Your Next Email Strategy: Mapping The Customer Journey

"Customer journey" is perhaps today's hottest marketing buzz phrase, but it has the potential to revolutionize your email program and deliver better results for your customer as well as your own bottom line.

Mapping your customer's journey means understanding all those stages in the relationship, from researching to buying to loyalty. You'll discover the obstacles on that path and the kinds of content that can get customers past the roadblocks to continue.

The "journey" includes every place your customer comes into contact with your company and its brands. If this sounds familiar, that's because it's the next step up the evolutionary ladder from lifecycle and 1:1 marketing.

Two features of this customer-journey approach:

1. Customer-centric: Yes, that's another popular buzzword, which means that you view every piece of your marketing plan and programs from your customers’ perspective.

You understand how they research, buy and maintain post-purchase relations. You learn the information they need to move on to the next step, and the obstacles that prevent this from happening.

2. Omnichannel: Different stages might require different messaging strategies, including both content and channels.

Even though you may run your company’s email marketing program, you might find it’s best to communicate with customers at one specific stage via a strategically timed push notification from a mobile app.

Call centers, direct mail, in-store experiences or direct contact can also factor in at different points on your customer's journey.

Matching the Journey to Messages

Once you understand how different messages and channels can drive customer actions, email's role in the journey will reveal itself. When is it the key channel, and when is it a secondary tool that supports another channel?

Mapping the customer journey also uncovers the trigger points along the way, the data and signals customers are sending you that enable you to respond with helpful messaging. (Read more about this in an earlier Email Insider, "Are You Listening For Your Key Customer Signals?").

Your goal is to know which messages you'll deploy at each stage of the journey. You can build a campaign brief that maps out whether a single message, a series of messages in multiple channels, a specific program or track would work best, as well as the information you need on your end, such as lead scoring.

Managing the Company-wide Message Interplay

Ideally, you'll map the customer journey across all your company's brands and departments to reveal which messages at which frequencies and in which channels are going out to customers.

This key insight could lead to a company-wide messaging overhaul, especially if your company includes many different brands, each with its own messaging strategy.

Even if you have just one brand, you're likely doing a mix of calendar-driven broadcast messages and automated messaging like reminders and updates. See how your two message systems overlap.

What is the customer experience like if you send an all-purpose broadcast message like a newsletter or daily deal, as well as a journey-related email like a product update alert, at about the same time?

Why Email Should Lead

Brand managers and company executives I've been speaking with lately are eager to get their arms around the customer journey. But, don't wait for your boss to drop this in your lap. Assume the title of "email czar," and take the lead.

This approach needs one person who can maintain a wider viewpoint than just messaging at the product or brand level. Email also is most likely your customer's primary entrée to your marketing program.  So, you have to do a better job of collecting email addresses earlier in the journey and using them to help customers move ahead, even when it strays off the email path.

There's much more to this new marketing approach that makes it so compelling. I'll cover specific strategies and examples in a future Email Insider. In the meantime, tell me what you think about this approach. Got questions? Post them in the comments section.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

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