Five Best Practices on Journey Design, Part One

Share this post:

Remember when marketing was easy?

A simple enough process: Create some campaigns, design creative, write some copy, and then publish. We would pat ourselves on the back for how creative our ideas were and move on to the next campaign.image1

These days, campaigns are no longer the high-level strategy within a marketing organization. Our customers don’t live in silos and they don’t take action in ways we can predict. Today’s customers are informed, spontaneous, and curious. They don’t interact with one channel at a time, they interact with all of them, at various times over inconsistent methods.

Your customers’ road from discovery to advocacy isn’t a campaign, it’s a journey. A customer journey is an overall experience with a brand over multiple interactions, from the first time they hear about you to when they promote your brand to their 400 Twitter followers.

These five steps are a guide on designing effective customer journeys. It all starts with your customer segments. Today we will take you through the first two steps. Next week we will complete the series with the last three steps.

Step 1: Standardize your target segments

Define specific marketing segments, identify them, and communicate them within your marketing organization.

Hopefully, you already have marketing segments. These are the different types of customers who buy your product or service. An example segment would be, existing clients. This is a good start, but it only scratches the surface. Within existing clients, you might have loyal clients, or deeper still, weekly purchases versus monthly purchases. The difference between customers who buy once a month and once a week is huge, and they should be treated differently. If you flew on the same airline six times a year, you are a loyal customer. However, if you take a round trip once a week, you are a commuter. Wouldn’t you want special treatment? Airlines, as it turns out, are particularly good at this step.

Once you define your segments, try to keep them consistent. This allows you to make accurate measurements. It’s okay to make some changes, but try to keep them to a minimum.

From here, create personas to represent the customers in your segments. What are the characteristics of the people in this segment? For example, Kelly is a business traveler who doesn’t like to wait at the baggage claim, works during the flight, and uses Uber rather than rents a car. Stan, on the other hand, is a traveling retiree who lives in Florida six months out of the year and sees travel as a tool for leisure. Personas help you create content specifically for a particular segment and relate to them in a personal way.

Now that you have segments and personas to represent them, you can map them to your customer database.

Finally, communicate, communicate, communicate. And then, communicate. It’s not enough for a few folks on the marketing team to know these personas, everyone in your company should know for whom they are developing products and services. Our research has found that it takes about five communications to drive this message home. It’s not enough to send one mass email.

Step 2: Define your customer journey stages

First things first – what is a journey stage? It’s a segment of the journey in which a desired set of actions by the customer take place. Every company is different, so these stages can take many forms. To use a generic example, we will start with these five:

Discovery – the lead identification stageimage2

Compare – when your customer is comparing alternatives (remember, a common alternative is to do nothing)

Acquire – market-speak for “buy”

Use – post-purchase of your product or service

Advocacy – creating promoters

Another note about setting your stages. It’s tempting, but a mistake, to stop at the Acquire stage. Creating consistent marketing content for post-purchase customers is the best way to turn new buyers into advocates.

Even if your stages look completely different, what is important is that you set the stages and try not to change them. If you don’t set them, you can’t measure them.

Now that we have our journey stages, we can go back into our customer database and map our content to a particular journey stage. If you have done this right and created personas like we discuss in our first step, you can do some really interesting things. For example, if Carlos has signed up for updates on a new model of your product and he’s a platinum member, you can begin to understand why he signed up by looking at the last communications he has looked at. You can also examine the time between stages and how it changes across segments.

Another advantage we gain from stages is that we can identify gaps or redundancies in our content. Are we building too many discovery flyers? Do we have enough technical documentation? Are we over-buying media for this particular segment? We can help answer these questions by comparing our segments to our journey stages.

Finally, creating customer stages allows a marketer to easily evaluate effectiveness and delivery of offers. This distinction is important because you might have valuable content, such as a YouTube video or a discount, but its delivery mechanism, such as an email or signage, should receive its own evaluation.

Once again, it is very important to communicate these stages to the entire marketing organization so everyone has the same objectives in mind.

Get more best practices in part two. Find out how you can design moving customer experiences with IBM Journey Designer.

More stories

Innovating with AI and Blockchain for Professionals

We recently announced a definitive agreement under which HCL Technologies intends to acquire a select number of IBM marketing and commerce software products. HCL is a valued IBM partner with whom we already have a development partnership with, in support of the products in the announcement. HCL and IBM expect to close the transaction in […]

Continue reading

A New Era for Marketing and Commerce

Last week, we announced a sharpened focus on AI-powered and cloud-based applications, and that HCL plans to acquire certain marketing and commerce software. You can read more about the announcement here. While the transition is not planned to take place until mid-2019, I thought it was important to share what this means for our portfolio […]

Continue reading

How to Turn Customer Loyalty Programs into Love

“Loyalty programs increasingly need to have flexibility. In other words, it can’t just be ‘Buy ten get one free,’ at a coffee shop anymore. Stores themselves are starting to have to get creative with what loyalty means to them and giving the customers choice in what those rewards are.” — Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder, @RetailMinded […]

Continue reading