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How to Create a Customer Journey Completely From Scratch

by Daniel Threlfall

How many times have you lost interest in a product?

Let’s say it was a shiny new SaaS that caught your attention and you tried it out.

Then, after a few minutes or a handful of efforts at it, you left. Never to return.

It’s probably happened more times than you can count.

Think back to times when that’s happened to you.

Why did you lose interest?

It’s likely that you lost interest because something went wrong along the way. Maybe you found a competitor’s product that was better, or maybe you weren’t convinced enough to buy anything.

In other words, your customer journey was derailed somewhere along the way.

From a business standpoint, that’s a big problem. You don’t want your customers to lose interest. You want to give them all the reasons in the world to buy your product.

That’s why the customer journey is the single most important part of the user experience.

It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing design or the best product on the market. If your customer journey isn’t fantastic, you won’t get customers.

After all, your customer journey is exactly how your customers invest in your company. It’s a story, and your customer is the main character. Who wants to be part of a boring story?

On paper, the customer journey (also called the buyer journey) looks simple. You can technically break it down into as few as three stages.

The buyers journey

But the truth is that the customer journey is more complex than that. It’s made up of lots of smaller moving parts that all work together to form one cohesive whole.

If you want to get the best results, you have to know your customer journey better than your customers. You have to look at the entire timeline and optimize it every step of the way.

Most businesses don’t do this. They think that a well-designed website with good navigation can somehow magically create a perfect customer journey. As a result, they don’t take the time to lay out their customer journey and analyze it.

However, that’s exactly what you need to do.

I’m going to go over how you can build a customer journey from the ground up. When you’re done, you’ll have a detailed customer journey structure that will help you maximize your conversions.

Step 1. Understand Your Customers

Before you create your customer journey, you have to get to know your customers.

Specifically, you have to create buyer personas that will help you zero in on who your customers are and what they want.

The more detailed your personas are, the better.

In theory, you could use nothing but aggregate data, but there’s a problem with this: You’re not thinking of your customers as human beings. You’re only visualizing them as data points.

Personas humanize your customers and give you a more holistic picture of what they’re looking for.

Here’s an example buyer persona:

Max Johnson

After reading that, you feel like you know the imaginary person, right?

That should be your goal when creating personas. They should be as realistic and as detailed as possible.

To do that, you need a lot of data.

You don’t need specific data (although it helps). While you shouldn’t rely completely on aggregate data, you can use it to help create your persona.

Start off by looking at demographics.

These will give you the widest view of your audience, but they’re still valuable.

Gender chart

Data points like average age and income will be invaluable when it’s time to flesh out your buyer persona.

You have several options for researching demographics, and the more methods you use, the more comprehensive your research will be.

Google Analytics (GA) is one of the easiest methods of gathering demographic data. It doesn’t give you every little detail, but it’s a good start.

To find your demographics in GA, head to Audience > Demographics > Overview. You’ll see basic charts for age and gender.

Demographics overview

This is all that GA has under the dedicated Demographics tab, but you can actually find some more demographic data in GA.

Navigate to Audience > Geo > Location. Scroll down and you’ll see a chart that looks like this.

Acquisition behavior

The location itself is an important demographic, but this is too general to be useful. We need to get more specific.

If you click on the names of any of the countries listed in the first column, you’ll get a breakdown of where your visitors are from within the country you selected.

So if you clicked the United States, you’d see something like this:

Region acquisition

And if you click on a state, you can see the specific cities where your visitors are coming from.

City acquisition chart

There’s even more––if you click on the city name, you’ll get data just for that city.

City acquisition

Once you have specific cities in mind, you can use CityTownInfo.com to find demographic info about that city.

Go to the search bar in the top right and enter your city name.

City town info

Then choose the result from the list that says “City Information.”

City town info city information

On the city information page, you can see more in-depth demographics like average income, household size, and education level.

City town info 2

Those are just a couple of quick ways to get demographics, but you should grab as much data and get as detailed as you can.

Next, look at psychographics.

Psychographics are a little trickier to find because they’re not exactly raw data. They deal with your audience’s preferences, needs, and wants.

Market segmentation

Psychographics are just as important as demographics.

Demographics tell you who your customers are. Psychographics tell you why they behave the way they do.

In GA, you can see some basic psychographics by going to Audience > Interests > Overviews.

Interests overview

There are many other methods of getting psychographic information, including surveys, social media, and third-party research.

Once you have a variety of information, you can compile it into a buyer persona.

Now you can move on to the customer journey itself.

Step 2. Define The Steps of Your Journey

Not every business’s customer journey will look the same. Various factors, such as your marketing strategies and sales funnel design, will affect how your journey looks.

It’s important to break down your customer journey into defined stages so you can get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on.

Typically, marketers do this by making customer journey maps. These look a lot like flowcharts and provide an overview of the journey.

