A Field Guide to Customer Journey Mapping

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Customer Acquisition : 7 min read

A Field Guide to Customer Journey Mapping

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s going through your prospects’ minds when they’re looking at your product, exploring your website, or buying—or choosing not to buy—your product?

What if we told you it’s all possible? It is, and it’s called customer journey mapping.

You’ve probably heard of customer journey maps before or have seen examples of them—many of which look super complicated and intimidating.

If you know what you’re doing, however, they don’t have to be.

Keep reading to learn:

We’ve even got a template that you can download to get you started! (And examples. Lots of examples.)

What is customer journey mapping?

A customer journey map outlines all the interactions a customer (or potential customer) makes with your product, service offering, or overall brand. It’s a visual representation of the “journey” a customer goes through to achieve a goal (or otherwise, drop off).

The primary purpose of customer journey mapping is to find out what that goal is, and whether or not a customer is able to achieve it with your company.

The key is to figure out how to help your customers achieve their goals as quickly and easily as possible—while also achieving your own.

The concept is pretty straightforward, but depending on how many stages a buyer needs to go through and the number of interactions they have with your company’s various touchpoints, customer journey mapping can get real intricate, real fast.

Which is great. Really.

Why? Because the more data you collect on someone, the better you can tweak the user experience to help them reach their goal (leading to a conversion a.k.a. achieving your own goal at the same time).

For example, by mapping out the steps and key interactions a user has on your website, you can see how, when, and why they eventually land on the product or service you’re offering:

customer journey map:rail company example
An example of a customer journey map (you can find more examples at the bottom of this post)

Why is customer journey mapping important?

Customer journey mapping will tell you exactly where in your overall user experience (whether it’s your website, initial sales email, or sales call) your prospects are successfully moving forward and where they’re being held back—or dropping off altogether.

By observing and mapping your users’ behavior, you can gain insights into the full customer experience, beyond just where they click. If you do it well, you’ll also be able to figure out their:

  • Thoughts and feelings
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Needs and wants
  • Pain points and frustrations
  • Goals and motivators
  • Questions, hesitations, or concerns
  • Expectations
  • Deciding factors

This information will empower you to make the improvements necessary to ensure a long-term customer relationship and offer cross-departmental benefits for multiple teams in your company. Your marketing, sales, UX/UI, product and customer success teams (to name a few) can all reap major rewards from customer journey mapping

Marketing

Your marketing team will benefit from a customer journey map because it’ll help them better understand the thoughts going through a user’s mind at the different stages of the sales funnel. This can help improve the quality and relevance of your marketing content and make your nurture programs more effective.

Sales

Customer journey mapping will give your sales team a detailed understanding of how the sales funnel looks, allowing them to generate ideas to improve the sales process flow.

When a user ends up at the decision-making stage, knowing exactly what motivated the user to get there will help your sales reps sell the company’s product or service more effectively.

UX/UI

UX/UI designers will have a clear understanding of what a user’s end goal is from the get-go, essentially lighting the way for them to create interfaces that users can navigate with ease and lead them directly to their goal.

Plus, customer journey maps will highlight exactly where to make improvements in your product experience as pain points are discovered.

Product

Similar to designers, product managers will benefit from customer journey mapping as it’ll allow them to see how users move through the product onboarding and pre-determine what the user’s end goal is. This helps them make updates and structural improvements to the product accordingly.

Customer Success

Customer Success teams can see what issues a user runs into after onboarding. With this information, they can continuously revamp the customer experience to set themselves apart from competitors and really “wow” users.

This is especially important as customers are becoming more and more experience-oriented, and their relationship with a company is now one of the biggest factors in their decision-making process.

These departments all play a special role in creating impactful relationships with your customers.

Rather than assume or guess a user’s experience, give these teams the data accumulated through journey mapping to empower them to eliminate pain points, add helpful content in appropriate areas, and enhance the overall customer experience.

Now, let’s look at how to create a customer journey map.

How to create your customer journey map:

A huge perk of customer journey mapping is you don’t need any fancy software to create an effective one. A spreadsheet, whiteboard, or some sticky notes will do just fine to get you started.

Also, don’t worry too much about making your customer journey map pretty—just focus on making it as informative as it needs to be.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started on customer journey mapping:

  • Step 1: Set clear goals for your customer journey map.
  • Step 2: Define your buyer persona(s) or jobs to be done.
  • Step 3: Define the different stages buyers go through to achieve their goals.
  • Step 4: Create a customer journey map grid. (Template included!)
  • Step 5: Fill in your customer journey map grid.

Step 1: Set clear goals for your customer journey map.

First things first: you need to know why you’re making your customer journey map.

That means answering the following questions:

  1. Who is your customer journey map about?
  2. What is the scope of your customer journey map?

1. Who is your customer journey map about?

For this one, you’ll want to create a buyer persona. Buyer personas are generalized profiles of your typical customers, including both demographic and psychographic information about them as well as their goals.

The purpose of buyer personas is to give you a clear idea of who you’re designing your customer experience for.

We’ll go over buyer personas in more detail in step 2.

