The Art of Customer Journey Mapping: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, Coaches, and Small Businesses

Customer Journey Blueprint: A Step-by-step Manual from Awareness to Conversion to Endorsement.

December 1, 2023
Customer Journey Blueprint: The Art of Customer Journey Mapping: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, Coaches, and Small Businesses

As a small business owner, entrepreneur, or coach, you understand the importance of providing exceptional customer experiences. But how do you deliver a memorable experience that keeps customers coming back? 

Delivering a cohesive and exceptional experience is even more critical and more challenging in this digital age because now you must cultivate a history and relationship with your potential customers before you ever actually meet them.

But this challenge is navigable, and a customer journey map shows the way.

The process involves creating a visual representation of your customer’s experience with your brand from the first point of contact to post-purchase. It's a  strategic approach that helps businesses understand customers' needs, wants, and desires throughout the buying journey.

Architecting customer journeys is part science, part art and fully collaborative.

In this guide, we will discuss the art of customer journey mapping and how it can help small businesses, entrepreneurs and coaches make better business decisions that will drive customer loyalty and growth.

Download the SMB Marketing Checklist and go through it with your team to see if you have what you need.

Define Your Target Audience

The first step in customer journey mapping is to define your target audience. Who are your ideal customers? What are their needs, goals, and desires? 

You must know precisely who you’re targeting to create a successful customer map. 

An excellent way to start is by analyzing customer data and conducting surveys and interviews. My personal favorite is interviews to hear people’s stories, what problem prompted them to seek a solution, where they initially looked for answers, what questions they were asking, and what emotions were they feeling along the way. This information will help you understand the behavior patterns of your ideal customers and how they interact with your brand.

Don’t get too overwhelmed here. When you google persona, it’s easy to think you need to create an elaborate description. You can start with the essentials and place them in a story. 

Let’s try an example.

We’ll assume you’re a financial planner who focuses on middle-class individuals and families because you know they’re at a crossroads, and the decisions they make will impact them and their future generations.

So we can start with a family making between $50-120K/year.  

What is their goal, and what prompts them to seek your help? Seeking financial advice is frequently triggered by some life events such as marriage, having children, moving to a new city, a career change or buying a home. In all the cases, they’re embarking on a new experience with financial implications and need help navigating. 

Our ideal customer description grows to a family making between $50-120K/year who is expecting their first child and is wondering how they will cover the increased costs, save for future expenses like college and mitigate the likelihood of less income if one of them shifts from full-time to part-time. 

You can begin to picture this family. Let’s go a little further into the emotions they’re feeling. And while we’re at it, we’ll add more details and name them for easy reference later. 

Trey and Denise Cook are a young couple who are expecting their first child. Trey is a marketing analyst, and Denise works in customer support. Together they make $110K/year. They don’t yet own a home but would like to. Right now, they are stressed and wondering how they will cover the increased costs, save for future expenses like college and mitigate the likelihood of less income if one of them shifts from full-time to part-time. Trey gets frustrated when they talk about money because he doesn’t know what to do, and they both wonder if there is a path forward for a middle-class family in a big city with rising housing prices and everyday expenses. 

At this point, you should be able to picture the Cook family and imagine their other questions or needs. You can begin to identify what kind of content or service would be perfect for them. 

Being able to effectively envision your potential client is the goal of an ideal customer persona. Now, we’re ready to move on to the map.

Map Out The Customer Journey

The second step is to map out your customer journey. This involves creating a visual representation of the different stages of your customer’s experience with your brand. 

The whole customer experience is part of your brand

You’ll want to include all touchpoints, such as social media, website, email marketing, and customer support. It’s essential to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and map out every step they take while interacting with your brand. You can use tools such as mind maps, flowcharts, or journey maps to visualize the entire experience. I really like Miro or some other digital whiteboard for this activity. 

Build the map

A prospect moves through multiple stages before they become a customer. We use these stages when I work with entrepreneurs on their customer journey maps.

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Delivery & Use 
  • Loyalty & Referral

We list these stages left to right across the top of our whiteboard. After placing our ideal customer persona on the far left, you should create horizontal rows for these questions:

  • What are the customer’s activities?
  • What are the customer’s goals?
  • What are the touchpoints between the customer and the business?
  • How is the customer feeling?
  • What path might the customer take? (leave a lot of space for this one)
  • What are the business goals?
  • What KPIs will measure the success of those goals?
  • What business activities support the customer? 
  • Who is responsible for these activities?
  • What technology supports the process?

At this point, you should have a large matrix and may feel a little overwhelmed with all the boxes. It’s ok, that’s a normal feeling at this moment. As we work through the map,  you’ll see a clearer picture emerge.

