A customer journey is the series of interactions that someone has from the moment they become aware of your business, to the process of considering your offer, becoming a client, and — hopefully — becoming a fan of your brand. It also includes the alternative paths where prospects drop out of the process for one reason or another.
If you own a business and have clients, you already have a customer journey. The question is, are you intentionally managing your customer journey for an optimal customer experience, or are you leaving it to chance?
Most businesses start with a “Frankenstein” customer journey that has been pieced together over time out of the necessity of the moment. It’s happened organically, but may not be fully understood and probably isn’t being leveraged properly, which means you’re leaving money on the table.
In this article, we’ll cover how you can graduate to a deliberate, well-thought-out customer journey that maximizes sales and repeat business. Then we’ll show you how to automate your processes to create the ideal experience consistently while cutting down on work for you and your team.
Let’s put it bluntly: Leads are expensive. More specifically, leads that don’t convert to clients are expensive. Yet every company needs leads in order to get sales. So it’s extremely important that a business’s leads convert well, especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets.
An optimized customer journey can help improve conversion rates by making the buying path easier for prospective clients to navigate, easier for them to say “yes” to. It also creates a positive interaction with your company that makes them more likely to give you glowing reviews and recommend you to others.
The goal is to map out an ideal customer experience — including what you can do if things go awry — so that you can ensure your clients have an experience that leaves them satisfied, hungry for more, and eager to sing your praises to everyone they know.
A customer journey is not the same thing as a sales funnel, although there are similarities.
It’s also not a marketing or sales plan. The focus isn’t just on conversion but on the end-to-end experience.
Many marketers and small business owners focus on getting the sale and then consider the most important job done. But what happens after the prospect says “yes” is just as important as what got them to yes. How you serve people, and whether or not they have a smooth experience, will determine if they buy from you again and if they recommend you to others.
A good customer journey is just as focused on retention and repeat business as it is on the initial sale.
Next, let’s look at the stages of the customer journey.
Not all experts agree on the number of stages and what to call them, and it can vary depending on the type of business. But generally speaking, the customer journey will include these six stages:
Notice that the customer journey stages are built around the customer, not the business. This may seem obvious considering it’s called a customer journey map, but it’s easy to default to thinking from your own perspective, that of the business.
For example, in Lifecycle Automation by Keap, there are three stages:
These are essentially the same steps as above, but they are from the business’s perspective — what the company does, not what the customer does.
We can map the Lifecycle Automation steps to the customer journey steps:
|Customer stages||Business stages|
|Problem||Collect leads (target, attract, capture)|
|Consideration||Convert clients (engage, offer, close)|
|Retention||Create fans (deliver, impress, multiply)|
As you sit down to map out your ideal customer experience, keep in mind these components of a strong customer journey:
Know your audience well. Even more important than demographics like age and gender, you need to know the psychographics of your ideal audience: What are they thinking and feeling when they seek out your product or services? What problem do they most urgently need help with?
Give them what they want at every stage. By default, most businesses create systems around what’s easiest for the business. Take some time to think about how your prospects and clients would like to do business. What experience would they prefer to have? Putting yourself in your client’s shoes can give you important insights into how you can create interactions that make things easy for clients and leave a lasting impression. Ask your current clients and prospects for feedback on what they’d like to see.
Make interactions easy and painless. Look for any bottlenecks or hurdles where prospects and clients lose interest, get frustrated, or drop out. Identify every action you expect or need them to take, and ask, “How easy is it for them? Could it be easier?”
Be consistent. Make sure that everything — your communications, your policies, your branding — is consistent in tone, style, and ease of use. Inconsistency leads to confusion, which reduces confidence in your business and can stop prospects and clients from moving forward in the customer journey.
Leave a lasting impression. Use the customer journey mapping process to identify opportunities to WOW your prospects and clients by exceeding expectations and serving them in your brand’s signature style.
Even if your customer journey is only mapped out on the back of a napkin for now, you can still get started right away with making it easier for clients to move through your processes. The key: automation.
Also known as Lifecycle Automation, customer journey automation involves using sales & marketing automation software to handle predictable processes, which frees up you and your team to focus on important tasks like interacting with clients, converting high-value leads, and working on strategies to grow the business.
To transform your business with the power of automation, start with this question: What can I automate?
Processes that are ideal for automation are:
Here are examples of tasks it usually makes sense to automate:
Not only can automating parts of your customer journey save your team a lot of time and headaches, it can also provide your prospects and clients with a more seamless, consistent experience.
For example, if you automate your sales follow-up, you’ll know that your prospects are getting the right number of follow-up touchpoints every time, always with the correct branding and messaging.
Automation doesn’t have to be impersonal. In fact, it can allow you to insert personalized elements into your messaging without any extra effort. Set it up once, test it, then sit back and let it run.
Let’s look at an example of a business with a small sales team that prides itself on their high-touch sales process. Each sales rep calls each of their prospects seven times, manually logging each touchpoint in a spreadsheet for dozens of prospects in their queue at any given time.
Each sales rep also keeps their own notes, but they’re not accessible by other team members if someone is out of the office, which means prospects may have to wait until their rep returns, or another salesperson has to try and serve them without the background knowledge that the original rep has.
By using sales and marketing automation software like Keap, all prospect and customer information is saved in one central CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that the whole team has access to.
In addition, all routine emails and texts can be automated, and tasks can be automatically generated for sales reps when personal outreach is needed. Here’s what that could look like:
Notice that only steps five and nine require the sales rep’s time and attention. The rest is all automated. By only having the sales reps make calls, not send emails or texts, the sales reps are freed up to focus on what they do best — actually talking to prospects — not admin work.
Let’s face it: Most salespeople don’t have the time to write email after email. Instead, they should be focused on making impactful phone calls or networking at in-person events. Customer journey automation plays to your team’s strengths.
There are two paths you can take to get started, depending on whether you want to start automating right away or first build out your customer journey in detail.
If you’ve already mapped out your ideal customer journey and are ready to automate it, start your 14-day free trial of Keap now. The system will walk you through setup, and we also recommend attending the live Keap: Go Time workshop where our automation experts will show you how to set up some great introductory automations and even review anything you have built so far.
You can also start by getting a clearer understanding of your customer journey by creating a customer journey map. This process involves identifying the feelings, thoughts, and actions of your prospects and clients at each stage so you can optimize your processes and communications for an ideal experience.
If you don’t have time now to map out your customer journey the way you’d like to, start with automating some time-consuming tasks. The time you save can then be used to better understand and optimize your customer journey.
And if you’d like some help growing your business with customer journey automation, Keap’s small business coaching experts can help you identify your biggest opportunities and create a plan to achieve your growth goals based on your unique customer journey. Call sales at 1-866-800-0004 to learn more about coaching.
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