Customer journey maps for content (because they’re not just for UX)

5 minute read

Customer journey maps are a representation of the experience a person has as they go through a process or try to complete a task. A journey map shows their actions, thoughts, questions and emotions and how they change at each stage. They’re a common artefact for customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) teams, who use them to help guide the design of better products, processes and experiences. But why should they have all the fun?Journey maps are a brilliant tool for content professionals too. Great content is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time, right? So having a map of what your users are thinking, feeling and doing is an invaluable tool to help with that task. What’s more, they can help you join up your content across different channels, online and offline and organisational silos to create a better experience.

Mapping your way to clarity

The advantage of customer journey maps for content is that they can help you untangle a host of knotty insights and ideas into a neat, organised, actionable artefact.There’s so much data and insight and available to us about what our users need, what they want and what they’re interested in. You might have access to:

  • A set of personas
  • Customer surveys
  • CRM data
  • Analytics
  • Social stats

As well as requests from your colleagues or stakeholders for the content they want to help with their objectives. It can end up seeming like a long to-do list of topics, and the context behind them can get lost.The closest many organisations get to looking at the context and end-to-end journey their users go on is using the ‘funnel’ model, and in turn thinking about ‘upper funnel’ vs ‘lower funnel’ content. The issue with this is that the funnel isn’t a customer-centric or empathetic way of looking at things. It’s too linear to reflect real user behaviour, too sales-focused to be empathetic and, crucially ignores what happens after the customer buys/signs-up, or whatever your goal is.

The Funnel Model showing the three stages of Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion.

‘Funnel thinking’ also misses two big opportunities:

1. To understand the wider context for why your customer does the things they do and create content in response.

2. To support the customer after they make a purchase or interact with your brand, give them a better experience and create loyalty and advocacy.

Journey thinking will allow you to take a complex set of insights and codify them enough to be actionable. Better still, maps turn those insights into a narrative (and what do us content people love more than a narrative?!) which makes them easier to process and understand. Create a set of journey maps for key user journeys, and you’ll have the ideal tool for spotting opportunities and prioritising what content to create.

How to make customer journey maps

To make your maps, the first thing you need to do is choose the journeys you want to represent. What these are will depend on your organisation, your goals and your customers.  Try to choose journeys that involve a shared goal between you and your customer. For example, if you worked for a car insurance company a good journey to map might be a young driver getting insurance for the first time. The driver’s goal might be to buy a car and get on the road and - while your map should acknowledge that - there’s no point going into a lot of depth on that whole journey when not all the steps involve your brand.

The second thing you need to do is carry out your research and gather your insights. Perhaps the most useful thing to do is speak to some of your users. Your interviews can be face-to-face or over the phone, and should focus on finding out about how their journey at a granular level. Ask them about:

  • Their goal when they started out.
  • Where they looked for information online.
  • Who they spoke to in real-life.
  • What search terms they used.
  • If they compared different options.
  • What device they were using.
  • Where they were when they used it.
  • How they felt.
  • What was easy.
  • What was hard.
  • What questions they had.

As well as customer interviews speak to your colleagues, especially anyone who interacts with customers regularly. Ask them:

  • What they know about the stages customers go through on their way to making a purchase (or whatever else your goals is).
  • What complaints or pain points they might have heard about.
  • What trends they notice.

There’s also a host of data that you can look at too:

  • Google Analytics — look at  demographics, location, device, behaviour, interests for your website users and more. Multi-channel funnels are great to understand how people switch between channels.
  • Buzzsumo — to find the most shared content on a topic/from a website.
  • twXplorer, FollowerWonk, Social Mention  etc — to research common terms, hashtags, links, help you explore users, etc.
  • Reddit — get an insight on topics, opinions and questions.
  • Quora — see the questions people are asking, as well as the answers other people are giving.
  • Google Trends — see the popularity of search terms over time, related topics, etc.
  • Answer The Public—get insights on what questions people are asking via search and how they feel about topics.

Once you’ve gathered together all your insights, it’s time to map them to the customer journey. But before you can do that, you need to work out how you will lay out your map. You need to think about your x and y axis:

  • X axis or journey phases: this could be something like McKinsey’s, where you keep the stages brand-focused, e.g. awareness, consideration, evaluation, buy, bond, advocacy. Or is something 100% customer-led, e.g. trigger, research, compare, buy, use, share. Whatever you choose, make sure it reflects the phases your user goes through and that you don’t end with ‘buy’ - there’s always at least one more step.
  • Y axis or journey facets: this is where you break down what’s happening at that stage of the journey. At its simplest this could just be something like thinking, feeling, and doing. You can add lots more facets, depending on the data and insights you have available, for example: activities, channels, touch points, experience, anything, goals, questions etc. Anything that you find useful for inspiring content.

We’ve made a journey mapping template that you can download here to help you get started.

As you map your insights to your x and y axis, be realistic and remember to look at the customer’s entire world. The journey will almost never focus just on your brand, so if your journey map does, you might be missing something. There’s always outside influences at play - competitors, review sites, friends, family, newspapers - make sure you capture them. Thinking back to our car insurance example, our young driver probably won’t immediately think of one brand, read their content and then buy their insurance. They’ll probably get advice from a parent or a friend, ask for recommendations, or use a comparison or consumer advice service. Here's a completed user journey map using our template and the car insurance example:

A completed example of a Customer Journey Map

Making the most of your maps

So now you have your maps, you need to use them. They are brilliant assets for planning; studying the map should throw up plenty of gaps, pain points and opportunities where you can add new content, refine existing content, start using a new channel or tweak how you’re using an old one.

Connecting the gaps and opportunities you spot to your KPIs can help you prioritise activities based on impact. For example, if your customer lifetime value is dropping, you could consult the map and look at what’s happening post-purchase and prioritise the opportunities that lie there.

It’s a good idea to print your maps out and stick them on the wall - that way they’ll be in sight to act as a reminder and inspiration. They’re great conversation starters too. Because they’re customer focused and channel and platform agnostic your colleagues and stakeholders are likely to see insight and ideas that interest them and relate to their area of work. You might find that having a big, beautiful map out on display can help open lines of conversation and get collaboration started.

You should also make a diary note to refresh it with new data and insights on a regular basis. Customers and their habits change and, of course, your efforts will affect what their journey looks like too.

Ready to get started?

If you want to give a customer journey map a try to see how they can help your content planning, download our customer journey mapping template.


User Journey Map

A tool to help you plan better content for your audience and map what users are thinking, feeling, and doing.

About the author

Lauren Pope

Lauren is a freelance content strategy and digital transformation consultant, working with organisations that make the world a better, fairer, more beautiful place.

Lauren has been working in content and digital since way back in 2007 and since then has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, including adidas, American Express, Microsoft and Tetra Pak.  

She lives in Brighton, and loves the Downs, the sea, dystopian fiction and bold lipstick.

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