Customer journey mapping for B2B companies

musings How B2B companies can benefit from improving the customer experience

I recently read (or, more accurately, listened to as I bought it on Audible) a book called Outside In, by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine – it’s an excellent book and one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen when it comes to examples of and the potential ROI that can be derived from customer journey improvements. I’ve always believed that customer experience provides an opportunity for competitive advantage, and when you map your customer journeys, it also provides marketing with an incredible foundation of knowledge which can be used to tailor and personalise campaigns for better results.

For example, I remember donkey’s years ago, when I was buying a Neon (don’t judge me, I did live in the US and they were very popular at the time), and it was the first brand new car I’d ever bought. I was a bit anxious about it, money was tight, and I wanted to make sure it all went through OK with the financing, and that I’d get the car in time for a long drive to Chicago (from Boston), as my older car was going to struggle. When we were at the dealership, the salesman reassured us that we would have the financing decision by Monday (this was a Saturday) and that the car would be delivered on Thursday.

So, Monday comes and goes, so I call Tuesday morning to chase, he’s snippy with me, and says it will be coming through before the next day – but this exercise was then repeated EVERY DAY for a week. He was annoyed with me for chasing, and I was annoyed with him for not keeping me updated. But it was all so unnecessary, if the dealership had been able to give me an accurate promise in the first place, and told me it would take a week, or if he had called me proactively to keep me updated (this was so long ago it was pre-internet and mobiles), I would have been much less stressed, and so would he. Going forward, I didn’t believe any promises they made, and the whole thing ended up being ten times more stressful than it needed to, and I never went back.

Just recently for one of our customers we discovered, by talking to their customers and account managers, that their customers weren’t always using the software to its maximum ability, and this was creating a vacuum for competitors to come in and sell on standard features. A simple change by implementing a monthly feature highlight email made it much easier for customers to understand the capability of new and existing features, for account managers to upsell and cross sell add-ons, and to keep customers less vulnerable to poaching.

Others are talking about customer experience, and they recognise that customer journeys are key to optimising that customer experience, which in turn drives loyalty and increases revenue.

• 89% of companies expect to compete on customer experience by 2017. (Gartner research)

• 18% of marketing budgets in 2014 were focused on this area. (Gartner research)

• The CMO must be the architect of this focus or risk irrelevance (Forrester Research)

So, where do you start? It can seem overwhelming, but if you follow a simple process, it can be very straightforward. Given the powerful marketing it will then allow you to do, it’s a no brainer. It also puts the marketing function at the centre of the customer experience, which should be at the top of the CMO’s list.

1. Map the customer journey

Talk to customers, sales, management, ops and service and document all the touch points that a customer has with the business, then map to these touch points what customers think, feel, expect and experience at each one, you will definitely need to talk to customers in order to do this properly, a third party partner is handy here, as customers tend to be more honest that way. You may need multiple maps to accommodate the different types of customers you have (think: buyer personas).

2. Assess and improve

Identify areas of improvement across the customer journey, focusing on areas that will make a difference to the buying process either in terms of speed, or likelihood of close. Categorise your improvements into “critical”, “nice to have” and “would be great, but probably not practical or needed” (OK, feel free to rename that last one to something snappier). Improvements can range from simple things from having named spaces in your car park when customers arrive, to reducing the number of clicks it takes someone to download a whitepaper.

3. Define your buyer personas

Once the customer journey has been documented, you’ll have a clear understanding of who your buyers are, and how they behave during the buying process. These can then be structurally defined into buyer personas – who they are, how they behave, who they listen to etc.

4. Map personas & journeys to your marketing 

Once you’ve defined the personas, you can then plot the marketing journeys that need to be taken. If you’ve got a marketing automation system then you have even more power available to you, especially if you only use it currently as a glorified email tool (you’re not alone if you do). You can create campaigns that respond directly to customer behaviour both offline and online, for example someone calls support and they then go into a communication campaign that gives them tips on product use, or that helps them get what they want from the support process. Perhaps someone visits your website, and they select a certain option on the home page, that could then define what they see on the rest of their web journey, as the CMS links into the Marketing Automation tool which defined the marketing journey they have entered.

There’s not enough room here to talk through all the scenarios, but, if you want a bullet proof competitive positioning, you should be tackling a customer journey project soon. It may seem overwhelming, but like all good improvement projects, it should have a phased approach, not only to help you manage the scale, but to ensure it flexes with your business. You can see from the examples above, these weren’t complicated fixes, but they made a significant difference to company performance.

At Ice Blue Sky we help customers to assess and improve the customer journey, and than use that information to define marketing campaigns, tailoring and personalisation to drive better results.


About the Author

Charlotte Graham-Cumming

Director, Ice Blue Sky Ltd

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