You have a product. And you have customers that you want to sell to.
But how do they go from being a complete stranger to completing a purchase with you?
You need to build them a path to get them there. And it needs to be one they naturally want to go down.
That’s essentially what a ‘customer journey’ is; a pathway you’ve built using what you know about your target audience(s), that you will guide them through to complete your ultimate goal. This goal is usually purchasing your product or service.
You may already be familiar with the customer journey. You may even have a basic one set up. Or you’re researching how to improve yours right now and taking notes for inspiration.
But how much of your customer journey is on paper, and how much of it is actually implemented into your live website, marketing or business practices?
If you do have some stuff implemented, how much of it actually flows as one, smooth journey from the first time they see your company, all the way to completed purchase and beyond?
Too often, businesses take bits and pieces of a journey and build what they like. Which leaves gaps in between the steps in the journey that customers fall through.
This usually happens either because the journey hasn’t been properly thought through, or because it hasn’t been fully implemented.
But fear not!
We’re here to help you map out a customer journey that works in real time. It will guide your customers through a clear, strategic and effective process to help you get the results you want.
So, let’s get started.
1) Setting Targets/Goals for Your Journey
When beginning your customer journey (or any marketing campaign for that matter) you need to know what your goals are.
After all, how can you map a route if you don’t know your destination?
When defining your goals, ask yourself:
- What do you want to achieve
- What action do you want your customers to take
These goals may be broad at first, and may be similar if not the same as your general business goals.
For example, goals such as ‘more sales’ or ‘more traffic’ are what most businesses want and they’re a good place to start.
But these goals need to be broken down and developed into small and manageable steps to realistically achieve them.
Using the ‘S.M.A.R.T’ goals model can be really useful for thinking about this.
Are your goals…
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely?
It’s important to stress that these goals need to be specific.
The more specific a goal is, the easier it will be to envision a journey to it.
What does ‘more sales’ mean for you? If you want to grow sales by 10% in the next quarter, how many more calls will you need to book with prospects? or how many more visitors will you need to visit your website?
Top tip: Be conscious of where you are starting from and always keep in mind your ultimate goal for a customer.
Once you’re clear on your end goals, WORK BACKWARDS to see how someone would get there, to map out an effective journey to it.
If you’ve broken your goals down into S.M.A.R.T goals, they can inform calls to action over the course of your customer journey.
When choosing these goals, ask yourself: Will this action move my customer closer to my ultimate goal?
If it doesn’t, don’t use it. Save yourself the time and effort.
This may be purchasing an item, downloading a guide or booking a call with you.
Example customer journey goals
We’ve built these goals using a visual mapping tool called Miro. These goals we have created for a fake company, that we will be using as a case study throughout this blog. We’ve called them Ducklings.
Ducklings is an ecommerce business that sells baby products, primarily clothes and accessories for newborns.
The diagram above illustrates the basic set of goals Ducklings have for improving their sales. The goal on the left is the main result they want to achieve in the next 9 months.
Working from right to left, the image above works from the smaller goals/processes that need to be achieved in order to fulfil the ultimate goal.
These points have brief descriptions for now, and will have to be broken down as the customer journey continues to develop.
Despite its simplicity, this is the beginning of your customer journey at its core. And you can feel confident about the steps you take after this, because you’re now clear about your overall objectives.
Eventually, you should aim for multiple journeys to cater for multiple types of customers.
(Spoiler alert: that comes with audience segmentation, which we’ll discuss in step 2).
For now, start small and you can build out other journeys later once you get the hang of things.
2) Segment Your Audience
Segmenting your audience as much as you can is one of the best things you can do to create an effective customer journey.
Audience segmentation is about identifying subgroups based on shared characteristics or interests, for more effective targeting.
It can take a lot of work to know exactly what your audience(s) look like, but there is nothing more beneficial you can do to contribute to a customer journey that actually works.
To truly optimise sales, you need to recognise that the world is full of diverse people, and your customer base is no different.
