The TL;DR* of this article
*Too Long, Didn't Read
The Sales Process Has Changed
The modern consumer takes an omnichannel approach on their path-to-purchase, going from brick-to-click and click-to-brick when buying.
Mapping Your Customer Journey is Best Done Via a Framework
A customer journey map done through the lens of a business framework infuses data and subtle nuances of modern consumers, yet is simple enough to internalize.
Aligning the Brand and Customer Experiences is the Key to a Successful Customer Journey Map
Use your customer journey map to show opportunities to align your business's story and model with your buyer's emotional and logical triggers — the key to achieving brand euphoria.
Using Your Customer Journey Map to Improve Sales
By adding customer journey analytics to your customer journey map, you have a gateway for improving sales and driving bigger business outcomes.
One of the hottest sales tools today is the customer journey map which, believe it or not, hasn’t been around for that long. It wasn’t until recently — around the time that modern consumer behavior became more complex — that many companies started leveraging this crucial tool to increase sales. To better explain why, let’s blast back to the past for a look at how today’s buyer’s journey — and thereby the sales process — has evolved over recent years.
But first, a quick caveat. At RocketSource, we tend to over-engineer things. The customer journey map is a prime example. We’ve iterated on the traditional version of customer journey mapping so much that we call our version the customer insights map. But, for the sake of understanding, in this post we’ll refer to the concept of visually documenting a buyer’s journey as a customer journey map. Now, onward!
The Sales Process: Then and Now
I have a background in sales. I’ve watched with fascination as the market has changed at rapid speed.
A decade ago, customers weren’t interacting with technology in quite the same way we do today. The Internet of Things (IoT) wasn’t commonplace. It was a foreign concept to make a request or purchase by merely saying, “Hey, Google!” or “Alexa…”.
The way people found what they wanted to buy varied too. Although consumers used search engines to research products and services, there was still a healthy skepticism about shopping online. Today, even the simplest tasks are done via an omnichannel approach. As evidence of this, take a look at the difference in back-to-school supply purchase behavior in 2017 and 2018. Moms today are ordering online or via an app for in-store pickup or curbside pickup rather than dragging kids through the stores.
Technology has changed the fabric of the customer’s journey across all industries — not just retail. To understand how it’s changed your industry, a customer journey map can shed light on what your buyers are doing, from the awareness stage, all the way through the purchase and beyond.
A word of warning before you get started: too often we see companies dive head-first into customer journey map creation without considering how to use the insights they provide for the long term. Customer journey maps are powerful sales tools, but not when treated as one-off initiatives.
Before stretching a giant, blank customer journey map across the wall, grabbing those sticky notes and jumping into it, it’s essential to ensure that you’re approaching your mapping exercise through the right lens. That lens stems from the business framework you use in your organization.
Customer Journey Mapping Via the Lens of a Business Framework
In today’s fast-paced, quickly evolving business environment, the framework you choose must encourage you to do three things: infuse data, internalize the meaning of that data and honor the nuances of today’s modern consumer.
Traditionally, the surface level analytics found in most customer relationship management (CRM) tools are pretty much the extent of what’s used to drive most make-or-break decisions. Just look at how many B2B marketers struggle with CRM integrations.
A whopping 39% are novice when it comes to integrating data with their CRM, and 14% aren’t even sure where data fits in. These companies are missing tremendous opportunities by not tapping into data. So why aren’t they? It’s certainly not because there is a shortage of data out there. There might be multiple reasons, but in our experience the primary reason is the lack of a framework to guide what’s needed from the data during the customer journey mapping process.
Without a framework in place to serve as the blueprint and guide processes, many pieces are forgotten, left unstructured, or overlooked. The right framework shapes how the organization as a whole sees the customer’s entire journey in a macro view. It acts as a guide to everyone in the organization, empowering teams from IT to sales and beyond to break out more profound insights about buyers.
Easy to Internalize
For people, choosing the path of least resistance comes naturally. The harder something is to understand, the less likely we are to use it, opting for the more straightforward route instead. The same logic applies to a business framework. When implementing a business framework, it’s easy to get tripped up by the complexity of it and just go right around it.
Contrary to popular belief, a robust framework doesn’t need to be complicated. I argue that a well-built framework is simple on the surface and easily interpreted across all departments. This simplicity ensures that your framework doesn’t have to be pulled out and referenced every time you make a critical decision.
Oh, what a time to be alive! We’re living in what Google calls the “age of assistance.” People today rely on devices to steer decision making — even when those decisions are as small as buying a cup of coffee. An example of this behavior comes from Google’s research, that found:
There was an 80% growth in the search term “best” on mobile devices from 2015 to 2017.