It’s easy to feel stuck or uncertain about how to move ahead and take the next step in your marketing. Maybe you feel overloaded or like you’re just spinning your wheels. What if you had someone alongside you on the journey?

Define the Customer and Business Roles

Both the customer and the business play a role in the journey, and you want this represented on your map. 

You can begin by working through the first four rows related to the customer. The first stage in the customer journey is Awareness. During this stage, the customer is becoming aware of their problem. They may be researching to understand or name the challenge they’re facing. Let’s work through it as an example.

Early in the journey customers are paying with their time and attention, not yet their money.

Awareness + Customer Activities

In this box, you identify what the Cooks are doing as they become aware of their financial situation. Some 

  • Talk with peers who are a year or two ahead of them.
  • Google “financial checklist for new parents”
  • Ask their parents for advice
  • Discuss it with each other in the evening
  • Think/worry about it while driving or working. 
  • Scroll through financially focused-podcasts to see if anything seems helpful.
  • Read articles online that relate to their situation.

Awareness + Customer Goals

Early in the journey, the goal is likely to be something like:

  • Understand what will be the financial challenges of early parenthood. 
  • Have a list of the things they should be thinking about and doing.
  • Discover some options they could consider later on.
  • Determine if there is already a set plan they could follow. (this goal is going to likely carry through into the consideration stage)

Customer goals are vital to understand because if your content, activity or offer doesn’t align with that goal, it will be ignored.

Awareness + Touchpoints

When the customer is in the awareness stage, what touchpoints are they likely to have with your brand?

Here are some options to consider.

  • Instagram posts
  • Explainer videos
  • Articles on your website
  • Endorsement from another client

These can stay general like above, or you can make them more specific like, “Instagram post giving new parent financial statistics.” 

Awareness + Experience/Emotions

How is your ideal customer feeling at this point in their journey? Maybe a combination of excited, nervous, unsure and curious.

For now, we’ll skip the Path and work through the business side of the map.

Awareness + Business Goals

While working through the top half of the map, you were thinking through the customer's perspective. Now it's time to think from your perspective as an entrepreneur, coach or small business owner.

What are your business goals when a potential customer is in the awareness stage? Here are some possibilities for our financial planner example.

  • Educate ideal customers on what they should be thinking through financially before and after having their first child.
  • Position their business as someone helpful to middle-class families. 
  • Collect contact information for market-qualified leads.

Awareness + KPIs

The KPIs clarify how you will measure success according to the goals you just defined. Here are a few examples.

  • Organic Traffic
  • Referral Traffic
  • Lead Magnet Downloads
  • Social Engagement

These will end up being much more specific depending on the actual business the customer journey map is being created for.

Awareness + Business Activities

What are you or your business doing to achieve your goals for your ideal customer in the awareness stage? The list doesn’t need to be long. In fact, it should be pretty focused. Here are some examples.

  • Posting daily on Instagram.
  • Creating and sharing helpful content, both written and video
  • Answering relevant questions on platforms like Quora
  • Inviting current customers to refer others. 

Awareness + Business Responsibility

Who will do or ensure these activities are done effectively? In our financial planner example, it’s probably themselves, or if they have a team, it could also include:

  • Content creator
  • Social media manager

Awareness + Technology

What technology will be needed to support your business activities and goals in your ideal customer’s awareness stage? For our financial planner, some might include.

  • Web hosting
  • Social media automation
  • Video production
  • CRM
  • Email automation

Many of these will be included in other stages of the customer journey. The CRM is a critical part of your marketing OS and should be in all the stages. 

We just worked through a lot, and that was just part of the first stage in the customer journey. Building out a solid customer journey map is a crucial deliverable in our Brand Intensives because when done well, you have a clear marketing plan to execute.

You would repeat this process from here, working through the customer journey stages. Once each stage is completed, it’s time to move on to mapping the path. 

Mapping the Path

This is where the real fun begins. In the path, you will identify likely entry points for your ideal customer and then draw out a happy path from those entry points to purchase and then to referral. 

There are various paths a customer can take, and there are innumerable more in real life.

In a live Brand Intensive, this would be a very interactive session, but we might end up with a financial planner customer journey map, as you see below.

As you can see, there are various paths a customer can take, and there are innumerable more in real life. However, the goal is to identify the ideal path the customer might take so you can ensure it is fully optimized. 

Someone might start on a different page on the site or read three articles rather than just one. Whatever exact path they take, this map shows it should be easy for them to download the checklist and then be invited to schedule an Expecting Session.

The Expecting Session is a brief 20-minute meeting to qualify the customer and determine if they are a good match for your services and if they are interested in buying. At this point, they are paying with their time and attention, not yet their money. 

If they are a good fit, then the financial planner would recommend scheduling a Roadmapping Session. The Roadmapping Session is not free but should be reasonably priced, close to your typical rate, but slightly lower. 

Both the customer and the business play a role in the journey, and you want this represented on your map

During this session, our financial planner would work with the Cooks to map out a financial plan that considers their growing family. During this session, they get to see the financial planner in action and even get to practice paying for their services. Once the session is over, they have the opportunity to sign up for long-term service.

In a Brand Intensive, we would continue mapping the path through the delivery of that service and how to cultivate long-term loyalty and referrals. We do this because the whole customer experience is part of your brand.

Identify Pain Points and Opportunities

Now that you’ve drawn out the map, it’s time to identify pain points and opportunities in your customer journey. 

What triggers are causing customers to leave? Is there an area for improvement? This is where you can use the customer data and feedback to pinpoint areas where the customer experience breaks down. 

You must cultivate a history and relationship with your potential customers before you ever actually meet them.

These insights can help you make better business decisions and improve customer retention. Mapping out the customer journey can also help you identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell to your customers.

Optimize Your Customer's Experience

It’s time to implement changes to improve the customer journey. Based on your findings, you can adjust your marketing strategy, customer support, website design and more. 

Experiment with different approaches and analyze the results to see what’s working and what’s not. Keep in mind customer journey mapping is not a one-time event. The customer journey is continually evolving, and regularly reviewing and updating your map is essential.

Being able to effectively envision your potential client is the goal of an ideal customer persona.

You can continue to optimize your customers' experience based on the insights and data gathered from your journey map. You can do this by implementing changes that address your customers' pain points, testing new experiences, and continuously updating your journey map to reflect the changing needs of your customers.

Customer journey mapping is an effective way to understand and meet the needs of your target audience. 

It provides you with a visual representation of the customer experience and helps you identify pain points and opportunities to improve and grow your business. As a small business owner, entrepreneur, or coach, you can use customer journey mapping to make better business decisions and create a loyal customer base. 

Customer journey mapping is an art, so experiment and be creative to see what works best for you and your customers.

Action Plan

Creating a customer journey map may seem challenging, but it's a critical step toward improving your customer experience and driving growth. By understanding your customer's journey, defining personas, mapping touchpoints, creating a journey map, and optimizing experiences, you can deliver a memorable experience that keeps customers returning. 

Imagine your ideal customer moving seamlessly from an Instagram post to your website to scheduling a call. All along the way, they feel like a friend is guiding them to what they want and need.

Ultimately, they are thankful for your being able to engage with your small business, coaching service or non-profit.

Customer journey maps can get complicated. Customers take all sorts of different paths, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds as you try to work through the process. 

Architecting customer journeys is part science, part art and fully collaborative. Like I said before, it’s one of our favorite sessions to facilitate with small businesses and non-profits. 

So, if you want help, just ask. We'll start with a story session to hear your story and explore together what the best next step might be.

We'd love to work with you to craft an overall narrative to guide your customer touch points. When the map reaches the right level of clarity, we’ll help you prioritize the right paths for your ideal customers and current business realities. If you want help implementing all the writing and design along those paths, we’re here for that too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Customer Journey Maps

What is a customer journey?

A customer journey refers to the complete sequence of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a company or brand. This journey captures all stages, starting from the initial awareness or discovery phase, moving through engagement and consideration, leading to purchasing, and finally towards post-purchase interactions which may include support or advocacy.

The aim of mapping the customer journey is to get a comprehensive insight into different customer interactions across various touchpoints. It helps businesses understand how customers are experiencing their brand, where there might be pain points or areas for improvement, and how they can streamline the process to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Understanding the customer journey is vital for delivering exceptional customer experiences, improving customer retention, and driving business growth.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

What are the stages in the customer journey?

The customer journey map should include the following stages.

  • Awareness. How does the customer become aware of your activities? What questions are they asking as they become aware of or try to understand the problem they’re facing? What channels do they use, and are they physical or digital?
  • Consideration. What triggers the customer to consider your product or service, are they comparing it with other alternatives in the market? What questions do they now have? What understanding will they need to be comfortable making a decision?
  • Decision. What concrete choices does the customer make at this point? How are they comparing the options? What factors are most important in their decision? How do they buy the product or service?
  • Delivery + Use. How does the customer finally receive the product or service?
  • Loyalty + Referral. Does the customer engage with your service again and become a repeat customer? How will an ongoing connection be cultivated? Do they introduce others? What channels do referrals typically come through?

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

Why is mapping the customer journey important?

Mapping the customer journey allows you to understand your customers' experiences, needs, and pain points at each stage of their interaction with your business. This understanding can help you improve your products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet your customers' needs.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

How do I start creating a customer journey map?

Creating a customer journey map involves several key steps. Let's walk through them:

  1. Define Objectives: Understand why you're creating the map. Are you trying to improve the overall customer experience, solve a particular problem, or identify gaps in your service?
  2. Create Buyer Personas: These are fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. They should include demographic information, interests, behaviors, goals, and pain points.
  3. Identify Touchpoints: These are the points of interaction between your customers and your business. They could be anything from visiting your website, speaking to a salesperson, or using your product/service.
  4. Map the Customer Journey: Outline the steps your customers take from their initial interaction with your business to the final purchase or end goal. This could include stages like awareness, consideration, decision, and retention.
  5. Identify Opportunities and Pain Points: Look for areas where the customer experience can be improved. These could be places where customers are getting frustrated, or where there's an opportunity to exceed their expectations.
  6. Implement Changes: Use your findings to make improvements to your customer journey. This could involve changing your website layout, improving your customer service, or altering your product offering.
  7. Review and Update Regularly: Customer needs and behaviors change over time, so it's important to regularly review and update your customer journey map to ensure it's still accurate and useful.

Remember, a customer journey map is a tool to help you better understand and serve your customers. It should be used as a guide to improve your customer experience, not as a strict rulebook.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

How often should I update my customer journey map?

It's a good practice to review and update your customer journey map periodically to ensure it remains accurate and relevant. Changes in your business, market trends, or customer behavior may require adjustments to your map.

The frequency at which you should update your customer journey map largely depends on various factors such as changes in your business model, introduction of new products or services, shifts in customer behavior, or significant changes in market conditions.

However, a good rule of thumb is to review your customer journey map at least once every six months to a year. This helps ensure that it continues to accurately reflect your customers' experiences and expectations.

If there are major changes happening more frequently in your industry, you might want to review and update your map quarterly.

Remember, the customer journey map is a dynamic tool that should evolve with your business and your understanding of your customers. Regular reviews and updates will help you keep it relevant and effective.

At Better Story Marketing, we review our map quarterly as a team to ensure it is effectively engaging our ideal customers and helping them reach their goals.

Learn more about creating a customer journey map for your small business or non-profit.

Ideal Customer Personas

What is a Customer Persona?

A customer persona, also known as a buyer persona or marketing persona, is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It's based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

A well-crafted customer persona will include details such as:

  1. Demographics: Age, gender, location, income level, education level, and occupation.
  2. Psychographics: Interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, and lifestyle.
  3. Behavioral Traits: Shopping habits, brand preferences, product usage, and online behavior.
  4. Needs and Challenges: The problems or issues the persona is facing that your product or service can solve.
  5. Goals and Motivations: What they hope to achieve, both professionally and personally.

Creating customer personas can help businesses better understand and reach their target audiences. They are used in marketing to determine where to focus efforts and guide product development by aligning with the needs of the ideal customer. They can also help in tailoring content, messaging, and offers to specific audience segments.

Remember, most businesses have more than one type of customer, so they create multiple personas to represent different segments of their audience.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

How Do I Use Customer Personas?

Customer personas are a powerful tool that can guide many aspects of your business, from marketing and sales to product development and customer service. Here's how you can use them:

  1. Marketing and Advertising: Use personas to tailor your messaging and content to resonate with each segment of your audience. They can also guide your decisions about where to advertise based on where your personas spend their time online.
  2. Product Development: Understanding the needs, challenges, and goals of your personas can help you identify new features or products that could meet these needs.
  3. Sales Strategy: Your sales team can use personas to understand the motivations of potential customers and tailor their sales pitches accordingly.
  4. Customer Service: Personas can help your customer service team anticipate the needs and questions of different types of customers, leading to more effective support.
  5. Content Creation: When creating blogs, social media posts, or other content, consider the interests and challenges of your personas. This can help you create content that is relevant and engaging for your audience.
  6. User Experience (UX) Design: If you're designing a website or app, personas can inform the design process to ensure it aligns with the needs and preferences of your users.
  7. Email Marketing: You can segment your email list based on your personas and send tailored emails to each segment.

The key to using personas effectively is to keep them in mind in all areas of your business. They should be a guiding force behind your decision-making, helping you stay customer-focused.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

Why are Customer Personas Important for my Business or Nonprofit?