Top tip: Get to know your target audiences and market to each group individually.
Remember: Different people will use your product for different purposes at different times.
So if you segment your audience based on their unique factors, you can create tailored customer journeys that are more likely to connect with their needs and interests.
This is much more effective than having one generic customer journey that everyone is expected to follow and connect with.
Segmenting your audience also helps you…
- Gain a more precise understanding of your target audience(s).
- Create a more personalised experience.
- Have more timely responses and nurturing messages in your customer journey.
- Provide more relevant customer service.
- Deliver marketing that gets a better response.
- Increase sales through constant nurturing.
When thinking about how to segment your audience, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking about vague demographic details, such as age, gender, location etc.
These are still valuable things to know, and a good place to start.
But what are they INTERESTED IN, what will they CONNECT with what is their PROBLEM you can help solve?
Examples of more specific ways you can segment your audience:
- By the products they’ve looked at – You could set up a journey for each product category so you can follow up with messages that are relevant to what the customer is interested in.
- By what they did on your site – For example, if they looked at a specific product and left without buying, you could set up banner ads to bring them back. Or if they made it all the way to the checkout and abandoned their cart, you can send them emails to nurture them back to purchase.
- By how they found you – Where did the customer come from? This can tell you a lot about what channels are the most effective for targeting them on. Or the channels you need to persuade them to leave so you can market to them more directly.
All of these segments are based on real customer behaviour, which helps your nurturing be more specific and relevant.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin with a few small segments that are close to your primary target audience.
Once the core segments have been established, evaluate how well these work.
Regularly look for new trends or behaviour on your site that may indicate a new segment you could market to.
Once you’ve got your segments defined, you can then move on to physically mapping out the journeys they’ll take to become a lifelong customer.
…That’s the theory out of the way.
When you’ve decided on your segments, how can you actually build them into your business practice and start getting results?
To illustrate, we’re going back to our fake baby products company Ducklings.
We’ve build a dummy map in Miro to show you what a segmenting map may look like in an automation builder such as ActiveCampaign on its most basic level:
The purpose of this diagram is to segment Ducklings customers based on the action they take on the Ducklings website.
Specifically, this automation has been built to segment their customers based on how they behave after signing up for the monthly newborn parenting webinar, to optimise attendance.
Here, the segmenting begins from the first step. When a visitor completes their details on the webinar sign-up form they are added to the Ducklings customer database.
With the help of automation software (such as ActiveCampaign), the business can send a welcome email, thanking them for signing up and giving them extra information about the webinar, as well as a reminder of when it is.
We have added a condition to separate customers into different paths based on when they’ve signed up for the webinar.
If a customer has signed up less than a week before the webinar, they do not receive the first reminder email, as this has been created to send to customers when the webinar is still a few weeks away.
The second reminder email is to be sent the day before the webinar to remind them to attend the following day.
The third reminder email is to be sent on the day of the webinar to remind them to attend.
These emails can all be customised to be sent at specific times and dates depending on your specific needs.
Each email contains a link to the webinar that can be tracked to see whether the recipient clicks through.
To segment the audience based on this behaviour, we have created another condition that responds to whether they clicked the link or not:
Each customer is tagged according to their behaviour, and customers who attended the webinar are added to a unique sequence that rewards them for attending and nurtures them to purchase some of the products that were mentioned in the webinar.
Customers who didn’t click the link and attend the webinar are not forgotten. Instead, they are put in a separate sequence that nurtures them with follow up emails, encouraging them to attend the next webinar.
If they still don’t attend, they are moved to another automation to receive some general nurturing, to see if there is anything else they’re interested in.
This is a visual representation of how a basic segmenting automation may look, to help you get started with building one yourself.
If you’re up to the challenge of trying to implement it yourself, we’d personally recommend using ActiveCampaign.
ActiveCampaign is a marketing automation platform that helps you build campaigns, tracking, reporting and customer journeys, just like in the Ducklings example above.
