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Why do Customer Journey maps matter to your business? And why do you want to create them?

Because they are an essential part of capturing and improving customer and market opportunities. “Journey,” according to Gartner is among the most overused Marketing phrases. We too plead guilty. Even so, the concept of Customer Journeys is too valuable to just throw out.

The problem with words is this: when they become overused they often lose their meaning. So how can you make sure your Customer Journeys retain their value and meaning? Treat them like you treat your products. We don’t mean your Customer Journey is a product, but like a product it has a process and a lifecycle. For products to be successful they need to be intentionally managed and properly positioned. While there are other aspects associated with products, let’s examine how we can apply four primary product aspects to customer journeys.

The “Mighty Four”: How They Can Boost Your Customer Journeys

Customer Journey Maps

Create and Capitalize On your Customer Journey Maps

  1. Process: Design and implementation are key components of the product process. Stage-Gate®, developed by Robert Cooper, is commonly associated with product development. In this process, organizations focus on developing and delivering products that are differentiated, solve major customer problems, and offer compelling value propositions. All the critical upfront activities are built into the process to validate the product, maintain scope, and improve time to market. Clear go/no-go decision points are integrated into the process that is managed by a cross-functional team with top management support. This approach can be incorporated into your process of developing and implementing your Customer Journeys. Each journey should have a clear focus and scope, be specific to a set of customers, and focus on creating customer value.
  2. Positioning: While your product’s value proposition – how it solves your customers’ problem, remains relatively stable, how you position and message the product will vary depending on the market and persona. This is the essence of positioning: defining how (strategy) you will differentiate the product in the market and engage (messages, channels, touch points, and other tactics) target customers. Every product needs positioning, and an important part of the positioning process is your positioning statement. Each Customer Journey warrants a positioning statement.
  3. Lifecycle: Products progress through a sequence of stages. These are typically framed as introduction to growth, maturity, and decline. Each stage has its own characteristics. So it’s important to understand where your product is in its life cycle so you can apply the appropriate strategies and resources for that stage. At their introduction, products require a different level of investment, external marketing, and internal communication than products entering decline. For example, education is critical at the introductory stage of a product. Organizations at the start of the Customer Journeys process will need different skills, systems and a greater emphasis on education than they will later in the journey. New journeys will need more communication and investment. Growth stage products are typically measured by share of preference and adoption. Similar measures can be applied as a product moves from introduction to growth. The dynamic, fluid nature of the customer buying process suggests that journeys will change. As a result, some journeys may shift quickly from maturity to decline requiring more frequent updates and possibly even “liquidation.” And this leads us to our fourth aspect – intentional management.
  4. Intentional Management: An article by Dreschler, Natter and Leeflang published in The Journal of Product Innovation Management found that products are more successful when they are backed by a strong marketing function and product manager. The manager owns the planning, forecasting, production, and marketing of the product across all stages of its lifecycle. They are responsible for understanding the market and customer needs, and for how the product will be positioned against the competition. They also drive the portfolio planning process. If your Customer Journeys are treated like products they will be intentionally managed. Someone will own the process and the journey from “cradle to grave”.

Please note this: Your organization’s very existence depends on keeping, finding and growing the value of your customers. Your success at solving customer problems will help you create a sustainable business. At a minimum, your Customer Journeys deserve the same attention as your products, maybe more. Start constructing meaningful Customer Journey maps today.

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