What is a journey map, and why is it important? [with template]

What is a journey map, and why is it important? [with template]

By Colter Hettich

February 12, 2023
Hiking gear and check marks.
A comprehensive look at what makes this content tool indispensable.

The success of any marketing effort starts with an understanding of the target audience — and that’s exactly what journey maps help you do.

These maps detail the experiences a potential customer is likely to go through, as well as touchpoints from being aware of your brand, learning more about your offerings, all the way through purchasing your product or service and advocating for you in their sphere of influence. A journey map also highlights your audience’s specific needs at each stage, and what emotional state they likely are in. (These needs and emotions can be pulled from personas, which we’ll talk more about.)

Mapping everything you know about your target audience to this journey gives you a much deeper understanding of what messaging and types of content would resonate best at each touchpoint. Once that person becomes a customer, journey maps can also help improve retention by optimizing your customer service.

What is a journey map?

Journey maps are a tool used by marketers to help plan and design marketing campaigns. Think of a classic sales funnel: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, and advocacy. A journey map takes this skeleton and fleshes it out with specifics at each stage, such as: Why should they care who we are? What problem or need can we solve? Why is our solution better than the competition’s? How can we make purchasing easy, and offer a simple way for them to share their experience with others?

For content marketers, journey maps also help identify which content formats, platforms, and distribution channels would be most effective at each stage. These moments of interaction with the brand are known as touchpoints. Planning around touchpoints is vital to creating content that effectively moves audiences down the funnel. For example: Video can be effective at the awareness stage when potential customers are just browsing; and a more in-depth piece might make sense once they’re aware of your brand and want to really do their homework.

If you don’t know your customers’ needs, there are a few ways to identify them. Surveys are a common way to get insights about your target audience. You can often glean these from published studies and polling data online, so start there. If you can’t find what you need, there are survey platforms you can use yourself (such as Typeform or SurveyMonkey), or you can contact a marketing agency that can help with more scientific and in-depth research.

It’s also easy to conflate journey mapping with campaign design, so it’s important to remember that you’re not planning content yet when creating a journey map — you’re building the framework that will inform that campaign design later (click here for more on distinguishing journey maps from campaign design)

The importance of customer journey maps

The right content at the wrong time not only will perform poorly, it will result in a bad user experience. Journey maps are the only way to ensure that your content addresses the needs of your customer at the right time. For example: If you’re a bank selling mortgages, you might waste opportunities by pushing competitive rates to an audience that either doesn’t know you or has no relationship with your brand. Instead, promoting an article on “Homebuying made simple” or “3 easy steps to get pre-approved for a mortgage” might make more sense — and your journey map will tell you.

Buyer personas can be especially helpful. A buyer persona is a fictional character you create based on your knowledge of the audience — everything from age, job, and salary to life goals and emotional traits. This exercise gives you an additional lens through which you can evaluate your journey map. Personas bring you down from the abstract into the concrete, allowing you to say, “What is Elizabeth Smith looking for here? Would she respond better to an Instagram or Twitter post? Is she hoping to find a video demonstration, or would she prefer a downloadable pdf guide?”

It’s important to remember the final stage, as well: advocacy. Journey maps can boost customer retention by giving them ongoing reasons to tell others about you — whether it be communicating improved benefits, added services, or a way in which you gave back to your community. It also helps you avoid sending existing customers early-journey content. Nothing makes a loyal customer feel less appreciated than receiving cold, awareness content.

When should you use a journey map?

The short answer? Always. Your bottom line depends on it. Even if you’re only planning weekly social media posts — what do you want them to do next? Visit a website? Repost? Comment? Whether your audience consciously realizes it or not, they expect a clear next step. Without a journey map, great content can lead audiences to a dead end.

But time and resource constraints are real. And sometimes they can feel too precious to spend creating fictional characters and running dozens of customer experience scenarios — especially for small business owners. That’s OK. You have two options: Hire a third party to help, or distill the components of the journey into their essence. Create a simple grid with columns for the stages (awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, and advocacy), rows for pain points, and a row for expectations. This way you have only 10 squares to fill out. Spend 20 minutes thinking about what their pain points might be and what they’d expect from you at each stage, then keep the grid somewhere you’ll see it every day. Before posting or emailing any content, quickly consult the grid and make sure you’re delivering on them. Even this simple exercise can make a huge difference in improving the audience’s experience and ultimately engagement.

What is a touchpoint in a customer journey map?

Think of a touchpoint as any moment your potential customer engages with your brand. While an email, a social media post, or a video are certainly touchpoints, it’s important to take a wider view. Product reviews are touchpoints, as are billing actions, customer service calls, and live events. It’s not realistic to attempt to create content for all touchpoints all the time — but you should still include them in your journey map. The goal of the journey map is to visualize the process you want your audience to go through, and the experiences you want them to have along the way. Including all touchpoints helps you prioritize your opportunities, and ensures you don’t overlook any important journey moments.

The customer journey mapping process

All of this may sound like a lot, but don’t worry — the process is simple.

1. Create your matrix. Start with a simple grid as described above, whether you’re working in Microsoft Excel, a design application, or physically drawing on a whiteboard. The columns should be the five stages of the journey.

2. Decide what factors to include. Make sure your matrix at least has rows for pain points and touchpoints, but you can also include rows for emotions, demographic data, brand messaging for each stage, desired actions, channels (e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), key performance indicators, persona quotes, focus group data, or anything else you find helpful.

3. Complete the grid. Now you’re ready to complete your grid. Pain points are a great place to start since the goal is to create content that is laser-focused on the potential customer’s wants and needs. As you move through the journey, the pain points become the hurdles that would prevent them from moving on to the next stage. Once pain points are complete, complete the row for touchpoints. Once you’ve identified everything that might stop them from becoming a potential customer, and the places they’re most likely to hear from you, the hard work is done! Now just complete the rest of the grid with whatever data you have.

Should I start my journey map with a template?

A template can be helpful, especially if you’re fairly new to the process — so we’ve created one that you can download and use. Feel free to use the template as-is, or customize it based on the data you have available.




Differences between B2C and B2B journey maps

Up to this point, we’ve been thinking about journey maps from a B2C, or business-to-consumer, perspective. But what if your business sells to other businesses? What does business-to-business, or B2B, customer journey mapping look like?

At its core, the exercise is the same. But there are a few notable differences:

  • Multiple decision-makers. In a B2C journey map, your potential customer is often just one individual. But in most B2B scenarios, you’re marketing to an audience of multiple people — perhaps a facility manager, a chief procurement officer (CPO), and a chief financial officer (CFO). Each of these individuals has a similar but distinct set of needs and priorities. A B2B journey map will have more rows to account for this.
  • More complex consideration stage. These multiple decision-makers make the consideration stage much more time- and resource-intensive. Many B2B sales involve demonstrations, case studies, site visits, and more.
  • Extended purchase stage. In a B2C journey, especially for small businesses and e-commerce, the purchase stage happens in an instant — the moment the customer clicks a button or taps their card in a store. In B2B, however, the purchase stage can again involve multiple people, including legal teams, as well as negotiations and rounds of contract reviews. The B2B journey map should include these additional pain points and touchpoints.

Let Imprint help you create your next customer journey map.

If you could use some assistance creating your journey map, or are curious to hear about the other components of our content strategies, please don’t hesitate to reach out below. We’d be more than happy to get on a call to learn about your business and discuss how content marketing could help you leave your mark.

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