When people want a caffeine fix from a local coffee shop, Google has found that they’re more likely to search for “best coffee shop” rather than simply “coffee shop.” This new search behavior and others like it have led to an increase in the number of touchpoints along the buyer’s path-to-purchase.
But it’s not just the increased number of times that buyers engage with your company. It’s the detail involved in each of these touchpoints that is so important to consider when viewing your customer journey map. Consumers today demand personalization more than ever before. Epsilon research found that:
80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.
Understanding the consumer’s journey and their expectations in each stage is critical for knowing how to personalize the experience and ultimately win the sale. But that personalization can’t be delayed. Remember, consumers today are different. They’re demanding. They have the power and they know it. Another Google study found that because of this new-found power they also want immediacy.
There is a 150% growth in mobile searches for “_____ near me now.”
As modern consumer behavior becomes more intricate, so does the need for organizations to respond to those behavioral changes and understand how they impact a buyer’s transition between channels and across devices. Using a robust framework as a lens for viewing these nuances can help guide the process of filling out your customer journey map. The framework that answers these three requirements — the one we use at RocketSource — is StoryVesting.
Understanding Modern Consumer Behavior Via the StoryVesting Framework
To understand why I’m such an advocate of leveraging the StoryVesting framework during the sales process, you must understand how it was created. You can read the full backstory behind this business transformation framework over on our co-founder Buckley Barlow’s post, but for now here’s some high-level insight into its history.
StoryVesting is Based on Success
Buckley’s initial goal in creating the StoryVesting framework was to build something that would guide his personal success. As he talked to people who had impressive resumes, like Gene England of England Trucking and Eric Schmidt of Google, he quickly found his research was leading beyond personal success alone. Buckley had the research and insights to build a framework for organizational success too. These are the key insights he gathered from these conversations.
A business’s vision is paramount to achieving success, followed closely by the business model. When it comes to mapping your customer’s journey, keeping these crucial pieces of the puzzle in mind can help you understand the big picture of what’s needed to help your company succeed. But it goes deeper than that. No matter how intricate people’s purchase behavior gets, sales still come down to the people involved.
It’s All About the People
Sales are all about relationships. These relationships are formed both internally and externally. Buckley’s research proves this notion with respondents touting the importance of having employees who are vested (40%) and talented (28%).
Scratching your head yet? Aren’t those people just inside your business? Isn’t this post about understanding the buyer’s journey? You’re correct, which is one of the things I think makes StoryVesting so brilliant.
As Buckley designed the framework, he incorporated two circles — one that answered the brand’s drivers for success and the other that answered the customer’s path-to-purchase. Here’s what it looks like.
The brand experience framework was built out based on his research and findings for organizational success. The customer experience framework was built based on his passion for behavioral economics and consumer psychology.
To build this framework Buckley studied a lot of people, including Albert Bandura, who created the social learning theory out of his study using the famous Bobo Dolls. He also dug into recent research on the impact of cognitive associations and cognitive dissonance. Buckley even looked at neuroscience and the role the brain plays in making key buying decisions. The nuances of human behavior are baked into StoryVesting, and yet the framework as a whole is simple to internalize.
Aligning These Circles
With both the brand and customer experiences accounted for, Buckley went into design mode to bring these two core groups of people closer together. To demonstrate this concept of alignment, Buckley outlined what it would look like as these two circles approached each other. Here’s what he came up with:
You can see that as these concentric circles drift apart the brand heads into No Man’s Land, losing brand equity, disconnecting from modern consumer’s needs and putting the company ahead of the customer. The closer these two circles align, the more euphoric the customer’s experience becomes. Upon reaching Brand Euphoria, a brand is able to deliver immersive experiences, form deep cognitive associations about the brand and become more customer-centric with each interaction. It’s the latter that companies strive to achieve, and mapping the customer’s journey is one practice that enables them to get closer to that goal.
Aligning Experiences Via a Customer Journey Map
Traditionally, customer journey map exercises look a little like this one from BrightVessel.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this map. It’s good. It captures essential aspects of the buyer’s journey, including the stages they go through when deciding to buy and the steps they take in each of those stages and touchpoints. It even outlines which internal departments touch those customers along their journey.
However, the customer journey map itself isn’t what will bring alignment. You have to move both of the circles towards each other. Keeping the concept of this alignment in mind is critical as you start to map your customer journey and how your company engages with your buyers at every step.