It can do many things, but the way it can build and connect customer journeys across multiple channels including email, your website and social media channels are some of its best features that a lot of people don’t make the most of.
But you can.
Here are some of the best features you can use on ActiveCampaign to segment your audience:
- Tags: Labels that are added to each contact, based on how they’ve behaved on your site. You can use tags to label just about anything and help segment customers based on their behaviour.
- Conditions: Conditions are variables that create different outcomes, depending on whether the conditions you’ve set are met. These can be used to set customers on different paths based on their needs and actions.
An example of a condition is this variable from the previous Ducklings example:
- Custom fields: If you need to include a field that is unique to your processes that isn’t available by default in ActiveCampaign, you can make your own. Custom fields store data that is unique to each contact.
- Integration with other apps: ActiveCampaign is great at integration. You can link automations and data from over 850 other apps and platforms to optimise and segment all of your contacts and marketing channels.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can use ActiveCampaign to segment your audience, here are a few resources from their website to help get you started:
Or if you’re short on time (or just can’t be bothered) and need a helping hand, check out:
3) Identify Pain Points and Key Touch Points
Now you’ve figured out who your target audience is, put yourself in their shoes.
You need to begin visualising the different steps in their journey, and work out how to get them to your final goals you mapped out in step 1.
Top tip: Find the line between your ideal journey and the journey they would realistically follow.
Ask yourself: Would this person actually follow these actions to get to my final goal? If you’re unsure, either rethink your journey and adapt it to their behaviour, or offer them something they can’t refuse.
Consider every step a person might take to get to your destination, not just what you want them to do. It’s easy to miss crucial details or steps they might take.
This is why segmenting your audience is so important.
Even though multiple segments may mean multiple journeys, each one is more personal to the customer, and therefore more effective.
So how do you actually do this?
You need top consider these three elements that make up their journey:
• Touch Points
Touch points represent every step in the journey that your customer takes to interact with you.
Every time a customer engages with your content, whether that be clicking a link, reading a blog or even searching for you on Google, these are all places a customer can engage with you, and potentially valuable touch points on their journey.
Below I have inserted an example of what a map of touch points may look like, using the example of our fake company, Ducklings.
This example illustrates the different touch points a customer would follow when buying a cot from the Ducklings website.
Note: This is only one example of how a customer may get to purchase their product. As you develop your strategy, you should create multiple maps for different methods and products. We’re sharing merely one example/journey a customer may take to get you started.
This is a map of all the steps a customer might take to reach your final goal – in our example, completing a purchase of a cot.
However, a customer’s path will rarely be this smooth.
They will face challenges and fall off somewhere in the process more often than not. That’s why it’s important to try and anticipate all eventualities and consider…
• Pain Points
These are the places in your journey where you’re most likely to lose customers. Pain points are problems or struggles someone may face on their journey to buy from you.
Remembering the touch points from the last example, we have expanded our map to now include potential pain points that a customer might encounter that will stop them completing your desired action.
The pain points are illustrated in red in the diagram below:
Once you’ve identified these, map out solutions individually to help recover lost interest, and plug the gaps where a customer might leave you.
This will create a stronger customer journey that gets more people to the end.
• Moments of truth
These are the three main realisations in your customer journey that help you build trust with your customers, and where their perceptions of your brand are shaped.
• ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth)
According to Oberlo, 81% of people research a product before doing anything else.
Be aware that people will be researching you online before you even know they exist.
Coupon codes, discounts, reviews and informative articles all play a part in shaping a customer’s opinion of you before their first direct interaction with you.
So be aware of this and try to optimise it to your advantage.
Zeromomentoftruth has a great video explaining this concept to better your understanding.
• FMOT (First Moment of Truth)
This is a customer’s first interaction with your brand.
First impressions are formed within the first 3-7 seconds of engagement, so make it count.
This could be anything from a Facebook advert, to the meta description of a web page (the short piece of text describing your page that Google shows in search results) that returns when a user is searching something related to your site.
