Looking to build a truly useful buyer’s journey map to guide your sales and marketing efforts? To do that, you need more than a canned framework or template.
Before you even think about what the map looks like, you need to define the purpose of your buyer’s journey map, gather the right insights about your buyers, and possibly change your thinking about what the “journey” includes. If you skip those steps, you’ll miss key information and possibly the whole point of the exercise.
Before we get into the how, let’s briefly consider the why.
What is the purpose of your buyer’s journey map?
More than ever before, business success requires knowing as much as possible about your buyers. Because people are bombarded with so much information, they have become desensitized. Unless you fully understand what your prospects want and care about, it’s just about impossible to get their attention.
When you’re armed with deep insights about what buyers are going through and why (the buyer’s journey), it’s a whole lot easier to get their attention and build a relationship. You do that by building touchpoints with your company that are positive and relevant to the people you serve. The trick is to make sure those touchpoints work toward achieving both your customers’ goals and your own.
Understanding your buyer’s journey is the first step toward creating those touchpoints and building the relationship.
A buyer’s journey map is a representation of what you know about your buyers. It must capture what your target customer is doing, thinking about, and what obstacles they need to overcome at every stage of their “journey” to achieving their goals. The map helps you communicate what you have learned about your buyers to your entire organization. That includes not only sales and marketing, but also customer service (and anyone who interacts with customers or prospects).
Before you can map the journey, you need to find out where your customers are going, why they’re making the journey, and how they’re getting there.
What is the buyer’s outcome goal?
Most businesses depend on customer retention and repeat business, not just one-time purchases. That’s why you may need to expand your definition of the buyer’s journey before you begin gathering information.
In your quest to create the best buyer’s journey map, it’s extremely helpful to think about the “journey” from the customer’s point of view, rather than your company’s point of view. So, rather than thinking of a purchase decision as the end game, think about what your customer wants to achieve.
What benefit or outcome does your customer want from their purchase and their relationship with your company? What you want to map is the customer’s journey to achieving (and maintaining) that benefit or outcome.
When you think about it that way, it’s easy to understand why your buyer’s journey map should not end with the purchase decision. Purchasing your product is not the ultimate goal for your buyer. What happens after the purchase – whether or not your product or service solves the customer’s problem – is their end game. That’s why mapping the post-purchase journey (what marketers like to call the “delight” phase) is equally important to the long-term success of your business.
How to build a more complete buyer’s journey map
Define your goals.
What are you trying to achieve with buyer research and what information do you need to guide your decisions and actions?
Gather what you already know.
Talk to every group within your organization that deals with customers to get their perspective on what your customers care about, what their goals are, and how they work toward achieving them. Doing this helps document what you already know, or think you know (you’d be surprised how often businesses assume incorrectly). It also identifies gaps in your knowledge and conflicting opinions in your organization. Next, you need to verify and add to your knowledge.
Talk to buyers about their entire journey.
The only valid way to really understand the buyer’s journey is to ask your customers directly in one-on-one conversations. Surveys can be helpful for specific purposes, but you can’t possibly learn everything you need to know about the buyer’s journey from surveys. Instead, carefully choose participants and conduct in-depth interviews. The interviews should be done by someone the customer sees as impartial (not their salesperson!) to encourage honest feedback.
What to ask about? That depends on your research goals, but most of the time your questions will focus on your customer’s pain points, outcome goals, purchase process, trusted resources, stakeholders and influencers, decision criteria, and of course, their post-sale experience with your company. That last one is what many leave out of their buyer research.
Buyer persona research is qualitative, and you don’t need 50 interviews to get good information. Somewhere between 10 and 20 interviews with customers and prospects is usually sufficient.
Analyze data and define personas.
The next step in defining the buyer’s journey is to aggregate the data from your interviews and group patterns of information. Doing that helps you build personas, which define different types of customers and prospects.
Especially for B2B products and services, there are often multiple stakeholders involved in the purchase process and the ongoing relationship with your company. And, there are buyers with different pain points, goals, needs, and buying habits. Personas help you understand the differences and create strategies and interactions for building relationships with each one.
For each persona, document the insights you learned from interviews, focusing on actionable information that helps you create relevant touchpoints with buyers that moves them (and you) toward the desired outcome.
Map the journey from the customer’s point of view.
NOW you’re finally in a position to create your buyer’s journey map. Here’s what it should include at a minimum:
Persona descriptions: High-level summaries or characterizations that capture the essence of their goals, challenges, and point of view.
Stages: However you choose to visualize them, you’ll need a way to define where the buyer is in their relationship with you. The classic stages of “Awareness” (becoming aware of a problem), “Consideration” (considering purchasing a solution), and “Decision” (deciding which solution to purchase) are helpful, but don’t stop there. Be sure to include the “Delight” or post-purchase customer experience and loyalty phase. You can also include the types of touchpoints your persona might have with solution providers at each stage.
Goals, pain points or motivations, and actions for each person at each phase. These are the helpful insights that will guide your marketing and sales interactions, helping you get noticed and build trust.
Barriers that customers need to overcome in each phase. Before the purchase, overcoming those barriers can move prospects closer to buying. After the purchase, overcoming barriers can keep customers loyal. Understanding the barriers puts you in a position to help buyers overcome them.
KEEP IN MIND: The buyer’s journey does not always follow that neat, linear progression shown in your map. Buyers can, and often do, move back and forth between the stages. That’s why it’s important to monitor prospects’ and customers’ behavior so you know where they are in the journey at any given time. That way your touch points stay relevant and helpful.
Here’s an example of what that might look like:
Want some help with buyer research?
For someone new to buyer persona research and buyer’s journey mapping, the process and the challenges can seem overwhelming. And, I’ll be honest with you, this work is time-consuming and not easy to get right the first time you try it. Experience in knowing how to design the research, get the right people to participate, and conduct the interviews can make all the difference in the outcome.
If your team is lacking the time and/or expertise, HELLO Marketing is here to help. We’ve been through this process many, many times with a variety of businesses, and we can help you get the insights you need to make smart marketing and business decisions.
Contact HELLO Marketing for a free 20-minute consultation that will help get you on the right path to understanding your audience and that brings results. Call Lauren at 973.214.5942 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.