Another RocketSource co-founder, Steven Kiger, along with his associate Kevin Beckstead, covered how these types of journey maps have evolved to match the modern consumers’ funnel and consumer demands in their post about customer journey visualization. And, as you might recall, earlier in this post, I outlined the importance of bringing in data to better understand what’s happening with your customer. Yet, the traditional customer journey map (like this one from BrightVessel) just doesn’t offer that level of insight. So I innovated on this exercise, using the StoryVesting framework to guide our efforts. Here’s a sample of how that looks.
I can’t give you the full version here, but you can see it in all its glory (with a ton of supporting detail) over on our post about customer journey mapping or through our LevelNext workshops. As a team, we have put a lot of proprietary information and our secrets into it. What I can do for you here is touch on some of the ways we’ve modernized the customer journey map so you can innovate your internal processes. Let’s start by looking at this map horizontally.
You’ll notice some questions, emotions and statements at the top of this map. These directly align with the empathy mapping exercise we’ve done specifically for this customer cohort. This is significant because by bringing empathy onto the map, we’re better able to understand what the customer is thinking, feeling and doing at each stage of their journey.
One of the best ways I’ve uncovered to draw out these insights and better understand exactly what the buyer is thinking, saying, feeling, and doing, is to use a free word cloud generator (yes, free). In it, I’m able to drop large amounts of text and then quickly get a gorgeous word cloud that visualizes what people are saying at every stage of the journey.
Move further down the map, and you’ll notice two lines.
These lines corresponds with the two circles in the StoryVesting framework. One represents the employee’s experience and the other the customer’s experience. By breaking these out separately, we can quickly visualize areas of opportunity to improve the experiences on both the customer side and the employee side throughout the sales and onboarding process.
Looking at Micro-Moments
Another thing you’ll notice is the number of touchpoints on this map. These correspond with modern consumers’ research-obsessed behavior we talked about earlier. In this one stage alone, there are 11 touchpoints. Each of those touchpoints is a micro-moment in the buyer’s journey.
According to Google, micro-moments occur when a customer reflexively turns to a device to learn, do, discover, watch or buy something, according to Google. These small moments have a direct impact on the consumer’s experience. McKinsey’s research found that improving customer journey satisfaction at each touchpoint can lead to:
- A 15% – 20% reduction in calls and visits
- A 10% – 20% increase in cross-selling
- 5% to 15% cost avoidance
- A 5 to 10 point lift in customer satisfaction
These improvements to the sales process can have a make-or-break impact on our ability to achieve organizational growth. As we map the customer journey, documenting each touchpoint along the way, we’re able to visualize how each fits into the overarching experience. That involves:
- Honoring the research-obsessed customer by predicting intent and listening to customer signals, which in turn can drive long-term growth
- Personalizing each touchpoint by showing up in the right place at the right time with the right empathy-infused message
- Delivering more value at each touchpoint and automating communications so that they provide a frictionless experience across all devices
In taking this approach, we can better align the sales process and achieve larger business outcomes.
Tapping Into Your Customer Journey Analytics
Guesswork is an ineffective old-school way to fill out your customer journey map. It just won’t work with today’s consumer. Instead, it’s imperative that you dig into your data to get an accurate picture of where you can improve your sales process.
Traditional analytics struggle to provide this level of insight because:
- The volume of data is too overwhelming
- There’s an inherent struggle in knowing where and how to implement data
- The overload of information is still new, so there’s a scarcity of employees skilled in applying it
- The modern consumer’s behavior changes quickly, making it hard to continually evolve the process at every stage of the journey
Although difficult, skilling up and learning how to measure what’s happening along the buyer’s journey can have a dramatic impact on your success. MIT researchers found that:
Measurement leaders are over 2x as likely as their measurement-challenged counterparts to invest in automation and machine learning technologies to drive activities.
Most marketers believe their KPIs are achieved by increasing their investment in automation and technology. Still, very few are tapping into this resource as a way to better understand their customer journey maps, simply because they aren’t sure where or how to start.
By honing your measurement practices, you can help increase your insight into what’s happening along the buyer’s journey, thereby empowering you to automate more and improve the overall experience for your buyer and your team.
Your Customer Journey Map is Your Gateway to Improving Sales
A customer journey map has the potential to contribute to your overall business outcomes in clear and dramatic ways. That contribution starts when you use it to improve how you reach and sell to your customers, both new and current. But, without viewing your customer journey map through the lens of a framework like StoryVesting or attaching data to visualize irrefutable areas of opportunity, you won’t achieve maximum results.
As we alluded to earlier in this post, we offer specific training for bringing this to life for your team. If you’re interested in growing yourself personally and professionally in these areas, we encourage you to sign up for our free Digital Dominance series. Then, poke around the LevelNext pages to learn how we can help your organization as a whole by sharing these same concepts with each department.