Customer mapping is not a new concept to many business owners, and yet, it is a process that is often viewed as too daunting or confusing to act upon. Here's how to effectively map customer lifecycles, and in doing so, improve your entire digital strategy.
The attitude that digital is more than just marketing is widely accepted across nearly all sectors. It’s now commonplace for our clients to talk about gaining a deeper and more meaningful understanding of their customers. This is a mind-set born from the unavoidable realisation that their digital activity is now stretching much wider and touching most, if not all areas of their business operations.
Discussing the ‘customer lifecycle’ is part and parcel of nearly all the projects we undertake here at Freestyle. Although this represents a positive change for the majority of our clients, a large proportion still don’t fully understand how or why this new way of thinking should be informing their digital strategy.
Customer mapping is an engaging and enjoyable process, and one that often provides incredible insight that can be applied to the improvement of your projects and campaigns. Most of our clients are often left wondering why they hadn’t engaged in customer mapping exercises sooner. But it’s important to make sure this investment leads to ideas for increased awareness of your brand, while also improving conversion rates – it’s surprising just how many brands undertake this activity without it leading to any further activity.
Keep it simple and focus on three areas of strategic activity
All of your customer mapping work should inform activity across three pillars of customer strategy – ‘influence’ (brand awareness), ‘buy’ (the path to purchase) and ‘advocacy’ (customer retention). If your mapping process is not achieving this, then it’s worth rethinking your approach. To get the most out of your map, and the sessions you involve your stakeholders in, it’s worth breaking your map into these three areas too.
This should form the first part of your map – the influence section consists of everything that happens before your brand has even been considered by the customer. It’s about understanding the people, places and processes that influence your customer lifecycle to start.
Our aim here is to understand what initial interactions set our customer off on their buying journey, then what happens as they begin to investigate their options in more detail. Be sure to think about the involvement of ‘on-stage influencers’ (people who will interact with your buyer but don’t physically purchase your product).
For example, an engineer designing a new product will specify the components required, but a buyer will then purchase them. Use this insight to define new awareness strategies such as campaign concepts, social media activity, and organic search strategies (SEO) that will effectively target these individuals.
Now is the time to devise a fine-tuned contact strategy. Your customers are aware of their needs and they are beginning to interact with companies who can provide for that need.
The mapping work should now help inform new methods (primarily focussed on your owned channels such as your website and sales teams) of improving the end-to-end purchase experience. How closely are your customer service channels linked? How engaging are your response emails to website enquiries? Does your website become increasingly personalised the more a customer visits it?
On average, it takes a customer six ‘touch points’ with your brand before they build up enough trust and confidence to do business with you. If any of these moments are particularly clumsy, it can take a further 12 to convince them that your service is really worth the effort.
Using customer mapping to build a solid contact strategy that informs both your content and functionality is integral to both a trouble-free buyer journey, and to increasing your conversion rates across multiple channels.
By this point, your customers will have established a relationship with you, experienced your sales process and used your product or service. Having achieved this, your focus should be on keeping them engaged, and more importantly, encouraging them to repurchase. This last part of the map helps define what we call the retention strategy.
Built into this are email marketing techniques that create opportunities for correspondence, a customer account experience to make their future buys more efficient, product reviews, and the development of new and branded tools or apps to make their lives easier in general.
The key to implementing all of this work and to doing so successfully is a genuine understanding and empathy for the customer lifecycle that currently exists. Appreciating and acknowledging the pains of your customers, either during the initial investigation or after they’ve purchased with you, is the only way to recognise which stages will yield the greatest opportunity for customer experience improvements.
Address these opportunities, and you might just find that digital can play a much bigger role in your business strategy than you first thought. If you’re considering making improvements to your customer experience, don’t hesitate to get in touch.