Have you ever traveled abroad? If so, the first order of business when you arrive in a new city is to find a map. Most likely, the traveler’s map came from the local tourist office. I love those maps because they tell you everything you need to know about a new city. It highlights the top attractions, the best bus routes, and it even gives recommendations for restaurants.
The staff at the tourist office took the time to understand their target audience. They understand the needs and wants of that person throughout their travel day — and the map highlights their journey from one point to the next.
A buyer’s journey map is not much different. It tells a story. It’s the story of a business’s main customer and the roadblocks and detours they take to successfully reach a goal. The term takes on many forms. Frequently, the term is written as ‘buyer’s journey’, or ‘customer journey’, and the process is often called customer journey mapping. I refer to it often as ‘audience journey’, because I work with a wide range of clients that don’t always have customers.
Understanding the unique journey is ideal for crafting content and copy to their needs. By taking the time to research, understand and map the journey — a business can better target and attract the best possible customer and successfully guide them towards a purchase.
What is the buyer’s journey?
As described in the analogy, a buyer’s journey is literally a mapped out journey. The map highlights visually a path for a buyer persona to walk from pain point/challenge to purchase decision. Have you created a buyer persona? Read about it and create one.
Customer journey mapping is a way to visualize the buyer persona’s experience and how they interact with the business or website. It acts as an interactive overview to help team members and yourself see how the ideal audience member moves through the process and makes decisions.
The map is comprised of four steps: awareness, consideration, purchase, and advocacy. I follow Hubspot’s terminology and description. You can learn more about the journey steps in this video.
With the help of a journey map, you become more specific about the experience your audience experiences. It gives you a sense of unique challenges and pain points at each step of the journey. What is the best way to acquire this information? I call this process intelligence gathering and the best way to do so is to talk to humans.
How mapping improves content creation
As a business, you read this blog post and say, “I already have everything defined. I understand my customer.” My next question would be: Do you really have everything defined? Can you talk about your customer’s journey like was a friend’s?
I often see businesses understand basic demographics and one or two customer pain points. I don’t undervalue this contribution, but it’s important to realize that it’s just the beginning. A journey map reflects the breakdown of individual journey phases, each with a goal, individual touch points, and challenges for that customer’s moment.
It’s much more complex — and it takes longer than one workshop afternoon. It’s in constant flux and improvement.
A journey map supports a content marketing strategy in a variety of ways. First, it adds clarity to the work process. For UX or backend designers, the journey map provides context to the user experience. It helps identify missing navigation connections, stress points, and customer frustrations. For content managers, it defines key content pieces that naturally engage and contribute to the buying process. By defining pain points and challenges, content writers develop content that doesn’t turn the audience away.
Not defining the buyer persona and journey is dangerous. It’s a waste of time and resources to begin content creation without defining these two key steps. If you begin without, you risk writing content that is too broad for the audience, and for people who may never be interested in your product or service. It’s best to target the audience that helps achieve your goals.
How will a journey map help me? It’s a visual aid. It’s part of the core understanding of a business and why you do what you do. Teams become visual by using sticky notes and whiteboards to map it out; others use excel sheets. Creativity is important, but even more important, the startup should have the journey visually mapped on paper.
How to create a customer journey mapping template
A journey map is important. By now, you know what it is and why a business should take the time to create one. The journey map visually shows the process from an organic online stranger to a customer…and to a loyal fan. A customer journey map deviates into four phases: awareness, consideration, purchase and advocate. Each phase of the journey map highlights key sections. These sections include important information:
- Narrative: What is the narrative for the specific journey phase?
- Goals & Objectives: List the goals and objectives of that buyer persona.
- Pain Points & Challenges: List the audience pain points and challenges for the specific journey phase.
- Typical Questions: What do they ask?
- Audience Emotions: What are they feeling?
- Interactions: List potential touch points (or areas the persona interacts online (or sometimes offline)).
- Best Forms of Content: No content is created equal – what is the best piece for the journey level?
View additional completed journey maps and visuals — and use this basic chart to start mapping your own.
“X, Y & Z” Journey Map
Goals & Objectives
Pain Points & Challenges
Types of Content
The process of developing a customer journey map puts you in tune with the ideal audience. It has you thinking for them and creating content for them. Defining the journey is important for content creation. It aids you in mapping out appropriate content for your customer. It helps avoid useless and meaningless content that doesn’t help the audience reach end goals and conversions. By understanding the challenges and pain points for each level, a content creator crafts content most suited to the audience for the specific moment in their journey. For example, the awareness phase is best suited for blog content, because you attract a wide range of potential audience members through targeted keywords and topics. What are other content types for awareness?
- Blog content
- Beginner guides and ebooks
- Social media content
A blog is a major traffic driver for online business, but the reality is, not 100% of those visitors are your ideal audience. The journey map is also key to creating specific content that funnels the correct traffic down the journey. You want unlikely buyers or uninterested readers to jump out of the journey (and not move to the next level) because they’re not your ideal audience.
Awareness attracts a large pool of potential visitors, and the consideration phase weeds out the favorite audience members that are likely to buy. What are the ideal content pieces for consideration?
- Case studies
- Product-focused ebooks
Awareness and consideration content is just the beginning of the journey and is often the first tackle of strategy content creation. After the journey map is constructed and the content pieces mapped accordingly, the next step is to create a content funnel. Read more about what a content funnel is and how to create one here.
Creating an audience journey is important for content marketing.
Understanding the audience journey is fundamental to the content creation process. After a journey map completion, a business is able to target the ideal customer with the appropriate educational content at the time and in the right form. They have a clearer understanding of unique pain points and challenges, and you’re closer to dance to the rhythm of the customer. The closer you become, you’re more successful at meeting the goals and expectations of your content marketing strategy. An audience journey puts everything into perspective, and it’s one of the beginning steps to creating human-centric content marketing strategy.