For instance, the FMOT in our Ducklings example is highlighted in orange here:
Work out where each of your audience segments are most likely to see your product for the first time. Then optimise it for a great first impression that persuades them to engage with the next step.
• SMOT (Second Moment of Truth)
After a product has been purchased, the customer will test to see if the product does what you have promised them it would. They will find out if they like it or not.
• TMOT (Third Moment of Truth)
If the customer has a great experience with your product, they may naturally begin promoting it.You need to encourage these customers to spread their positive experience with you. This not only helps your marketing, but nurturing that customer for sharing their experience can further delight them and turn them into a brand advocate.
Sometimes, simply asking your customers to share their experience is enough.
If they need further encouragement, you could offer small rewards for leaving a review, or recommending a product to a friend. Word of mouth marketing is one of the best ways you can advertise to someone.
On average, consumers referred by a friend are four times more likely to buy. This is because these personal recommendations are more natural and honest than being targeted by a company.
This is a really important step in the process, and a reminder that your customer journey shouldn’t end when you make a sale.
Setting up a strong retention process is key, and we’re going to talk about how to do this in the next step.
4) Remember Retention
Congratulations! You’ve nurtured your lead all the way to a purchase.
Now you can put your feet up and feel accomplished.
You could stop there, and I don’t want to rain on your parade but…
If you have this attitude you’re not going to have the growth you want.
When a customer makes a purchase from you, this is where the REAL WORK BEGINS.
Why would you want to give up on a customer that:
- Knows who you are
- Likes your products
- Is willing to buy your products
- Trusts you
- Is in your contact database
- Has the potential to promote your products to others
According to SEMRUSH, the probability of selling to a new customer is only between 5% and 20%. Compare that to between 60% and 70% for existing customers.
…and only 18% of businesses focus on retention.
Don’t sleep on this potential like your competitors do.
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, Wheelhouse advisors spell it out for you pretty simply here…
TLDR: You need to build a consistent and relevant retention journey so you don’t lose those customers you’ve worked so hard to get.
So how do we do this?
By keeping in touch.
Using marketing automation software such as ActiveCampaign, you can send automated messages to keep in touch with your customers and nurture them back to repurchase.
To create an effective retention strategy, you should keep these key things in mind:
• Set expectations and over deliver.
Let them know what to expect from you in the initial email.
If you’re planning on signing them up to a weekly newsletter, let them know.
If you’re sending monthly marketing emails updating them on your business, let them know.
Set their expectations on content and time.
This helps your customer understand and be aware of future emails you send them, and helps filter out people who aren’t interested by giving them the option to unsubscribe.
Over deliver on these expectations where you can.
I don’t mean sending more emails or content than expected, instead delight them with unexpected offers, deals or insight that regular customers wouldn’t normally get.
Reward them for being a loyal customer, and make them feel special for investing in your business.
• Be consistent and timely with your messages.
You don’t want to overwhelm your customer with marketing messages, but you also don’t want to stay silent for months for them to forget about you.
If you’re selling a subscription, or a product that someone will eventually run out of, measure how long it would take for them to need to repurchase more of your product.
You can then send them a message with a reminder or an offer to buy more when you know they need it.
• Continue to segment your audience with different retention strategies.
Not every type of customer will be retained in the same way.
Create multiple journeys for retention in the same way you segmented your audience to acquire customers.
This will improve your messages targeting and connect with your audiences.
• Send them content that is RELEVANT to them.
You know what they like based on what they’ve purchased from you, so send them similar content that helps and adds to what they’re interested in.
• Ask them to leave you feedback.
As mentioned in the previous step, capitalize on their TMOT (Third moment of truth) and ask them to promote their honest feedback to you and your customers.
• Produce content that drives them back to your site.
Such as new products, articles or offers they’d be interested in.
Implementing an effective retention strategy
But what does an effective retention strategy actually look like?
