April 13, 2016

Customer Journey Maps - Are You Using Them Correctly?

Customer Journey Maps are often vilified as a marketing buzzword that organizations love to hate. I understand where the sentiment comes from, I truly do. Too many of us have been held hostage by bad ones where a too expensive, overly-complex, multi-month mapping initiative with sticky notes on the walls ended up being shelved, forgotten and never used.
But bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch. A previous poor execution isn’t a good enough reason to lambast such an important tool. There are too many benefits to an organization having a common view into how a buyer buys and how a user (if different from the buyer as in many B2B SaaS sales) adopts.
Is the name part of the problem?
I’ve often thought that part of the CJM’s image problem may be in its name.
“Customer” doesn’t wholly reflect the complexities of many B2B sales where the person making the buying decision is often removed from the day-to-day users adopting the solution.
Then the word “journey” implies a level of conscious awareness or forethought on behalf of the buyer that they are on their way somewhere and heading toward a particular destination. We know this just isn’t the case, buyers gain awareness of solutions and head down buying paths in unintentional ways.
Finally, the term “map” implies a level of concreteness in a step by step progression and a level permanence in the landscape. Neither fits what we understand as the circuitous route a buyer may take toward a solution, nor does it take into account the ever growing ways buyers will choose interact with your brand. There are, literally, an infinite number of paths.
If I stipulate that we know the buyer or user won’t ever take a perfectly linear path down our funnel; and if I further stipulate that we won’t ever be able to accurately predict each and every potential path - does this mean any CJM is worthless?
Customer Journey Maps Are Useful As Constructs
Of course not. Despite its stipulated weaknesses, CJMs can be very useful tools in organizations. Its power comes from it being a construct.
The human brain loves to organize things -- we’re evolutionarily wired to categorize. This ability to categorize has helped us humans to quickly make sense of new, complex things in order to keep us alive and safe.
We’ve already established that a buyer’s actual path to purchase and adoption is circuitous, complex with an infinite array of alternatives. Add to that the complexity that in most organizations, there are different teams involved with sales and adoption including marketing, sales, product, and customer success to name just a few. Organizations need everyone rowing in the same direction and aligning their efforts for maximum benefit. And that alignment is near impossible if every different person has a unique point of view around how a buyer comes to buy and how a user adopts.
Given the innate complexity of both a buyer’s path and the organization -- and given our brain’s proclivity to categorize -- it’s useful to employ constructs like a CJM as a tool to align your organization’s people and resources around a common strategy.
And when the business goal is team alignment, a jointly created consensus hypothesis of the top segment’s journey may not necessarily reflect “truth” of the marketplace out the gate, the act of creating a view of the journey among all the stakeholders will generate the needed alignment for short term action and provide the forum for its future refinement.
3 Top Uses For Your Customer Journey Map
Your Customer Journey Map is a tool to drive strategy development and initiative prioritization. A Journey, as a construct, can be a powerful tool to align different teams in your organization around a common goal.
Get clear on what do we ‘know’ vs what ‘we think we know’. The journey construct is a way for an organization to put their “pink elephants” on the table and understand what is “known” about their buyers or users and what is still a hypothesis. I’ve seen organizations hold onto an old or unproven notions as fact for far too long because there hasn’t been a forum to review and reset.
It doesn’t mean all questions have to be answered before using the journey to set strategy. It just means it’s important to be clear on what is “known” and what is believed. This understanding drives identification of testing opportunities and identifies the best places to revisit if targets aren’t being achieved.
Align Sales and Marketing teams on lead scoring. There is always a (healthy) tension around the relative quality of leads generated by Marketing for Sales follow-up. Often this tension lies with each team having a different point of view of where a lead ought to be their “journey” before it’s appropriate for a Sales touch. Having both Marketing and Sales share a common view of the buyer’s journey helps to align lead scoring and appropriate budgeting and staffing within each department.
Identify both the micro and macro opportunities. Journey constructs are a great way to identify both micro and macro optimization opportunities. Micro opportunities include things like testing new messaging in email nurturing or different conversion page designs or even new content for specific segments. These are the kind of opportunities that every team can find and participate in.
Macro opportunities tend to broader in scope and may include brand new business models, new partnerships or changes in pricing/packaging. These are important outcomes of an organization truly understanding the needs and pain points of their market’s buyers and users.
I admit that in conversations with my sales and product colleagues, I sometimes choose not to even call it a “journey” because it’s such a loaded term. I’ll innocently refer to what we’re doing as our working together to build a “flow chart” or “whiteboard diagram” to get everyone on the same page.

However you have to do it, I recommend you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. A customer journey map -- when used correctly in your organization as a construct and a tool -- is a great way to align cross-functional teams as well as inform marketing activities and resources.