But before you make your map, you need to answer some important questions:

  • How might customers find my business? What channels will lead them to my site?
  • How will a customer navigate through my site to eventually buy something? (i.e., What pages will they visit and what will they interact with?)
  • What action(s) does the customer take at each stage of the journey?

After you’ve answered those questions, you can sketch out your customer journeys, starting by laying out the steps your customers take.

While there are several potential paths that your customers might follow, I recommend focusing your map on just one of those paths at first. You can tackle the others later on.

Here’s what a customer journey map usually looks like:

Forrester research

This map uses six stages to break down the customer journey into smaller and more detailed parts.

Here’s another map that uses four stages:

Health insurance journey map

To figure out how many stages your customer journey has, imagine going through the journey yourself. What steps would you take before buying your own product?

Often, the customer journey has these stages (in chronological order):

  • Awareness/exposure
  • Research
  • Choice evaluation
  • Purchase/conversion
  • Post-purchase

You’ll have to decide which of these stages apply to your customer journey. You might also find that you take additional steps that aren’t mentioned in the list. That’s perfectly fine––include them in your map.

Step 3. Think about the customer’s touchpoints and actions

Once you’ve defined the stages that make up your customer journey, you need to consider what your customers are doing at each step.

First, determine where your customers are going. These places are referred to as touchpoints.

For example, a customer may go to your site and then a landing page. Your homepage and landing page are both touchpoints.

Which touchpoints are your users visiting at each step? Plot it out on your map.

Here’s a map that focuses on touchpoints:

Customer journey map

Now that you’ve thought about where your customers are going, think about what they’re doing at each step.

In other words, think about the actions they’re taking and lay them out on your map.

Your job is to make the step as easy as possible. By breaking down the journey into separate actions, you can make it easier for customers to take those actions.

Here’s a customer journey map that focuses on the user’s actions:

Happy sad faces

Let’s use this map to see how you could design your own customer journey.

In the second step, the user goes to the FAQ section of the site. Obviously, he or she is looking for detailed information about your project or helpful answers to objections.

If you can anticipate your customer going to your FAQs, you can create your FAQs to specifically address the customer’s questions and concerns.

It’s a basic example, but it has huge implications.

When you’re designing your customer journey, you’re anticipating what your customers are going to do. If you can predict that accurately and provide your customers with the best user experience, you can increase your conversions.

Step 4. Find the flaws in your journey

No customer journey is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about troubleshooting.

It’s best to be proactive about finding the weak points in your customer journey. You want to remedy those as soon as possible so you don’t lose customers.

An easy way to find the weaknesses in your journey is to look at the analytics.

In GA, you can see how your users are interacting with your site by going to Behavior > Behavior Flow. You’ll see the Behavior Flow chart.

Behavior flow

This shows you where people are going on your site. (This is also a great tool for identifying customer touchpoints for Step 3.)

You can see how many visitors you’ve lost by hovering over one of these blocks. You’ll see a little pane pop up.

Traffic chart

The number of drop-offs represents how many visitors left your site on that page.

If most of your drop-offs are all at the same spot, then that part of your site could use some work. If they’re spread out, your entire customer journey may be lackluster.

All in all, think about why people are leaving at certain points and how can you improve your site to make your customer journey better.

Don’t be afraid to revisit your customer information either.

Taking a second look at your customer personas (or even creating new ones) can give you a new perspective and help you understand why something isn’t working.

You can take this to a whole new level by focusing your customer journey map on your personas.

Here’s an example of a customer journey map that’s tailor-made for one specific persona:

Lindas journey map

Notice how detailed and personalized this is.

Often, this approach will help you improve your customer journey because it makes you view things from one person’s perspective. You think about small actions instead of a large scale process.

Conclusion

The benefits of a successful customer journey are astounding.

Just take a look at these stats:

Customer chart

There’s a reason so many expert marketers are putting more time into crafting a customer journey.

Every niche is only getting more competitive. If you want to stand out and succeed, you can’t ignore your customer journey anymore.

Ultimately, it’s all about caring for your users.

If you owned a hotel, you’d make sure your guests had the best amenities, and you’d accommodate their needs.

The same should be true of your online business. You should get everything ready for your customers so they enjoy the journey and keep coming back for more.

The more time you spend on designing your customer journey, the better it will be, and the happier your customers will be.

Don’t neglect this important aspect of running a business––it can make or break your success.

What does your customer journey look like? How are you going to improve it?

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Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall is an Internet entrepreneur and marketing strategist. As a marketing consultant, Daniel has helped brands including Merck, Fiji Water, Little Tikes, and MGA. Daniel is co-founding Your Success Rocket, a resource for Internet entrepreneurs. He and his wife Keren have four children and occasionally embark upon adventures in remote corners of the globe (kids included). You can follow Daniel on Twitter.

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  1. Alberto says:
    October 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Great article. But maybe it’s difficilt to a small firm to create a customer journey: it needs too much time.

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