Customer journey mapping is the process of understanding the steps of the buying process from your prospects’ point of view, and then creating a visual representation of their experience so you can identify ways to improve your sales process.
In this article, we’ll walk step-by-step through the process of creating a customer journey map. We’ll even provide a template to quickly and easily begin laying out a customer journey map for your business.
The benefits of customer journey mapping
A simple customer journey map can be sketched out in an hour or so, yet you can spend years refining and improving it. Why go to all that effort?
An effective customer journey map allows you to spot inefficiencies and missed opportunities in your sales process. With these insights, you can make changes that lead to:* Higher conversion rates* Increased customer satisfaction* More positive ratings, reviews and referrals
Even relatively small changes to your process can lead to big wins when conversions go up by even a few percentage points. And small wins stacked on top of each other can lead to big gains overall.
What you need to start your customer journey map
Before you begin, you’ll need some critical information about your business. Some of this you’ll already know, but you may also need to ask others on your team to gather information.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. A clear focus for your customer journey map
Start by defining what customer experience you want to map. Do you want to look at the experience for all your audience segments and product lines, or focus on a specific type of customer or a particular product offering?
Depending on your business, you might opt for a single overarching customer journey map, or create multiple targeted maps that are simpler.
For example, let’s say you’re a wellness consultant who offers one-on-one services, group coaching, and information products to people who want to improve their health and fitness. If all of your services are geared towards the same audience — someone who wants to improve all aspects of their health — then a single journey map may make sense because you’ll start with the same marketing outreach and then funnel people into the programs that are the best fit for them. On the other hand, if your customers tend to fall into two buckets — people who want to eat better and people who want to exercise more — then you might create a separate journey map for each audience segment.
If in doubt, start with one map that reflects your current sales process. Once drafted, you may decide it makes sense to create separate customer journeys for different audiences and product lines. In fact, this is one of the valuable insights that you can gain from customer journey mapping.
But first, you’ll need…
2. Information about your ideal customer
Since a customer journey map is a snapshot of the customer’s experience, first you need to define whose experience you’re mapping.
Make sure you have:
- A clear understanding of your ideal customer persona — their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and how they generally behave.
- Data on who your best customers are and why.
- An understanding as to who “fails” as a customer and why. What type of person is attracted by your marketing but likely to drop out at some point?
3. Information about your current processes
For your first customer journey map, begin by laying out your current customer experience. To do that, you’ll need to gather:
- A list of all your lead generation sources
- All the steps in your current sales process
- Conversion data
- Your customer fulfillment processes
- Any processes for generating repeat sales and referrals
Gather as much information as you have on hand, but don’t let a lack of information stop you from moving forward with mapping out your customer journey. You can refine your journey in stages, improving it as you gather more data in the future.
In fact, creating a customer journey map often leads to a clearer understanding of what data you need to collect going forward to aid your decision making.
Even a basic customer journey map is better than none at all. Start with what you have and move forward, improving as you go.
How to structure your customer journey map
The first and most important thing to remember about customer journey mapping is that you’re creating it from the prospect’s point of view, not the business’s perspective. Yes, you’ll need to know your own internal processes, but they will be represented on the customer journey map as experienced by your prospects and customers.
A customer journey map is typically laid out in a grid format, with the stages of the customer journey along the top as the column headings, and the different aspects of the customer experience laid out in rows.
To start, a spreadsheet is usually the simplest tool to use. Once you’ve nailed down your map and want to share it with others, you may choose to have a graphic designer lay it out in a way that’s visually appealing. However, it will still follow the same basic layout.
Let’s dive right in…
Columns: Stages of the customer journey
There are six stages of the customer journey, and these are typically represented in columns across the top of the page.
Problem — This is the “before state” — before the prospect is aware of your company. At this point, they know they have a problem and want a solution, but they’re not aware of your products or services yet.
Awareness — The prospect learns about your company, either from some sort of marketing you’re doing, or by hearing about it from someone else.
Consideration — At this stage, the prospect has seen an offer from you and they’re evaluating it. This could range from a casual consideration to a detailed analysis involving other alternatives and competitors.
Decision — Also known as the purchase stage, this is where the prospect decides whether or not to buy from you. They could also choose to go with a competitor, or do nothing and continue to live with their problem.
