A Company's Culture Can Make -- or Break -- the Customer Journey

Five Steps Brands Can Take to Engage with Customers at All the Right Moments

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In the past month I've met with four different CMOs, each one frustrated because they paid good money to map their customer journeys, but were unable to activate the first steps.

Every one of those clients who sat across the table from me was working with multiple stakeholders, both internal and external, including a multitude of agencies.

For customer journey work to be successful, the culture of an organization needs to be highly collaborative, or the pull of disparate teams and agencies will simply pull the work apart. Even companies that say they are collaborative often don't live up to the promise. A state of artificial harmony is the norm.

For marketers who want to understand and meet the needs of their customers at each stage of the journey, they need to bring their marketing teams -- kicking and screaming if necessary -- into close alignment at the start. There are five guaranteed but not-so-simple steps a marketer can take to make sure their brand is engaging with their customers at all the right moments in all the right ways.

1. Integrate early and often. From the very first brief, all stakeholders need to be in the same room and/or hear the same messages. Not just the marketing department, but the audience expert, the brand manager, the channel owner and the customer experience or service teams. A shared view of the customer is crucial for every cross-functional team member, and they need to think collectively about the implications of their work. The shopping customer who is walking through your store, with a recent memory of your TV campaign singing in their ear, the FSI (free-standing insert) in one hand, and mobile phone showing reviews in the other hand, is the same customer, with the same needs, wants and desires. This team should commit to a roadmap of actions to improve the customer journey in a way that benefits both the customer and, as a result, the business.

2. Start small. Pick a smaller audience segment to tackle first. Instead of the entire brand customer portfolio for the Ford Motor Co., think of an audience segment or two for one of your challenger brands. Test the method of customer journey mapping. Do a few well before taking on every customer group in your organization. Embracing a "do a little, learn a lot" approach helps your organization stay agile, see results faster and ensure that regular day-to-day activities don't fall to the wayside.

3. Put people before channels. Thousands of factors influence people's decisions every day. Therefore, thinking about your journey through traditional marketing channels can be limiting. Customers are people. Put them first and build out a journey based on what they need and want -- not what you want to sell them when it's most convenient for you.

4. Map your content against the customer journey. Rather than evaluating your content as a body of work, consider it in the context of your customer's daily trek. Is your customer commuting? Is he/she in a store? Are you serving a coupon? An entertaining piece of film? A banner ad? Make your content available to the customer when and where he or she needs it most. CVS does this brilliantly, in support of its MinuteClinic locations, where it not only shows the wait time at each location, but also the drive time to get there, so you can trade off the two times, and decide where you can get treatment fastest.

5. Make your efforts actionable. Once the customer journeys are complete, train the original stakeholders on the results and develop implications and action plans across a team that represents audience, channels and product. A journey is the foundation for a results-driven strategy, but it takes process and people to make it actionable.

Build. Test. Learn. Iterate. Start small and go big. It's a journey that can lead to genuine customer harmony.