How to Gain a Competitive Edge through Customer Journey Mapping

Despite your wildest dreams, your organization can’t be everything to everybody. That's why it's important to focus on your value proposition and the audiences most likely to have a need for it.

Before you begin the process of mapping your customer journey, the first task on your list should be an assessment of your business’ unique value proposition in the market. What are the things that give you a competitive advantage?

  • Are you the most innovative? (Think Apple.)
  • Can you provide the lowest cost? (Walmart, anyone?)
  • Or should you focus on providing the best customer experience? (Amazon has paved the way!)

For many organizations, it can be expensive to stand out as the most innovative and nearly impossible to provide a lower cost than all your competitors. So, becoming a leader in understanding your customers and their needs can become your biggest opportunity. In this position, prospects would be more likely to choose your products or services because you are better positioned to solve their problems and anticipate their needs.

If you’ve chosen this path, it’s time to chart your customer journey and identify any weak points in their experience so you can begin to address their needs.

Step 1: Map your customer journey

Mapping your customer journey is the first step in identifying the weak points in your marketing efforts. Although customer journey mapping may look slightly different for every organization, it typically includes some variation of the following stages:

  1. Needs Identification: A problem arises, triggering buyer to start the buying process.
  2. Information Search: Buyer looks for information to solve a problem.
  3. Option Evaluation: Buyer weighs the options based on key buying criteria.
  4. Decision-Making: Buyer picks a supplier – often with the input of several other decision-makers and influencers.
  5. Product/Service Experience: Post-decision, the buyer’s journey turns into “customer experience.” Service delivery, product quality and customer service are key here.

Pay special attention to the post-decision stage, where you can really differentiate yourself by delighting your customers to ensure repeat purchases and referrals. Retaining loyal customers is more profitable than acquiring new ones.

Also, keep in mind that each customer segment has its unique persona and preferences. Because the journey will vary for each of your key audiences, make sure you understand their unique attributes and determine the most effective way to reach them and engage with them. Here are some questions you should consider:

  • What sources do potential customers turn to for information?
  • How do they search for solutions?
  • Do they prefer to be contacted digitally or by more traditional channels like phone or direct mail?

Once you’ve mapped out the customer journey for each of your personas, you’re ready to move onto the next step – identifying customer pain.

Step 2: Identify customer pain points

To identify customer pain, you need to understand your customers and their feelings throughout the different stages of the customer journey. Here are a few tips for pinpointing customer pain:

  • Don’t get caught up in assuming you already know how your customers feel based on personal “gut” feelings or one-time anecdotes. Instead, use research to confirm your predictions and discover new information about your customers.
  • Focus groups can be a great way to collect customer data but asking for feedback in real time through online customer surveys or in-person at the point of purchase can be even more insightful.
  • Seek information from a variety of customers, including loyal, first-time and potential buyers. This will provide you with a deeper understanding of where and why customers may be falling out of your marketing and sales pipeline.

Some trends we’ve noticed among organizations across different industries include common barriers in the online research, decision-making and experience stages. By recognizing your customers’ points of friction in the customer journey process, you can begin to develop solutions for addressing and minimizing their pain.

Step 3: Develop content to address customer pain points

Once you’ve identified your customers’ pain, you can start to evaluate whether your marketing communications content and channels are geared toward addressing that pain. You’ll also want to look at your marketing processes and the products or services you’re currently offering — is there something missing in your sales mix?

For this step, it’s important that you have alignment across departments, so that marketing, sales, other customer-facing teams, and internal operations teams have the common goal of improving the customer experience. Understand the role each team will play so that the ball isn’t dropped anywhere along the way in your customer’s experience.

The customer journey is going to be different for every organization. And how you alleviate your customers’ pain through your marketing efforts will differ as well.

Could you or your team use the help of a marketing expert to guide you through customer journey mapping? We help clients identify and validate their customers’ pain points and create content to address those pain points. Set up a consultation or download the Ultimate Growth Marketing Playbook today.

For more on customer journey mapping check out: 3 Tips for Buyer’s Journey Mapping.

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