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All businesses, even charities and not for profit, need to make sales, and they need to do so as efficiently as possible to ensure profit for survival. A tool that you can implement within your marketing strategy to improve conversions at every stage – to both increase sales and speed up your customers’ decision to purchase – is a customer journey map. Done properly, it allows you to understand the experience your customers have from initial awareness of your brand through to sale, which steps are working well, which need to be improved and how the whole process can be streamlined. Crucially, it also ensures that all clients get a uniform experience – essential for building a consistent brand image and loyalty.
Customer journey maps are a way of visualising the experience your customers get when they interact with your brand. You may not realise it, but there are often a huge number of steps between the first interaction your customer has with your brand and their decision to purchase. Depending on your business, a customer may experience multiple phone calls, emails and/or meetings before a sale is made; at the opposite end of the spectrum they may just be adding an item to their shopping cart and paying at the checkout, whether that be online or in person.
A successful customer journey map will identify all these stages visually, enabling all staff to understand your customer journey and their role within it. To create your company’s customer journey map, you therefore have to begin by identifying each of these stages and the potential pathways that a prospective client may take through them. The illustration shows the customer pathway that we plotted for one of our clients; in this case, there are four potential pathways with between five and ten possible touchpoints before a likely decision. We have plotted this from the point at which the end client first makes proactive contact, but you may well have a number of stages before this in which you are reaching out to the client through your marketing.
Plotting all the stages in your customer’s journey enables you to streamline the experience of your customers, both by making the journey as efficient as possible (the fewer stages you have, the fewer opportunities there are for people to opt away from you) and by examining each stage in isolation to optimise them.
Alongside your customer journey map, it is really helpful if you can track conversions from each stage to the next. When you have implemented an optimised customer pathway, you should notice that these go up for each stage, ultimately leading to increased sales.
A customer journey from first experience of the brand to purchase is usually fairly complex, so the job of your journey map is to ensure that it is made as focused and simple as possible without missing out any essential steps. To start off, it is important to think about the method of sales you use and how potential customers are funnelled towards it. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and figure out each individual interaction they have with your brand before the sale is made. It’s vital that you are thorough with this; any interaction that is overlooked can have the potential to ruin your plan.
Then you need to streamline it into an efficient map, reducing the pathways so that you don’t end up with something that looks like Spaghetti Junction; it needs to be an accurate representation of your customer journey, but it also needs to be intelligible. (If your customer’s journey really does look like Spaghetti Junction, you probably want to start streamlining it immediately!)
Once you have the basic pathway mapped, think about what aspects of your journey are turning customers away and what aspects are attracting them. To get a really good idea of which stages of your process are going wrong, it can help to physically put yourself in your customer’s shoes or hire ‘mystery shoppers’ to figure out where improvements are needed. Potential solutions include:
Producing an optimised customer journey map is one thing, successfully implementing it is another. You need to bring all staff on board, both by understanding the customer journey and their role within it.
Finally, it’s important to keep your plan up to date and optimised. If you have recently incorporated an online feature or new technology into your service, you will need to amend your map to reflect this. Also, remember that your journey map is fluid; keep getting customer feedback and work on optimising it as you go along.
Optimising your customer journey map can do a lot for improving potential clients’ experiences with your brand, improving conversions and sales. But remember that this is not a once-in-a-lifetime exercise; you need to review it regularly to make sure your clients are getting the best possible experience and that your team is onboard for delivering it.