Imagine you’re going about your morning, pouring a cup of coffee and making a hearty breakfast. Your phone buzzes, and you see an SMS notification from your healthcare provider. It’s your reminder that tells you the date and time of your upcoming annual checkup — you know, that one you almost forgot about because of your busy schedule. The message prompts you to confirm that you’ll be at the appointment by either responding “Yes” or “No,” so you respond accordingly and move on with your day.


This is an example of a micro-moment, one brief point in your day where you connect with a company.


These days, it’s all too easy for marketers to fall into the trap of focusing on these isolated micro-moments, such as an SMS message, an Instagram post, or an onboarding email. As marketers, we sometimes lose sight of the larger customer journey at play.


To help us keep our eyes on the prize, a customer journey map enables us to visualize the full customer journey that contains these moments and plan exactly how we’re going to connect with certain customers across channels and devices.


It’s important to note, though, that a customer journey map is not a full customer journey strategy. Think of each customer journey map as a single person’s journey in an even larger collection of journeys. So, we might talk about one person’s customer journey map that leads to purchasing a new pair of sunglasses and another map that leads a different person to re-engage with a brand after lapsing for six months after a purchase. Each one of these personalized customer journey maps is only a small part of a full-fledged customer journey strategy.


Let’s check out how to begin making your customer journey maps.


Focus on the Audience First


Drilling down your target audience to more specific personas will give you a better understanding of how each moment in the customer journey map affects their perception of and experiences with your brand.


To start narrowing your focus on a specific persona, choose a segment of your audience important to your company’s business goals. Once you have a persona in mind, the “Need to Know” questions below will be vital to the customer journey mapping process, and the “Nice to Know” questions, while still important, serve as extra knowledge for you.


Need to Know

  • (This question can be used as the short version to focus on your audience.) Where is this person in his or her customer lifecycle? In other words, is this person in an awareness, acquisition, onboarding, retention, or advocacy stage?

  • Within the stage you identified in the above question, can you pinpoint an even narrower path? For example, if your person is in the advocacy stage, what kind of advocacy are you hoping to influence — do you want the person to refer a friend to your service, share an experience with user-generated content, or something else?


Nice to Know

  • What does a typical day look like in this person’s life?

  • What are this person’s main objectives in a typical day? In other words, what does this person need to accomplish?

  • What are the main problems or obstacles that this person encounters that would keep him or her from converting (for example, making a purchase or downloading an e-book)?

  • What is this person’s professional background? (Note: This person’s professional background doesn’t just take into account their current job; instead, it should also include how they view their role and where they see themselves in one year, five years, ten years.)

  • What type of content does this person engage with — and how? Include details about the channels and devices where this person interacts with your brand along with the actual content types he or she prefers (for example, video tutorials).


If you can answer all of these questions accurately, you’re in a good position to take what you know about each persona and move on to crafting the story you want to tell.


Collect Data That Matters


Now that you know who your personas are, you can more accurately collect data that highlights how, when, and where they interact with certain content. To do this effectively, choose one persona and imagine the journey that type of person takes with your company across channels and devices. From email to SMS to your website, each person has a different experience. Your goal is to dig into the data — perhaps using website analytics or a data management platform (DMP) — to put together a full picture of how a user that fits that persona is likely to interact with your brand.


Nail the Story


Now that you have an idea of which types of content each persona prefers and how individuals interact with that content, you’ll need to nail down the full story that will provide a personalized experience and influence action.


But before you run off and spend time creating new content, it’s a good idea to make an inventory of content you already have. List relevant e-books, email content, display ads, product catalogs, blog posts, infographics, podcasts, videos, slide decks, and other resources, and try to match that content up with a specific persona’s needs. To do this, you’ll need to map out the cadence of how each interaction leads to the next — how one message, such as an SMS message, contributes to the next step in the customer journey map.


Getting the cadence of the story, or the arc, right can be one of the most difficult parts of customer journey mapping, but it’s also the part that will help you keep your story consistent.


Map the Journey


Now, it’s time for the fun part.


At this point, you know a lot about each persona, have data that tells you about persona behavior, and understand the story you need to tell. Start with one persona, and note the first touchpoint in the customer journey. This will usually be an action the persona takes, such as subscribing to a certain email list. From there, you can start to map the customer journey more fully. Maybe you deliver an automated email “thank you” message that asks for more information, perhaps a phone number to opt in to SMS alerts. It’s important to note that you’ll need to consider every decision a persona could take, even if it’s not the decision you’re hoping for.


For example, did the persona opt in to SMS notifications? If yes, send an SMS message with a CTA to download your company’s app. If not, you’ll have to decide where the persona’s journey leads.


Mapping the customer journey can be a rewarding task, but this is just the beginning of how you can begin to make a big impact on your customers — and on your company’s marketing and sales goals. If you want to take a deeper dive into the topic, check out these awesome resources to kick off your customer journey mapping efforts, including reports, e-books, webinars, and more.