2. What is the scope of your customer journey map?

Is your customer journey map going to cover the entire user journey throughout the customer lifetime, or just one aspect of it? For example, you might choose to map only the signup journey, or the initial purchase journey.

It’s important to note that the level of detail your map will include will depend on how high-level the journey is. If you choose to map out the entire average customer lifetime, you won’t have as much detail in your map as something smaller, like if you were to focus on only the initial purchase journey.

For example, let’s say you wanted to map the customer journey for financing a new car. You could choose to map the entire journey (from the idea to buy a car through paying off the car years later) or you might choose to only map out the journey from idea to signing those finance papers and driving that car home. (The second one will have more room for specific details.)

One customer journey map isn’t better than the other. It all goes back to what your ultimate goal is for your map: if you want to take a look at the overall user journey then a high-level view will work best; on the other hand, if you want to take a closer look at a specific area of your user experience, then a customer journey map that focuses on that one area is what you'll need to achieve that goal.

Step 2: Define your buyer persona(s) or jobs to be done.

“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who the buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”
Tony Zambito

Essentially, buyer personas are stereotyped profiles of your “average customers,” based on data gathered about their behavior. They allow departments company-wide to get a better idea of who your customers are and then cater to them according to their unique goals and motivators:

buyer persona example
An example of a buyer persona  

So, who is your average customer? Here’s how to find out:

  1. Analytical research
  2. Anecdotal research

1. Analytical research

For starters, refer to the data you already have on your users—you can find a goldmine of it in your CRM:

persona example from copper crm
An example of customer information visible to you with CRM; we can see crucial persona information like the prospect’s title, industry, and where they live.

Analytical research is great because it can give you a high-level view of what’s working and what isn’t.

For example, it can reveal whether users are finding what they’re looking for on your website and which pages get them to move further down your sales funnel and which pages cause them to leave it.

view of lost opportunities in copper crm
An example from Copper: you can easily see the reasons you lost opportunities

But analytical data on its own isn’t enough to create accurate buyer personas. You’ll need to add a more human touch—which brings us to anecdotal research.

2. Anecdotal research

Data gives you facts, but it doesn’t tell you enough to form the entire story behind a customer’s journey. For that, you’ve got to ask the people taking the journey: your customers.

Note we said customers, not just anyone. You want to ask the people who’ve actually purchased from you in the past.

Here are some different formats you can use:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Asking for feedback
  • User testing
  • Customer service emails

For example, you could email your existing customers a questionnaire or call them up and ask if they’d like to participate in one over the phone. You could even offer an incentive like a discount or a credit toward next month’s subscription fee.

Some examples of questions to ask your test group are:

  • How did you first hear about our company?
  • What attracted you to our product?
  • What were you trying to achieve with our company? Did we help you achieve that goal?
  • How long did it take you to get a grasp of how our product worked?
  • How long did you spend researching?
  • Were there any other competitors you were looking at the same time? If yes, made you choose our company over them?
  • What was the one thing you’d say made you decide to buy from us?
  • Have you ever contacted our customer support team? If yes, how helpful was it on a scale of 1-10? What could’ve made it better?
  • Do you have any other feedback for us to improve your experience moving forward?

The answers to these questions will help you determine your average customer’s motivations, pain points, and most importantly, their goals.

An alternative to buyer personas: the jobs-to-be-done framework.

Buyer personas are a tool that’s been used for as long as anyone can remember, but more recently a new model has come to play: the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework.

JTBD focus on the tasks a prospect has to complete in order to do their job, taking a look at the user needs behind those tasks. Then, sales teams build their strategy around those needs.

jobs to be done example

You can learn more about JTBD and how it's different from a personas approach here.

Step 3: Define the different stages buyers go through to achieve their goal.

Now that you’ve established who your customer journey map is for with defined buyer personas as well as exactly which part of the journey you’ll be mapping, it’s time to identify the different stages a customer would go through to get from one end of the map to the other.

These stages will probably look something like this:

  • Discovery
  • Research
  • Purchase
  • Delivery
  • After sales

These stages might vary a bit depending on your unique product or service. You could have more stages than this, or less. That’s totally okay. Just name the stages and order them in a way that makes sense for your company.

If you’re stumped, refer back to your buyer personas to give you an idea of just what steps they’d need to go through to achieve their goals, from their first interaction with your company, to eventually buying something, to their experience after the sale.

Next, we’ll go over the details of what happens at each of these stages.

Step 4: Create a customer journey map grid.

It’s time to build out the framework of your customer journey map. The best way to do this is by creating a “customer journey map grid.”

In the top row of this grid, put each of the stages you defined in the previous step.

Then, on the left column, put the following:

  • Actions
  • Touchpoints
  • Emotions
  • Pain points
  • Opportunities
Note: This isn’t the only way to make customer journey maps. You can check out the examples at the end of this post for other formats. This is a good place to start though!

Step 5: Fill in your customer journey map grid.

