• Joanna Pelletier

Why A Customer Journey Map is Essential for Digital Marketing Success

I can't say this enough: To be successful in any business or industry, you need to understand your customers intimately and leverage systems & tactics that only make sense for your business based on hard evidence from past interactions.

Too often I see businesses engage something I call "Hope Marketing," or putting their marketing dollars toward the next big trend either because:

  • "Digital is the future!" or

  • "It worked for everyone else!" or

  • "This is the way to do it!"

I almost never hear, "We're moving forward with this system/tactic because that's where our people are, and moving in this direction will help us provide a better customer experience."

To date, only 40 percent of all companies in existence know anything about their customers. I can't say this enough: To be successful in any business or industry, you need to understand your customers intimately and leverage systems & tactics that only make sense for your business based on hard evidence from past interactions.

There is a lot of toxicity to Hope Marketing, meaning that it can lead to failure, skepticism, wasted spend, and endless Google searches for ways to fill the holes on a leaking ship.

Sometimes businesses bring in agencies to do the Hope Marketing for them, and sometimes the agencies fail. Those agencies didn't fail necessarily because they are bad agencies. They may have failed because:

  • The initial project scope and strategy was off

  • They didn't ask for or didn't build on crucial, foundational customer, competitor, and industry information before they started their work

If you don’t understand why you aren’t making sales, why your agency failed at delivering results, or why your chosen marketing tactics "aren't working," or didn't work, it's time to take a step back and audit your marketing. (Note how I didn't say and will never say, "just give up.") Part of that audit should include creating a customer journey map.

If you don’t understand why you aren’t making sales, why your agency failed at delivering results, or why your chosen marketing tactics "aren't working," or didn't work, it's time to take a step back and audit your marketing.

When used alongside your Buyer Personas and Competitor Analysis, customer journey maps are a powerful tool for gaining a better understanding your target customers and the best ways to connect with them both online and offline.

So what exactly is a customer journey map? Why should you use one? And what steps do you have to take to create a map that's going to have a positive impact on your business?

What Is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a visual representation of a prospective or existing customer's entire experience with you from start to finish. They help businesses get a 1,000 foot view of the path to purchase (new customers) as well as the path to repurchase (existing customers). Customer journey maps also help companies better understand their customers' motivations, choices, entry points on the path to purchase, and more.

A Customer Journey Map takes a holistic approach to the customer

experience by placing each piece of the customer interaction – from first web click to final transaction – in the greater context to better meet customer needs.

It’s equally important to know what a customer journey map is not! It is not a complete depiction of every single experience a customer has with your company. It is a roadmap showing the paths customers may take; it is not the only path they will take.

Why Every Company Needs a Customer Journey Map

If the Customer Journey Map isn’t completely definitive, why should you bother creating one? That’s simple. It centers your business on the customer and helps you discover what is lacking in your business model and how to serve your customers better than your competitors. More to the point, companies with a Customer journey Map show significantly more growth over time compared to those without. It can be used to:

  • See how and where customers interact with your brand

  • Discover weaknesses and gaps in the sales process that may lead to revenue loss

  • Offer an outside perspective to your marketing method

  • Show the path(s) future and existing customers may take

The customer journey map can be used by everyone in your company: sales, marketing, design, and even management. It helps bring all the pieces together for you to have the bigger picture. It’s a useful tool for helping you learn why you make the sale as much as showing why you don’t. It can show the gaps in your customer experience that you may not even know to look for!

How to Create a Customer Journey Map

It’s time to start thinking like your customers instead of pushing your organization forward with a business-centric approach. It’s time to understand exactly what a customer does that leads them to you or away from you! So, let’s sketch out a map that outlines every single step in a potential customer journey!

Start with your Buyer Personas

Buyer Personas are a useful tool for understanding who your customer is, what motivates them, and what they need from you. They are an excellent foundation for your customer journey map. Check out our blog on Buyer Persona Practices as a foundation for creating your own. And if you need more help, Hubspot is an excellent resource for templates, best practices, and more.

Each journey map you create should start with a single persona and map their journey to one goal. If you attempt multiple customers or multiple paths, you may find yourself overwhelmed and undermine your map.

Understand your Customer Touchpoints

Once you’ve outlined personas, it’s time to identify your customer’s “touchpoints”. A touchpoint is every point where a customer comes into contact with your brand. Good examples of touchpoints include:

  • Website

  • Social Media

  • Online Promotions

  • Sales Team

  • Surveys

  • Customer Service & Support

  • Ratings and Reviews

While this may seem daunting at first, it’s a good way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and do a little detective work. As you get started you may find far more touchpoints than you realized. At this point, you’ll want to start grouping them together in logical sequences to save yourself the frustration. SurveyMonkey offers a more in-depth look on the topic, while Fatbit has a list of examples from famous brands to help you get started!

Graph it Out!

Once you have incorporated your personas and your touchpoints together, it’s time to implement the visual component to your customer journey map. You want to create a flowchart, table, or diagram of how potential and existing customers (your personas) move through your website or social media to discover your products, interact with you, place an order, leave your site, and then any interactions after.

Take a moment to examine how many steps are in this process, as you’ll find managing that into a lower number can often lead to higher conversions. If you do not have graphic designers on staff or lack the skills yourself, you can find templates using services from CleverTap, Hanover Research, and Alexa Blog.

Take That Journey for Yourself

It’s time for you to be the customer. Forget everything you know about your internal goals and business plans and move through the Customer Journey Map on your own, using each of the customer personas you’ve put to work.

This is the most important part of the process because it allowed you to analyze the results of your work. It’s going to help you learn where your customer needs are being unmet and where you’re providing the best possible customer experience. It’s at this point where Oribi or Google Analytics can help you see where you’re losing potential customers.

How far along the process are they going? Are they leaving things in their shopping carts without checking out? Oribi shares this information on your main dashboard. In Google Analytics, you can find this information in the Behavioral Flow Chart and the Goal Flow Chart. By walking through every step, you’ll start to see any potential gaps or issues in the process.

Resolve, Revise, and Update

By taking the journey, you’ll discover those critical moments that make or break the potential customer’s decision to support your brand. These can help you rebrand and refocus your marketing efforts to keep those customers engaged at those key moments!

Like everything else in marketing and customer service, your customer journey will change. It’s imperative to update it frequently to make sure you’re working with the most updated information.

You may also find that one customer journey map isn’t enough to fully encapsulate the journey. As there are many paths to a sale, you may need to develop multiple Customer Journey Maps to fully explore the customer experience.

Moving Forward

It’s important to remember that your customer journey map is not infallible! Once you’ve created it, the key to success is to implement it. Too many times companies develop helpful tools at their disposal and then never make use of them. Sometimes, change is necessary for growth.

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