial in developing a valuable and effective relationship with the prospective customer.

Once you’ve gone through this guide, and have a good plan in mind of the direction you’d like to take for your customer journey, sit down with your team and explain and assign roles.

Step 9: Base opportunities off pain points

As described in previous steps, identifying the pain points of your prospective customers is one of the most important steps you can take in optimizing your customer journey.

Keeping the same examples, if a customer has placed an item in their cart multiple times but has not purchased yet, consider offering free shipping or a 20% discount code. Most times, even a gentle nudge like this can convince a customer on the fence to purchase.

Additionally, if a prospect in one of your marketing automation funnels is not responding or engaging with your content, consider adding them to a different automation funnel that’s delivering new content they haven’t seen yet. Having multiple perspectives of a business and their products or services can be extremely beneficial to eventually making the final purchase decision.

Step 10: Analyze & Optimize

Like everything in marketing and sales, customer journeys are an on-going process and a process that deserves more attention and time from marketing teams that it receives.

As you establish and implement your primary customer journey, really take the time to listen and get in the heads of your customers. Find what makes them tick, discover what helps them learn best, and ultimately what convinces them to buy.

Using analytics, customer feedback, and direction from your sales team continue to analyze and tweak your customer journey to match the different segments and personas you attract.

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Once you’ve planned and implemented your perfect customer journey, you are well on your way to acquiring more engaged customers, increasing revenue, and decreasing stress along with the time and resources spent managing prospects with no real plan.

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