Let’s see, continuing with our example of Ducklings:
The map above illustrates an automation we’ve built to retain buyers that have bought a babygrow from the Ducklings website.
The babygrows come in the following sizes:
- 0-3 months
- 3-6 months
- 6-9 months
- 9-12 months
There would be separate automations for each of these, as they would have different follow up emails based on their size, but this example illustrates the sequence for the ‘Newborn’ babygrows.
This automation has four main purposes:
• To update customers on their purchase.
This is fulfilled at the beginning of the automation.
It’s important to keep your customer updated on their order, and show them your appreciation for purchasing from you.
This helps build your relationship and show great customer service.
• Encourage them to leave a review.
The next part of the sequence has been built to encourage the customer to leave a review on their purchase. The sequence automatically waits 10 days after the item has dispatched before sending the review request. This is to allow time for the customer to receive and try out the product before leaving a review.
In the review email, there’s a link for them to give their feedback. If they do, they’ll move onto the next part of the journey. If not, they’ll get reminders about the review before being moved on.
• Keep in touch with them about the business.
As we’ve previously mentioned, the retention process shouldn’t stop here. You need to consistently encourage your customers to come back and buy again.
• Nurture them to buy the next size of babygrow.
After purchasing a newborn babygrow, the automation waits until the time is right and then sends an email advertising the next size up.
If the customer shows interest by clicking through from the email, they are added to a separate journey specifically designed to promote the next product.
If not, they will be sent some follow up emails to encourage them to repurchase.
This process can be repeated for each size of the babygrow.
Having this consistent process helps keep in touch with the customer, shows that you are aware of their needs at the right time, and optimises repurchasing simply through strategic reminders.
And it’s all done automatically, without any action needed from the Ducklings team to make it happen.
5) Build, monitor and modify after implementation
Once you’ve built your customer journey, like any marketing strategy, it’s essential to consistently monitor and improve your processes.
After setting up/implementing your journey, consider the following steps:
Analysing the reports about your journey is key to letting you know how well it’s working.
To do this, you need to look at your data.
How many people are following your journey all the way to your final goal?
Where are people falling off in the process?
Are your lead magnets getting any success at all?
The data/reports you look at will depend on what software you use to implement your customer journey. It may be that you need to review multiple reports if you use multiple channels that span across the customer journey (which you probably should).
You should regularly review these reports, minimum once a month, to make sure you’re focusing on the right things.
If you use ActiveCampaign to execute your campaigns, you can build custom reports to filter out data you don’t want and create individual reports for each segment, making the data easier to analyse individually.
• Continue building
As we’ve mentioned throughout this blog, there’s no limit to the amount of journeys and segments you can build. The more refined and specific your customer journey is, the more relevant it will be to the different people who come across your site.
Always be open to new segments and opportunities, led by the data your reports provide. Continue trying new things, scrapping old methods that don’t work and fine tuning your processes to get the results you want.
Use the data from your reports to tweak your processes. Chances are despite all your predictions and research, you’re not going to have the perfect process first time. You need to allow time for real customers to follow your journey, and let this real behaviour inform the process going forward.
Top tip: Try following the customer journey yourself, to see how your processes work from their perspective.
When doing all these things, make sure to remember that your efforts should go towards improving the customer experience and targeting them with the things they actually care about.
If you made it to the end of this monster blog, give yourself a pat on the back. (And a lie down I think…)
Trying to implement all these elements into your business, especially from scratch, is certainly not easy. And can take a long time to plan, implement and get right.
But the results a strong customer journey can provide when done right are invaluable and, frankly, essential to a successful business.
Remember, it’s not your customers’ job to remember to buy from you, it’s your job to remind them.
But the reality is, you may not have enough time to do this. And if you do make time, it may not be enough to really get it right.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, or feel like you don’t have enough time or technical knowledge to implement this journey, why not ask for help.
If you want to learn how Airbase can help you create or improve your customer journey, let’s talk: