Expanding on the foundational step of buyer personas, many marketers are now going a step deeper by creating customer journey maps. These visual frameworks help companies understand buyer needs and preferences throughout all points of engagement.
Journey mapping isn’t new, but the process for creating these maps has come to the fore in the past year, and analysts predict that will increase in 2017.
“It’s been gaining momentum over the last year,” said Carrie Rediker, Research Director for Demand Creation Strategies at SiriusDecisions. “I think of it almost like a road map, especially from a demand gen perspective. You need to understand your audiences’ perspective: Are they a decision-maker or a technical influencer? You need to adapt messaging, content and the delivery channels.”
SiriusDecisions has a Buyer Journey Mapping Framework for clients that includes:
- Interaction mapping (both human and “non-human” interaction with a marketer’s brand);
- Content mapping (what types of assets are shared at various buying stages); and
- Engagement mapping.
“[This] really helps marketers, from a messaging and programming perspective, so they can leverage the behavioral information,” Rediker said.
Mapping At The Account Level
“ABM is pushing people to do this,” said Cari Baldwin, President at BlueBird Strategies. “Everyone is making an effort to understand the customer better.”
Baldwin said better insights through the current technology, especially in tracking content performance, has been powerful for marketers. “In the last 18 months, it has been at the top of people’s efforts, and it’s definitely a priority going into 2017.”
One of the precursors to success with ABM — and one of the challenges — is the ability to understand the customer journey of each prospect within an account.
“The biggest challenge for organizations is getting into a truly buyer-centric mindset and execution around that,” said Jeff Freund, CEO of Akoonu. He agreed that technology and ABM have been catalysts for more marketers adopting journey mapping, and he believes one other factor is at play. “What marketers are being measured by [has changed],” he said. “It used to be leads and top-of-funnel pipeline. More marketers are now being held to revenue generation. It’s being able to make that shift within marketing organizations to think about the entire journey and how you enable a late-stage opportunity. That’s where mapping the value of the buyers’ journey can really be leveraged and applied.”
Freund also said it is the next step in aligning account-based selling and ABM “and how the teams work together to enable the buyers’ journey. The priorities and resourcing applied to mapping the customer journey will accelerate,” he said.
Long-Term Impact On Revenue
One SaaS company that supplies HR and finance tools went through buyer journey mapping to increase renewal and retention rates, which had plateaued. The organization transformed its operations in the process.
The project entailed mapping current customer journeys from the top of the funnel through to renewal for each of its products. “It involved a lot of collaboration from marketing, sales, customer success, finance and billing. “We got every stakeholder involved,” the CMO said.
The next step was getting in-depth feedback from customers through interviews, which it accomplished by retaining consultant Christine Crandell, President of New Business Strategies. The insights helped the company re-envision how they handled the customer from new business through the renewal process.
“The final deliverable was a 25-page guide that documented the entire customer journey,” the CMO said. “It helped flip the corporate mindset to be customer focused, which was a big deal for us.”
That new mindset was then carried over to how the company engaged with customers and prospects (by channel), what messages were communicated to the customer at different stages of the journey, as well as new and re-purposed content assets.
“It was a lot of work, but it got us going directionally where we needed to go,” he said.
Crandell said journey mapping is much broader than marketing. “It impacts sales, finance, operations, strategic planning and M&A,” she said. “It’s a company-wide strategic initiative,” and it can uncover multiple insights beyond aligning campaigns to optimize marketing.
“You may discover a pattern of problems with a particular set of touch points, or learn customers are delighted with your brand,” Crandell said.
Companies can also identify whether data in the system is incomplete, according to Crandell, and can find behavioral patterns in the data. “It’s about understanding behavior intent and emotion, not just about what they clicked on, but why.”
“The value of journey mapping is seeing things through the eyes of the buyer,” she concluded.