Even with the wealth of customer data available through marketing technology today, few marketers validate critical customer journey work by talking with actual customers.
This lack of real customer insight clouds any idea of the customer journey your team might have. You cannot simply sit in a room and make stuff up based on a hunch. Marketers must engage directly with customers to identify their challenges and solve them.
In the late 1990s, I led a small business group responsible for mapping the sales process for large companies. We always began with the customer journey. Over a three-day period, we created a map with the sales team, including:
- Stages of the customer journey, with names for each stage.
- Customer needs and outcomes at every stage of the process (in the customer’s language).
- Inputs and outputs of stages.
- Responsibilities of sales in each stage.
- Sales metrics required at each stage.
- The role of tools and technology for each stage.
Creating a draft of the customer journey was an important first step; talking with the customer about this map was critical. Sales teams often pushed back because they felt they were the experts on their customers. They had a perspective, but they could never really walk in the customers’ shoes.
We armed key sales reps with the process and materials they needed to interview their customers and showed the customer journey map to customers, asking:
- Does this look like a journey that you might take?
- Did we correctly express your expectations and activities during each stage of the journey?
- Did we correctly describe how you want sales to respond in each stage?
We gathered the input and created our final customer journey map. Only then could we complete our sales process mapping.
I provide this example because if sales, who talks with clients constantly, needs customer input to understand the customer journey, so do you. An accurate map that serves as the foundation of your marketing must be validated by the customer.
1. Begin Journey Mapping in Sales
I always suggest building the customer journey map in stages and making adjustments based on new information or insights. Sales is the first group you need to work with, and this includes the business development reps (BDR), inside sales, outside sales, enterprise sales, account managers and sales ops.
Having representation from each of these key sales groups will allow you to draft the entire customer life cycle, including net new acquisition and account expansion. The BDR team can provide insights on when and how new prospects engage, sales reps can inform how a customer behaves during the buying process and account managers can provide information on behaviors of current customer. Sales ops is necessary in this meeting because they can begin considering what tools and technologies are required to support the new customer journey.
The next step is internal validation with a broader set of the sales team. In this case, you will be validating above-the-line (what a customer thinks) and below-the-line (what you need to do) activities. This accomplishes two objectives: By engaging more salespeople, they feel included, making them more likely to accept changes as the project unfolds. It also provides you with more information for the map.
2. Layer in Other Customer-facing Functions
Much like the sales team process, meet with these groups, show them the map and gather their input. Be careful to define the layers and separate above-the-line and below-the-line activities.
Most often I see groups such as customer success, customer support and services as key to this step in the process. Your customer success and customer support team are often full of information about customers. They can often provide insights into what new customers need.
3. Talk with Your Customers
Once you have finalized all the input from all the customer-facing organizations, you need to prepare an above-the-line version that you can take out to customers. Create a strong question set and ensure that everyone that interviews a customer uses exactly the same question set. This interview should be done by marketing. Nothing gives you better insights into how to run marketing than constant dialog and interviews with your prospects and customers. This is a great learning activity.
Regardless of the method you use to collect this information, you need to establish this as a continuous process and not a one-off activity.
Talking with customers and using data to get a better understanding of the customer is the first step in evolving marketing into a customer-centric organization. Ultimately, if you do this right, marketing becomes the voice of the customer, and you become the leader in helping your company pivot to customer centricity.
About the Author | Debbie Qaqish
Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.