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Customer Journey Mapping Should Never Focus On Marketing Alone

The July-August 2022 issue of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) is focused on customer journeys. At the centre of all this customer journey analysis was an article that argued how the ‘customer journey is the new marketing battleground.’

On the surface it makes some sense. The simplified view on customer journeys is that they should always be easy and effortless. But the authors actually argue that there is more of a matrix of journey types and each brand needs to know where they fit best.

The two dimensions are whether a customer journey is effortless or involves real effort and whether it is predictable or unpredictable. For example, if you are watching a movie on Netflix then you can expect it to be both a familiar and effortless experience. Learning a new language on Duolingo or working out on a Peloton may be familiar and predictable to a regular user, but these experiences require a lot of effort.

You get the picture. It’s a valid criticism of the standard theories around customer journey mapping, but I have just explained it in a couple of paragraphs – in the HBR it continues for more than another 3,000 words.

Where I would criticise this theory on journey mapping is that it never once mentioned anything about advertising, sales or selling, the customer relationship, or customer service.

If you really want to effectively map a customer journey then you need to ask some quite basic questions:

  • How does the customer hear about my brand or products for the first time?
  • How does the customer interact with my brand when they have a problem or question?
  • How does the customer interact with my brand when they are happy and satisfied in a way that reinforces our relationship?

I think these questions are essential, but what they really boil down to is the siloed nature of most marketing strategies. The customer journey may be the new marketing battleground, but to ‘win the war’ in your industry requires connecting all these customer-facing processes together.

You can’t succeed in marketing by planning a marketing strategy that does not even consider how a customer asks for help or when it might be appropriate for the sales team to reach out and offer an upgrade to a customer.

Designing a fully comprehensive marketing strategy needs to consider how most of your customers are learning about your products. This used to be advertising, but is now more complex thanks to social media, review sites, blogs, and all that user-generated content. It’s just as likely to be something posted by another customer that informs your new customers.

The customer journey theory I mentioned earlier may work well when nothing goes wrong, but when a customer needs help – using either their Duolingo or Netflix app – they need an easy way to access advice. How does that happen? What channels do they use and how are you making it simple to resolve a problem?

Customers also participate in one part of the customer journey when they are not calling the service desk or making a purchase. When they are happy and satisfied and posting pictures of their favourite car or running shoes online. Are you engaging with these happy customers and building a relationship? Make no mistake, these are your future advocates.

The HBR is always a great place for well-researched business information, but it seems that in this latest edition they have fallen into the same trap as every marketing director that never wanted to take responsibility for customer service. If the customer has a great experience when engaging with your brand then that is the best marketing you can ever create.

Please get in touch with me directly on LinkedIn here if you want to discuss these ideas further.

Interested in learning more about ICON’s expertise in optimising customer journeys?
Please contact ICON’s Mark Matthews.

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