Retention — This is the fulfillment stage, where the customer receives the product or service. Their experience here determines whether or not they are pleased with their purchase or suffer buyer’s remorse.
Loyalty — This is the stage that many businesses forget about: What happens after you’re done fulfilling the product or service. Improvements to this stage can make a big difference by generating referrals, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Feel free to rename these stages to fit your business. For example, the Retention phase might have different names depending on the product or service:
- A life coach with 1:1 services — Coaching stage, or Service stage
- An author selling books — Reading stage
- A course creator — Learning stage
- A seller of online goods — Delivery stage
You might also split some of the stages up into more than one stage. For example:
- If you have a long buying process, the Consideration stage might have multiple stages.
- If you offer both products and services, you might have separate versions of the Retention stage depending on which they typically buy first.
Now let’s look at what you'll put under each column.
Rows: Elements to consider at each stage
There are five essential rows to put on your customer journey map:
Thoughts and feelings — What’s going on inside your prospect’s head? What are they feeling and thinking to themselves, either consciously or subconsciously?
Actions — What action(s) do they take based on what they’re thinking and feeling, and based on their interactions with your business?
Pain points — What questions and concerns do they have? What could stop them from moving forward in the buying process?
Touchpoints — What communications are they receiving from you? This can include ads, social media, emails, website pages, conversations with representatives at your company, interactions with other customers, documents like contracts and invoices, and more.
Opportunities — Based on everything you’ve outlined in the rows above, you’ll start to see opportunities to improve the customer experience. Note them in this row. You can also classify the opportunities with color coding attached to tags like “low-hanging fruit” for easy-to-fix issues, “high potential” for changes that could have a big impact on your business, or simple “high, medium, low” priority classifications.
You can add any other rows that make sense for your business. For example, you might list:
- Free resources — What blog posts, white papers, etc. are most useful at that stage? (Hint: Match these to the pain points so they help prospects get past obstacles to moving forward.)
- Automations — What repetitive processes can you automate?
- Team — Which team within your organization is primarily responsible for each stage of the customer journey?
- Business goals — What company goals or key metrics align with each stage?
For each row, summarize what the experience is at each stage. For example, for the first row, thoughts and feelings, you would note what’s going on in the prospect’s mind at each journey stage: when they become aware of their problem, after they hear about your company, after they learn about your offer, when they’re mulling over their decision, while they’re using your product or service, and afterwards when they’re reflecting on results and whether or not to recommend you to others.
It’s best to use as few words as possible in each cell of your customer journey map spreadsheet, since it can get large very quickly. It will be less overwhelming if you use a few keywords to describe each point on the map.
Now let’s look at one last best practice, then we’ll give you a customer journey map template and example.
Map both positive and negative experiences
By default, you’ll map the customer experience with the assumption that a prospect moves all the way through the process from beginning to end.
However, the reality is that many prospects don’t make it all the way through your sales process. It’s very helpful to note why a prospect or customer might not move forward.
For example, at the Decision stage, you might have two Thoughts & Feelings rows: One for the prospect who buys, and one for someone who doesn’t.
For every stage, ask yourself:
- How can we make it easy for the prospect to move forward?
- If they have a negative experience at this stage, how can we get them back on track?
Diving into these details can lead to valuable insights you can use to improve your processes so that more prospects become customers, and then go on to recommend you to others.
Customer journey map template
Ready to get started on your own customer journey map? Make a copy of our customer journey map template and begin right away!
The first tab of the Google spreadsheet has a blank template where you can fill in your own information. Select the second tab to see a customer journey map example.
Check out our article, What Is a Customer Journey? to learn more about the fundamentals of understanding your customer journey and how automation can enhance the experience for you and your customers.
If you’re a coach or consultant, check out the article we created especially for you on Customer Journey Mapping for Coaches and Consultants.
Once you have a customer journey map, use these tips for managing your customer journey using data, periodic review, and personalized automation, in order to maximize sales and create raving fans.
And when you’re ready to start automating your customer journey communications, start a free 14-day free trial of Keap. By systematizing your communications and processes, you can deliver a more consistent customer experience while reducing your team’s workload — which will be important as your sales grow thanks to the customer journey map you’ve optimized.