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  • Writer's pictureHarshal

Ditch The Funnel. Dodge Jobs To Be Done. Instead, Use Customer Journey Maps

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Customer Journey Maps Over Alternatives and Product Management Examples - Part 1


You want to know how to make prospective customers buy your product. Or upgrade to a paid plan. Or retain them.


But do the numbers in your marketing funnel tell you what will make customers upgrade? Or do your jobs-to-be-done statements tell you how many customers will upgrade if you change one thing in your product?


No, and no.


This is where customer journey maps helped me. I want to cover:

  1. What are customer journey maps?

  2. What do Airbnb, Disney, and McKinsey have to say about customer journeys?

  3. When to build one?

  4. How do you build one?

  5. Examples of starting from scratch and building some parts of it.

I spoke more about this at Product Camp. See here.

This post was originally published on www.sparkcreativetechnologies.com on June 10, 2023.

many ways to represent your customer’s journey and needs to reach enlightenment.
many ways to represent your customer’s journey and needs to reach enlightenment.

Customer Journey Map Over Alternatives

One well-known approach to knowing your customers is the Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) approach. Your customers have a job to accomplish. Your product or service is one part of their journey.


Pros:

  • You are writing down the “why”

  • You understand the role of your product in the customer’s journey

Cons:

  • It doesn’t tell you how customers discover your product

  • You don’t have the distribution of customers

  • No timeline or percentage conversion metrics

Image credits to Product Frameworks.


Another well-used approach to understanding customers is the marketing funnel. I’ve picked two funnel illustrations from Semrush as examples.


AIDA and Top/middle/bottom style marketing funnels.
AIDA and Top/middle/bottom style marketing funnels.

Although the funnels might give accurate numbers of customers at different steps, the lines between the steps and the order of the steps have blurred over time.


Pros:

  • Helps understand the drop-off points

  • Uniform framework helps compare with peers or industry standards

  • Well-known framework

Cons:

  • Suggests a uniformity in customers with similar desires and needs

  • (Or) Suggests a few user personas where users are uniform within each persona

  • Does not explain the “why”. Why did a user go to the next step?

  • Does not give you actionable insights. Since there are very few steps, each step consists of several user actions within your product. Which of those actions do you need to focus on?


I suggest to stop looking at customers as numbers on a funnel and instead to know their journey. Airbnb and Disney create storyboards, as written in another section below. Their storyboards are similar to journeys. I show two examples from Design thinking workshops below. One I ran at an eCommerce marketplace and another from Windmill Digital.

two design thinking customer journey visuals showing customers emotions at granular steps in their journey
two design thinking customer journey visuals showing customers emotions at granular steps in their journey

Pros:

  • Pretty

  • Emotions front and center

  • Customer thoughts emphasized

Cons:

  • Puts every customers on the same journey

  • Assumes one entry and one exit point

  • Does not quantify the paths


When I drew the above storyboard or emotional rollercoaster for the eCommerce marketplace, I did not find it helpful because not every customer goes through those steps. Not every positive or negative emotion is helpful in taking action. It does not help prioritize. Nor does it explain the “why”.


We looked at three approaches.

  1. JTBD

  2. Marketing funnel

  3. Design-thinking customer journey.


Another Product And Marketing Perspective On Customer Journey Maps

I look at customer journey maps differently. I do not storyboard. I visualize the multiple ingest and eject points and overlay metrics. Think of multiple intersecting funnels. Or jobs to be done placed visualized on a 2-D plane with quantifications and links between them. Let’s walk through some examples, then build generalizations and guidelines from them.


The visualization is not pretty. It is a monotonous monochromatic matrix that is dense and uninspiring. But it is valuable to make product decisions. As Larry McEnerney from the University of Chicago says in his Leadership Lab talk, the most important aspect of any content is its value to the consumer.


I visualize the customer journey as a flowchart on a two-dimensional plane where each flowchart box is a customer action. The Y axis, positioned on the left, represents tracking transparency. It increases from bottom to top. It illustrates a continuum from limited to abundant visibility into customer behavior, e.g., click tracking. We gain greater visibility as our customers move higher up on the Y axis. This visibility enriches our data for better-informed product or marketing choices. The X axis is the chronological progression of the customer journey. The left represents user entry points of users and the right their departure points.


Although I use a customer journey map instead of a funnel or JTBDs, I reference both to help learn a new concept using existing known concepts. It will help me explain the customer journey map.


