Journey Mapping Can Guide You To A Stronger Brand

This originally appeared on on April 4, 2019 -

Marketing our brands used to be simpler. We had just a few options: TV, print, a mailer, a radio ad, a brochure for the sales force. This has all changed.

In 2018, digital advertising surpassed traditional advertising in spend for the first time and, I would argue, made quantitatively clear that digital marketing is marketing. It’s important to make this point because the ever-emerging new tactics in digital can lead us to think that the branding game has completely changed. In truth, while some of the rules and tactics have changed, we still need to reach a group of people and influence their perceptions to be the chosen brand. And we need to do this in an environment where choices abound as to where and how to reach them.

Now, I wish I could tell you which channels are the right ones to choose. Unfortunately, I can’t because what’s “right” changes. Benchmarks quickly become outdated. What makes the most sense for your brand and your customer evolves. And trying to stay on top of all these changes can be overwhelming. The only way to consistently make better choices is to systematically view the palette of options through your customers’ eyes.

To do this, it is helpful to create a hybrid journey map. For the past several years, digital experience designers have used journey mapping to create a holistic view of the various stages of the customer experience, plotting actions, attitudes, and pain points. Marrying this customer-centric view with the business- and brand-focused sales funnel model allows for a combined perspective that prioritizes touch points and provides guidance for creating the most value for all parties involved.  

Generally, a journey map follows a simple five-stage progression: pre-need and trigger, consideration/evaluation, purchase, usage, and post-purchase evaluation. At each stage, the map looks at the customer side—primary needs in that specific phase, most relevant attitudes and beliefs, and most frequent, relevant behaviors or touch points. From this baseline, we can identify very specific business and brand goals for each stage, along with associated key performance indicators. And it can open our eyes to new places to intersect with the customer to create differentiated value and drive preference for our offering.

Having worked on journey maps across a variety of different industries, I’ve found several best practices.  

1. Start by creating a rough map: In a three-hour workshop, it is possible to sketch out a “70% right” map. Leveraging precise customer information will lead to a better end result, of course, but there is immediate value in a “rough” version.

2. Focus your research plan: Frequently, firms have been a bit hesitant to start this process, concerned that research needs will be time-consuming, expensive, and hard to define. The initial mapping process usually clarifies the places where insight is needed most and helps to scope out the research needs.

3. Bring together all of your research findings: To create a customer map, it is useful to tap into a range of market research studies. One client I worked with found immense value in the simple act of consolidating multiple studies into one central source.

4. Use the customer map to drive the brand plan: A customer map is a powerful tool for creating a marketing plan. With it, you can identify priorities and develop specific tactics solutions to impact the customer journey.

Making brand decisions in our complex world can be an enormous challenge. A customer map, grounded in customer-centricity and the user experience, highlights what action firms need to take.