Journey maps unlock buyer needs

When starting a branding project, we always ask whether our client has mapped the journey buyers take in selecting and retaining their organization. This visual depiction has long been a vital staple of consumer marketing. But more often than not, we are told that mapping is hard for a professional services firm or a school because every buyer is different.

We agree — buyers can vary greatly in the path they take, based on their own goals, experiences and biases. But it is still critical to identify the major interactions and mindsets prospects and clients have at each stage of the journey.

A thoughtful journey map will help you spot the weak links in your brand experience. For example, you may be great at getting people interested in your company but fall down on what it’s like to actually be a client. The mapping process will help pinpoint what needs to be changed and how quickly. At its best, this exercise engages an entire organization in understanding everyone’s role in creating an exceptional client experience.

Identify the point of departure
Where to start? Divide up your journey map into the most common stages of the buyer’s experience. Forget how you are organized internally and focus on what buyers think and need at these moments:

• Awareness

• Interest

• Consider

• Purchase

• Retain

• Advocate (internally and with other businesses)

Next, break down the touchpoints that make up each stage of the journey. For example, in the awareness stage, you are trying to create top-of-mind recognition. While name recognition is important, what breaks through the clutter is content that helps the buyer address a challenge that they face. So, when a prospect walks into your booth at a trade show and receives something that helps them do their job versus a generic brochure, they take notice. It is the start of establishing trust.

While name recognition is important, what breaks through the clutter is content that helps the buyer address a challenge that they face.

As the buyer gets interested, learns more and engages with the brand, look for ways to create a personal dialogue. If you manage this process well, you should see an increase in inquiries and purchases. But the journey doesn’t end when you are selected. It is just beginning.

The final stages, retaining buyers and getting them to advocate on your behalf, are just as important. Client feedback programs can be critical touchpoints here.

Fill in the details
Once you’ve identified the touchpoints of each stage, ask:

  • Who internally is needed to make this stage work? Do both major and minor players know their role?
  • What does the buyer really need answered at this point? What is too much information, too soon? What is the same as everyone else wants to know?
  • What is the buyer emotionally concerned about?
  • Who are the top influencers?
  • What type of content will make the buyer want to take the next step?
  • What are the top tools to get the action you desire? How are we measuring the effectiveness of each?

Continue the journey
Why does journey mapping break down? Because your organization likely needs more than one map. Different buyer groups will have different challenges, goals, expectations and worries. Once you’ve done the journey map for your organization as a whole, be sure to fine-tune it for your major types of buyers.

But the biggest problem with journey mapping is that once the plan is done, it is too often put away. It should be always in plain view, with its touchpoints color-coded to show which need immediate attention. Each touchpoint should also show the stakeholders responsible for making that stage of the journey succeed.

Journey mapping that is done well will:

  • Highlight the buying process through the eyes of the buyer, not your organization’s selling structure.
  • Identify which communication tools most influence the buyers’ decision-making process.
  • Provide a way to document buyer’s motivations and needs at every point that they interact with your organization.
  • Raise awareness of the emotional aspects of the buyer’s journey.

Never lose sight of the simple reason to slog through journey mapping: Delivering a brand experience that exceeds buyer expectations. You want buyers to feel you always have their best interest at heart, not just your own. If you deliver on those points, you will create brand loyalty that is more than the sum of the parts of the brand experience.

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