Design Thinking, Growth Hacking, Marketing

How To Start Journey Mapping

Imagine being the proverbial fly on the wall watching your customer’s journey from recognition of your brand, through research to contact and ultimately purchase? What would that journey look like? What types of ‘a-ha’ moments would you hope to uncover?
 
Journey Mapping is taking the hypothetical customer journey and plotting it out in a flow-chart, Gantt chart or another visual format. This map envisions the actual journey, documenting touch-points and areas of friction. It can also envision the ideal journey, identifying an existing area of concern to provide an overall smooth experience. 
 
Regardless of the approach, plotting a customer’s journey with your product or service forces you to focus on your customers, and not on your company. When you map their journey, you’re walking the mile in their shoes, feeling the highs and lows associated with your brand and getting a better understanding of your customer’s experience.
 
Creating the Journey Map is a critical component of Design Thinking. Taking the trip and documenting the existing customer experience to feel what they feel will help you generate informed ideas when it comes time to brainstorm solutions or new opportunities for them. 
 
The number one reason great ideas fail is that we misjudge what the customer wants. One of the best ways to remove this uncertainty and reduce the risk is to develop a map that gets you as close as possible to your customer’s lives, to their problems and their frustrations, as you seek to understand how your brand can create value for them. 
 

How To Do It – A Designers Guide For First Timers

 
1. Select Customers That You Want To Understand
Spend time investigating the context in which they’ll be interacting with your brand, and how you contribute to their overall picture at that moment. Looking to secondary data is a good start, before actually engaging with real customers. Blogs and websites can be a great source of information to learn about the world surrounding your customer and give you a better understanding about the context that your brand lives in, and will ultimately interact within.
 
2. Sketch The Hypothetical Journey
This is the first map you’ll draw, albeit a hypothetical one. This is your opportunity to outline how you think your customer’s journey goes. Be sure to cover all the steps in the journey beginning to end, and not just the ones that your brand is involved in (ie: If you’re selling an app on the App Store, the journey probably started with a need, then a search, then a visit to the App Store, all before your brand was introduced).
 
3. Interview time
Select a small group of customers or prospective customers (usually 12 to 20, but less isn’t necessarily bad) representing a range of demographic attributes that you’ve already identified in your marketing strategies and business planning. This will give you a range of experiences to draw upon which can help challenge your hypothesized pencil sketch Journey Map. 
 
It’s time to conduct interviews. However, these interviews are far different than the traditional focus groups, as they are conducted one-on-one and reject the herd mentality when answering questions. With these interviews, you’re going to go (physically) where the customers are interacting with your brand, and joining them on their journey not only observing them but talking about their journey as they experience it.
 
Initially, interview two to five customers. These first conversations allow you time to practice your interview techniques, but also to refine your questions and approach. What might have felt like the perfect question internally, might turn out to lead the conversation nowhere. When you are fine-tuning the questions, you can easily find the focus points on the emotional moments of the customer experience, which will provide the strongest data for your team to analyze. 
 
Using your hypothetical Journey Map, ask your customer to take you through their journey while comparing it to your notes. Be sure to dig into the details so you are getting an accurate picture of their steps and getting the kind of data you need. Sometimes you’ll even need to keep digging in order to get your customer to truly reflect deeply on their thoughts and feelings. Remember not to accept superficial answers, they won’t do advance anything.
 
Lastly, it is important to conduct the interviews as a team; one person taking notes while the other conducts the interview, thereby giving the customer their full, undivided attention. 
 
4. Moments Of Truth
The interviews are complete, you’re sitting on a pile of data, now it’s time to uncover the truth. This is an intensive, deep dive, of sense-making. By summarizing what was learned in each interview on a single template, then identify the key emotional moments of each interview, you can start to plot out what your customers are feeling. Taking these key emotional moments, writing them out in large print, then sticking them on the wall, you and your team can start to see the bigger picture and identify themes across all customers. 
 
5. Study The Themes
Now that you’ve identified the core themes, its time to uncover and identify a number of new dimensions that are usually physiographic, rather than demographic, that will help you reveal the difference in your data. To help make sense of all this, try using the list of Universal Human Needs, compiled by the Centre for Nonviolent Communication, for generating the key points and needs from your customers. 
 
6. Map The Journey
Armed with your data, the emotional needs and wants of your customers and the understanding of what they go through, it is time to build the Journey Map of your customer (or for each persona if you are expanding your research across multiple customer types). The map should reveal its own set of high and low points. These pain-points represent the most valuable innovation opportunities for your customer – this is where you make their life better! 
 
Journey Mapping is a whole different monster from traditional market research tools like focus groups and surveys. Marketing leaders trained in those methods are often suspicious with the findings from Journey Mapping interviews because of the small number of subjects and versus the large nets that they are used to casting. However, the small sample is a deliberate choice (and not only because it is more economical for startup businesses), because the data gathering is much more deep, personal and emotionally focused. The process uses observation and intensive interviews in real-time while the customer is in the middle of the experience and the interviewer walks with them through each part of the journey asking questions as they go along. 
 
Final Thoughts
Like all tools, there is a time and place for Journey Mapping and it must be remembered that it does not produce statistically significant results that a corporate auditor can review; it doesn’t “prove” anything. Instead, it sparks creative thinking about the unmet needs of customers which are often inaccessible using traditional market research methods and larger sample sizes. The aim of Journey Mapping is not to produce a set of statistical data, but to produce a new set of hypotheses for testing. As such, Journey Mapping is another iterative tool in the Design Thinking toolkit that pushes companies to engage their customers to really understand their experiences, and design better solutions for them.
 
 
 

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