Example 1 - B2C Freemium Multi-Platform SaaS Product

I’ve used some jargon in the heading, but I’ll unpack it here. You can skip this context and jump to the journey map.


The product is distill.io. Let’s unpack the heading.

  • It is a B2C product. So It is used by several individual businesses or consumers. Not sold to a few enterprises. It has a self-service flow, not a sales-led motion.

  • It has a freemium pricing structure. Users sign up to use its free product and may choose to upgrade to the premium version.

  • It is multi-platform. It is most popular as a chrome extension but it is also available as a Webapp, Firefox extension, Safari extension, iOS app, and Android app.

  • It is a SaaS product. It is pure software sold on a subscription basis and without selling the software but rather charging for access to the software.

 customer journey map visualizing delivering invoices to 100,000s of customers and resultant user actions.
customer journey map visualizing delivering invoices to 100,000s of customers and resultant user actions.

I used the jobs-to-be-done philosophy - the user uses your product to accomplish a job. The customer journey starts when they realize they need something to accomplish their job. But, we have zero observability at that stage. They may go to Reddit, forums, or social media to discuss their problem. Or they may use Google to search for a solution. Either way, they discover our product. This is the awareness phase in the AIDA model of marketing. I created a freemium marketing funnel to illustrate the stages of a freemium SaaS product.

Modified funnel stages for a freemium product, starting with awareness, free usage, paid user, and retention.
Modified funnel stages for a freemium product, starting with awareness, free usage, paid user, and retention.

Once they discover our product, they evaluate and install it. I didn’t focus on the evaluation part of the journey map because I wanted to prioritize the following parts of the journey. At this point, the user was on the freemium version of the product.


When the users are on the free version of the product, they use the product by creating monitors, receiving notifications, or facing errors. They can also choose to upgrade to a paid pricing plan.


Users who are on the premium plan might continue their subscription or cancel. Free and paid users might also stop using the product.


Creating the customer journey map helped me understand a few aspects of customer behavior.


For example, the balance between SEO content marketing vs. content tailored for social media to acquire customers. This could be decided by looking at the split between traffic sources between search and social media.


Many users face errors, so understanding user actions upon receiving an error will be a priority to improve customer experience. A small percentage of users are retained for a long time. So, it is valuable to identify the difference between retained users vs. those who churn.


Example 2 - Delivering Invoices To 100,000+ Customers

I covered this example in “visualizing customer behavior and changing it”.

This shows us points to track user behavior. This can now be kept at the front of a product team when thinking of a change in any part of the customer’s journey.


The journey map shows a system generating monthly reports and emailing some of them to users. Users may read the email body and go to the web portal but most likely skip the body and instead read the attachment. Users may reply to the email or click on FAQ links in the attachment. Users can also download the same document from the web portal.


We have very little tracking transparency in what pages of the document are read by the user. We have more tracking in the email open, view, and clicks. Even more in support tickets, blog views, and usage in the web portal.

customer journey map visualizing delivering invoices to 100,000s of customers and resultant user actions.
customer journey map visualizing delivering invoices to 100,000s of customers and resultant user actions.

Let’s discuss a few spots in the journey map where we can track behavior patterns to understand and influence customer behavior.


The first step in the customer journey for existing customers is when they receive a company email with the invoice PDF attached. My team and I added a link to a new product to the email body but saw no click-throughs despite a more than 100% open rate. We realized customers opened this email multiple times to reach the invoice PDF but rarely engaged with the email body. We tracked clicks using email tracking software.


In response to this behavior, we incorporated the product link into the PDF report, aiming to encourage more click-throughs. We wanted to be where our customers are. We tracked their behavior using google analytics with UTM tags.


Our customers could reply to these auto-generated billing emails. We created automatic replies with information on their FAQs and guided them to the support channel relevant to them. I wrote more about process changes here.


We needed to understand customers’ responses to our emails. So, we followed an approach I detailed here and manually reviewed and tagged 100s of responses so that new queries from customers could be triaged automatically.


Next Up…

Since this post became too long, I’ve split it into multiple. I have covered:

  1. What are customer journey maps?

  2. 2 Examples.

In the upcoming articles, I will cover:

  1. What do Airbnb, Disney, and McKinsey have to say about customer journeys?

  2. When to build one?

  3. How do you build one?

  4. 1 Example.

This post was originally published on www.sparkcreativetechnologies.com on June 10, 2023.

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