I recently attended an industry event on the subject of customer journeys. I rely on these events because key insights are often uncovered from the exercise of putting yourself inside the audiences’ minds and thinking about their needs and expectations.
Which are what customer journeys are, after all: the pathways customers follow when they interact with a product, service or organization. A journey reflects what that customer both needs and wants — and the best journey maps also include what the customer is thinking and feeling, too, at each stage. The customer is central to a customer journey map. It’s based on their needs and goals and how a business aligns across every single touch point.
But, that day, I was intrigued as the subject of the conversation slowly shifted into one about designing content campaigns. It struck me how easily that can happen without care, and why it’s important to keep a clear distinction in our minds.
Two sides of the same coin
Think of a campaign as a companion to a customer journey. In a campaign, the business is in the driver’s seat taking the customer on a trip towards a particular objective. But this isn’t a kidnapping — a good campaign is designed with the audience in mind. It addresses their needs, delivers something they want or find useful, and is creatively engaging.
With customer journey mapping, the customer is in control. The customer has a specific objective and pulls content from the company to achieve that objective. In a campaign, the company pushes out content through different channels (email, ads, digital properties, social media, offline experiences, etc.) to achieve their business goal.
A thorough journey map — whether the customer or the business is in the driver’s seat — can be critical to the success of any campaign design. Knowing what your customer wants at each point of interaction along that pathway positions you to deliver the right content for each of those interactions.
Every successfully completed interaction means either: a) the customer took the action the campaign was trying to drive, and thus met its business objective, or b) the customer completed the task they wanted to accomplish, and thus the business met their customer’s need. In each case, a clear definition of the next step in the journey allows you to deliver content to drive the customer to their next best action — both for them and the business.
A journey map can also identify potential obstacles. Knowing these sticking points during campaign design equips you to address them proactively.
For example, we are working right now on a client campaign with a very specific objective. It’s a multi-touch campaign with distinct calls to action at each touch point. By mapping out the entire customer journey, we were able to see that the CTA for the first campaign touch point asked the audience to perform an action that is not enabled on the client’s site. We’re in the process now of ensuring that the functionality is enabled before the campaign goes live.
Without a solid customer journey, we could have released the campaign and confused thousands of people by asking them to interact with something that didn’t exist.
It’s always, always about the audience
Whether you’re focused on the customer need and delivering content to address that need, or you’re developing communications for a particular audience to advance a business objective — the audience is the most important factor.
If you’ve mapped the path to help your audience accomplish what they need, and developed content that they’ll find relevant and useful, the vast majority of the time you’ll all get to the right destination.
Different personas’ needs vary widely depending on the objective they’re trying to accomplish. Is this a happy, loyal customer or one interacting with the company for the first time? Are they walking into a store or clicking a link on their phone? Is this customer an institutional buyer or a retail customer?
It’s (dare I say) fun to diagnose what each person needs at that moment and then deliver it so they have a satisfying experience. When you get it right, that person will come back again to buy more, to refer a friend, etc., building affinity and brand loyalty.
That’s why it’s so important to map your customer’s journey before developing campaigns, and to not conflate the two.
Partner with Imprint for your next journey map and content campaign
Journey maps, content campaigns and content production are among our specialties at Imprint, and we would love to hear about your upcoming projects. Please reach out to the team so we can schedule a time to meet!