Why – and How – to Map Out Your Customers’ Journeys [Template]

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In one of the most useful workshops I’ve attended, we created a customer-journey map for content planning. Before doing this exercise, I had only a fuzzy notion of what a customer-journey content map might look like, how to make one, and why anyone would bother.

It turns out, this map looks like a spreadsheet. You make one by filling the cells.

Why bother? Because doing so helps you answer the perennial question, “What content shall we create?”

Let me back up to clarify the term “customer journey.” In this exercise, we didn’t talk about the customer journey in the way that marketers typically see it: a journey through a sales funnel’s ever-narrowing phases — awareness, consideration, preference, and (kerplunk!) purchase — as helpful as mapping content to those phases may be. We talked instead about customer journeys as things that people want to accomplish as they interact with a brand. We mapped content to customers’ goals.

The exercise I share here was part of a full-day workshop at the Information Development World conference in San Jose. The session — The Next Generation of Content Strategy: Building a Performance-Driven Model — was led by independent content strategists Paula Land and Kevin Nichols. They covered a lot of related topics; I wish I could cram all of them into this post. The content-mapping exercise alone had such value, though, that I focus on it to give you a tool you can use right away.

How we created our customer-journey maps

Paula and Kevin kicked off this exercise by breaking us into teams. They asked each team to imagine itself in charge of deciding what content Starbucks should create for two personas: Faye Weaver and Lila Chan.

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In addition, each team received a customer-journey map template.


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Let’s say you’ve just received those three handouts. What would you do?

Choose your key personas (Column 1)

In our exercise, the first column, Persona, was completed: Business Traveler in one row, Student in another row. Starting with the customer may seem obvious, but content decisions don’t always happen that way. Have you ever created content because your boss had a pet idea or because you found a certain topic fascinating? I confess that I have.

Column 1 is column 1 for a reason.

Kevin and Paula noted that when we do this exercise for real — when we choose our own personas — we would prioritize in keeping with the 80/20 rule, choosing personas that account for most of our anticipated business.

Takeaway: When deciding what content to create, start by selecting the personas (or typical customers or segments) on which you want to focus for your business goals.

Identify possibilities for personalization and data gathering (Column 2)

The second column, User State, was completed with Anonymous for both personas. In some cases, users are logged in (for example, when they’re using certain apps), so the system knows information about them, including who and where they are.

The user state determines the potential for personalizing (adapting) the content as it’s delivered. The user state also might determine the potential for gathering data that could help the organization learn about user preferences and needs.

For the purposes of our exercise, having the user states provided simplified our assignment; since our customers were anonymous, we knew that we wouldn’t have to plan for customized content experiences.

If you were using this worksheet in real life, you’d probably want to bump the User State column further to the right, maybe following Channel. After all, how can you think about the user state until you know whether you’d want to put the content in an app or on a poster?

Takeaway: When deciding what content to create, consider how much your system might know about the user and how you might use that information to enhance the user experience.

Choose customer goals that line up with business goals (Column 3)

The third column, Journey, was blank for both personas. As noted in the beginning, Kevin and Paula suggested that we define customer journeys as customer goals — things people want to accomplish as they interact with a brand.

In the context of this exercise, a customer journey answers this question: What does this persona want to do?

Of the infinite customer journeys we could have chosen for either persona, we were instructed to choose those that we imagined would support Starbucks’ goals. My teammate and I chose one journey per persona: “Get a cup of coffee” for Faye (business traveler) and “Get a…