Using the template above, fill in the boxes in order:

Actions

These are the actions that a user takes that leads them to your brand. For example, in the Discovery phase, these actions could be:

  • Does an online search which brings up your company as a search result
  • Talks to a friend about their problem who refers them to your solution
  • Sees an ad for your business on social media

Touchpoints

A “touchpoint” is any place that a user might come into contact with and interact with your company through. Some examples of touchpoints are:

  • Your website
  • Social media
  • Paid ads
  • Email marketing
  • Cold calling
  • Third party website
customer journey example with touchpoints
Examples of the various touchpoints users might come across at different stages of the sales funnel

Pro-tip: Did you know you can actually get a bunch of valuable insights about your user touchpoints from Google Analytics? The Behavior Flow Report and Goal Flow Report are great places to start:

behavior flow report in google analytics
The Behavior Flow report shows the path users take from one action to the next on your website, helping you determine which touchpoints are most engaging.

The Goal Flow report shows you the different sources your opportunities are coming in from:

goal flow report in google analytics

Or, just use your CRM to see where your opportunities are coming from:

opportunity sources in copper crm
An example from Copper: instantly see where the majority of your opportunities are coming from, so you know which of your touchpoints are most effective.  

Emotions and motivations

Put yourself in the user’s shoes. What might they be thinking at this point? What are they trying to figure out? How are they feeling? Are they frustrated or impressed by the user experience? What’s keeping them going?

Knowing this information will help you present the right content at the right time to provide a seamless user experience with as a few frustrations as possible.

Pain points

Are there any obstacles in the journey keeping the prospect from achieving their goal or finding the information they’re looking for?

Similar to the previous point, knowing this information will help you improve or replace your existing content and make adjustments to your user experience to alleviate these pains.

Opportunities

Based on all the details above this box, what are the areas you can improve on to help make those emotions more positive, ensure those motivations are met, and pain points are reduced?

For example, if you find a lot of people are stopping at the checkout page and contacting your company at that point to clarify things they’re not sure of, you could conclude your website isn’t doing a good job communicating all the details a user needs to make a confident purchase.

The opportunity here might be to add an “FAQs” page to your site. This would not only prevent drop off (not everyone is going to bother contacting you) but also reduce the cost of acquisition as having FAQs is cheaper than paying a rep to answer the same questions over and over.

Here are some questions to ask when looking for opportunities in each stage of the customer journey…

  • Are there any gaps or pain points in the flow? Is it clear what the user must do to move forward? Is the user experience confusing?
  • Does the user achieve their goal in this stage?
  • If the user doesn’t achieve their goal, what stopped them? What are the barriers?
  • How can any pain points or barriers be alleviated in the future?

Pro-tip: If you’re doing customer journey mapping as a group, you might find it easier to just use sticky notes and a big board. Sticky notes work great because you can move them around easily. Plus, they make the mapping experience more interactive.

customer journey mapping with stickie notes

Once you’ve completed your grid, congratulations—you now have a customer journey map and already have some ideas for improvement (e.g. your opportunities section).

How to use your customer journey map:

Don’t dedicate all that time and energy into creating an awesome, accurate customer journey map just to stick it a file cabinet or folder on your computer.

If your team’s all in one office, blow it up and hang it up somewhere everyone can see it. Otherwise, create another format (or formats) that will work for everyone at your company.

Keep in mind that customer journey mapping isn’t meant to be a one-and-done thing. Things are going to change—make sure your customer journey map gets updated when they do.

To ensure it stays updated, you can pre-schedule meetings with stakeholders once every quarter, for example, to go over it. If you’re updating it on your own or with a small team, or your customer journey is changing more rapidly, you may want to update it once a month.

Customer journey maps are never going to be perfect, but they should be close enough to real life that you can make decisions based off them with confidence. Keeping them updated ensures you can do that.

Examples of customer journey maps:

Here are some examples of customer journey maps. As you’ll see, there’s more than one way to create a customer journey map. Over time, you’ll find what works best for you and your company.

Enjoy!

ptero customer journey map
Ptero’s customer journey map is simple and straightforward. Including the specific metrics to work on in “recommendations” section makes it very actionable as well.
starbucks customer journey map
Starbucks uses them too! This is a good example of a customer journey map built for a brick-and-mortar store.  
digital experience customer journey
Customer journey maps don’t have to be pretty—but it definitely doesn’t hurt. This example illustrates the customer journey as just that: a journey.
customer experience road map
An example of a fun take of a customer journey map design resembling a road map.
customer journey map example 2
This example does a great job visualizing the customer’s emotional experience throughout their journey.

Customer journey mapping paves the way to long-term business success.

A good customer journey mapping process makes it easy for you to figure out what a user hopes to achieve with your company and how to help them get there.

By focusing on creating these positive customer relationships, you’re setting your customers—and your company—up for long-term success.

Customer journey mapping is not a cookie cutter solution. There are multiple ways to create an effective customer journey map and you’ll need to find what works best for your company.

Now that you’ve read all the way down to here, you should have a good handle on where to start. Good luck!

Pro-tip

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Want to understand your customers better? Get the ideal customer profile (ICP) worksheet.