Customer personas are important for businesses and nonprofits alike for several reasons:

  1. Better Understanding of the Audience: Personas help you understand your audience's needs, behaviors, challenges, and motivations on a deeper level. This understanding can guide your product development, marketing strategies, and customer service initiatives.
  2. More Effective and Targeted Marketing: Knowing your personas can help you create content and messages that resonate with your target audience. It also allows for more efficient use of marketing resources as you're able to target those who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.
  3. Improved Product Development: By understanding the needs and challenges of your personas, you can align your product development to provide solutions to these issues. This increases the likelihood of product success and customer satisfaction.
  4. Personalized Customer Experience: Personas can guide the personalization of the customer journey, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and conversion rates.
  5. Informed Decision-Making: They provide a clear direction for decision-making in various areas such as sales strategies, marketing tactics, and customer service approaches.

For nonprofits specifically, personas can help in:

  1. Fundraising Efforts: Understanding who your donors are can help you create effective fundraising campaigns that resonate with them and encourage more giving.
  2. Volunteer Recruitment: Knowing the motivations and characteristics of your ideal volunteers can guide recruitment efforts and help you attract dedicated volunteers.
  3. Advocacy Campaigns: Personas can inform advocacy campaigns, helping you to craft messages that mobilize supporters and drive action.

By creating and using customer personas, businesses and nonprofits can ensure they are truly meeting the needs of their audience, leading to better results in all areas of their work.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

What Information Should be Included in a Customer Persona?

Creating a comprehensive customer persona requires a mix of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral information. Here are the key elements you should include:

  1. Persona Name: Giving your persona a name makes it easier to refer to and helps to humanize the data you've collected.
  2. Demographics: Include basic demographic information such as age, gender, location, income level, education, and occupation.
  3. Psychographics: This includes interests, hobbies, values, attitudes, and lifestyle. It helps to understand what motivates your persona and how they spend their time.
  4. Behavioral Traits: Detail your persona's shopping habits, brand preferences, product usage, and online behavior. This can help you understand where to reach them and what messages might resonate.
  5. Goals and Motivations: What are they trying to achieve? What drives them? These could be personal or professional goals.
  6. Challenges and Pain Points: What problems or issues is your persona facing that your product or service can solve? Understanding these can help you position your offering effectively.
  7. Preferred Communication Channels: How does your persona prefer to interact with brands? Are they active on social media? Do they prefer email communication?
  8. Brand Interactions: How do they currently interact with your brand? Are they a loyal customer or a potential target?
  9. Quotes: Including a few direct quotes from your interviews or surveys can bring the persona to life and make their needs and wants more relatable.
  10. Image: Some businesses choose to include a stock photo in their persona profile to give it a face. This isn't necessary but can make the persona feel more real.

Remember, the aim of a persona is to represent a significant portion of people in the real world and should therefore be as realistic as possible. Also, personas are fluid and may change over time as you get more information about your customers.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

How Many Personas Should I Create?

The number of personas you should create depends on the diversity of your customer base and the complexity of your product or service offerings.

Three to five personas are often enough to cover your main customer segments. These should represent the majority of your customers or the customers you are specifically targeting.

Less is better.

Remember, the goal is not to create a persona for every individual customer, but rather to capture the key types of customers that represent your larger audience. Each persona should be distinct enough to guide different marketing strategies or product developments.

It's also important to review and update your personas regularly to ensure they continue to accurately reflect your customer base.

Lean more about how to identify your ideal customer persona.

Brand Story

What elements should be included in a brand story?

Your brand story should consist of:

  • The problem the organization exists to solve.
  • Why that problem matters to the organization.
  • What makes them qualified to solve the problem.
  • The steps the organization takes to help the customer overcome the problem.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

Why is it important to have a compelling brand story?

A compelling brand story helps small businesses differentiate themselves from competitors, connect with their target audience on an emotional level, and establish a unique identity in the market.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

How can I make my brand story authentic?

To make your brand story authentic, focus on sharing your genuine motivations behind starting your business, highlight real customer experiences and testimonials, and ensure consistency between your brand values and actions.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

How often should I update my brand story?

It's a good practice to review and update your brand story periodically to ensure it accurately reflects your current business values and goals. Certainly, any time there is a change to the products or strategy of the business, the brand story should be updated. 

At Better Story Marketing, we review our story twice a year as a team to ensure it represents us well and connects with our ideal customer.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

Should I include personal anecdotes in my brand story?

These anecdotes allow customers to connect with you on a deeper level. This isn’t the time to tell your company history, it’s telling the parts of your back story that overlap with the customers’ stories. 

They can allow the customer to see both why their problem matters to you and how you’re qualified to help them. However, it's important to strike a balance and ensure that the anecdotes align with your brand identity and resonate with your target audience.

Learn how to write the brand story for your small business or non-profit.

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