If you want to increase the efficiency of your funnel and keep existing customers satisfied, you need to understand their customer journey. This journey is made up of several steps - starting when they first realise they have a problem, continuing to evaluate the available solutions, and ending when they decide. All of your customers have had a journey like this - so you must make it as good as it can be.
All of us make journeys like this every day. One day we might realise we need an appliance for the kitchen, for example. We then start researching (online) to find the best solution based on factors like price, features, and the impression we get from the sellers. Then, we make a decision and purchase the item.
These kinds of journeys are so common that we generally don't even realise that we're taking them. That's maybe the reason why many companies forget about or even neglect their customer journey, especially in the B2B world. But ignoring this important process doesn't create a good business. If you want to turn more strangers into customers and keep your existing customers happy and satisfied, you need to understand their process when they approach your company to solve a problem.
Customer journey mapping is the best way to do this. By mapping out the stages in your customer journey and thinking about the person's expectations and experiences in the various steps, you can build an understanding of the current state of things - and start improving them.
These are some essential things to think about when you're analysing your customer journey. For more practical help, you can get our customer journey map template at the end of this article. It provides a clear framework for building your existing customer journey structure and helps you discover how any planned changes might affect it.
Know how it is to be them
'Inside-out' thinking is a common issue at many B2B companies. Many traditional businesses will have the typical marketing, sales, and service departments separated and siloed off from each other. This creates a clear company structure, but it usually doesn't provide the best service for your customers. Generally, the result is slower and less efficient solutions for customers when approaching the company with a problem or a need and less internal information-sharing between departments.
This kind of attitude has an impact on your customer journey as well. It may make sense to you to have customers go through three switchboards to get in touch with the service department or have them find the correct sales rep for their area through a confusing website, but it probably doesn't make sense to them.
The way to fix this is by putting yourself in their shoes. You can even do this 'live' - come up with a hypothetical problem, pretend to be a customer, and put yourself through your own customer journey. What are your expectations in each stage? What are your thoughts and feelings as you go on the journey? What parts make your life easier, and what factors make it harder?
Ask your customer about their journey
Putting yourself in their shoes is one thing, but asking them directly about their experiences is even more effective. Take care, though - no one wants to receive a customer satisfaction survey right after a disastrous experience with a company. Take a selection of your contacts and customers from various industries and company sizes and ask them about their journey. This could be through in-person meetings, detailed online surveys, or simple one-question NPS surveys. There's plenty of different tools and methods available, but whatever option you choose, getting the outside perspective of your customer journey from the people who have actually taken it is hugely valuable.
Use your internal experts
Sales and service reps generally have more direct interactions with customers and prospects than any other people in the company. If you're planning on mapping and optimising your customer journey, they'll be able to provide a lot of helpful advice. They can give you an overview of the most common issues and problems that customers run into during the customer journey - but crucially, they'll also be able to identify the internal factors that cause these problems in the first place.
Uncover the customer journey stages
A customer journey can always be broken down into the awareness, consideration, and decision stages. But depending on your company's products and services, you might be able to split your journey up even more. Buying processes in B2B are often more complicated than in B2C. During the consideration stage, there are often initial consultations, site visits, and buying committee meetings. In each of these steps, customers have different challenges, priorities, and expectations. By identifying the unique buying process of your company, you can produce a really granular analysis of your customer journey and start improving it.
Remember lifecycle stages
Even if they're in the same stage of their journey, not all customers and prospects have the same lifecycle stage. For example, an evangelist (a customer who actively promotes and recommends your company) who is considering making a new deal with you has very different needs than a brand-new lead in the same stage. So even once you've defined your company's customer journey, you should also think about how different categories of prospects and customers move through it.
If you want to get started with customer journey mapping, we've got a template for you. It has a few different customer journey maps, each with a separate focus area - for example, the current state of your journey, the desired future state, and how customers' lifecycle stages affect their journeys. It also gives you prompts to help you analyse each step in the process - what are customers thinking and feeling, what content are they interacting with, and how can you make it easier for them to make a decision. If you're ready to get started, you can get the template below.