An introduction to the customer user journey and why B2B brands need to have it mapped out
What the customer user journey is and its value to B2B brands and their customers.
Knowing your customer base and understanding what makes your customers tick will give your B2B brand an always-necessary competitive advantage. If you know your customers, you can engineer a customer journey to give each customer the best experience possible when they interact with your brand.
The technology-driven world we live in has made us more impatient, and if a potential customer fails to find what they’re looking for on your website in a reasonable amount of time (let’s say, up to 10 seconds), or the customer experience (CX) disappoints, you will likely fail to win their custom.
But this is not the only reason to consider customer user journeys. McKinsey & Company research shows that brands that optimise their customer journeys ‘tend to win in the market’, and there is a clear link between high-performing customer journeys and faster revenue growth.
This is why it’s so important to analyse the journey your customers follow, from their first contact with your brand to the moment they become a customer.
What is the customer journey?
The customer journey is the path each customer goes on as they learn more about your brand. In B2B, the customer journey is often longer and more complex than in B2C, where the customer journey may only comprise a few interactions and that is all that’s needed for the customer to accomplish their ‘goal’ – for example, to buy a product.
In B2B, we know the sales funnel has different stages, and each customer – or potential customer – will move along the funnel on a ‘journey’, interacting with your brand as they go and weighing up the service, product or solution before they arrive at a buying decision (at the bottom of the funnel). In a sense, the customer journey occurs inside the sales funnel, and it’s the brand’s responsibility to support customers to continue along their journey until they achieve their desired goal.
If the customer drops out of the journey at any time and doesn’t return, perhaps because they are frustrated by something they encounter on route, such as a poorly-designed contact form or lack of clear signposting, that indicates a fault with the customer user journey. That fault can, and should, be remedied by way of a process called customer journey mapping.
Customer journey mapping
As a B2B brand, you need to understand your customers if you’re to be successful at selling your products, service or solution to them. To better understand your customers, ‘map’ out the journey they go on when they interact with you, whether this be online, offline or a mixture of both.
Mapping out the customer journey will reveal insights about the people you are designing your products, services and solutions for but also reveal where you could make changes to improve the customer experience.
Mapping is the method companies use to understand the journey their customers take when interacting with their brand. The process often involves three stages:
• Defining a persona for each group of customers
• Defining the different stages of each persona’s journey
• Defining the interactions (touchpoints) within each stage of their journey.
In stage one, it’s important to get to know each persona before you create the customer journey. You can take demographic data from tools like Google Analytics and carry out primary research using qualitative methodologies to learn more about your customers. And don’t forget to utilise information gathered through surveys, interviews, and feedback channels.
In stage two, you break down the customer’s (or each persona’s) journey into stages so you can see how it functions and flows from end-to-end. For example, you will want to learn how they arrive at your website and where they go from there. Do they browse a case study, download a whitepaper, then make contact?
In stage three, get a closer look at what each customer (or persona) is doing at each stage and the various touchpoints at play. For example, a customer may come to the homepage and then move on to a particular landing page. From there, they may fill in a contact form and get a response by email. Each of these is a touchpoint. Once you know what your customers do at each step, you can make it easier for them to move from one step to the next, simplifying the customer journey and, in turn, the sales funnel.
There are many paths a customer (or persona) may choose, but for the purposes of creating a customer journey map, focus on one path first, then build out from there.
Why use customer journey maps?
If you invest time in mapping out the customer journey and complete the process thoroughly, not only will you learn a lot more about your customers, but you will begin to discover where the roadblocks are on their journey. For example, you might realise there is a problem with the design of your microsite, and you need to reengineer it or rework the messaging to increase the chance of customers continuing on their journey.
For this reason, customer journey mapping gives you, as a brand, valuable knowledge and insight into the minds of your customers, and what might be causing them to abandon their journey with your brand. For example, is there a landing page with a high drop off rate that may be frustrating them? Or is there a particular touchpoint that seems to be failing, and would it benefit from automation? These are insights you need to have to be able to improve the CX on your website and, in turn, increase customer loyalty.
But the process of mapping out the customer journey can provide many further benefits to your brand. For example, it can help a team become more aligned on how to improve the customer experience. You’ll also have a clearer view of what content to create, and how you can use content, call to actions, and brand voice to help the customer meet their goals at each stage of their journey.
From a marketing and sales perspective, a high-performing customer journey should increase leads and revenue from marketing campaigns, while giving you the insights you need to streamline and potentially simplify the sales cycle.
Improving the customer experience – and minimising touchpoints
As mentioned, by mapping out the journey of each type of customer (persona) you can discover everything you need to know about that customer’s needs, expectations, pain points and challenges. You can also learn how and where to make changes to improve their experience of interacting with your brand.
Though the customer journey mapping process is often focused on defining the touchpoints, your goal as a brand should be to identify how and where you can reduce the number of touchpoints a potential customer has to go through before they take the action you want, whether it be to enquire about a product, buy a product or rebuy a product.
Research from McKinsey & Company also reveals the companies that ‘perform best on journeys have a more distinct competitive advantage than those that excel at touchpoints.’ So, what’s important is not simply the number or even quality of the touchpoints – it’s how well the journey is defined, engineered, and structured as a whole.
Getting started with customer journey mapping
In a future blog, we’ll discuss how you can kickstart the mapping process. We’ll also look more closely at user journey mapping (the user experience) and the difference between customer journey and user journey mapping.
1. McKinsey & Company, From touchpoints to journeys: Seeing the world as customers do, By Nicolas Maechler, Kevin Neher, and Robert Park, March 2016. Available here.
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