How and Why to Create Personas and Customer Journey Maps

How and Why to Create Personas and Customer Journey Maps Featured Image

Why are personas and customer journey maps important?

If you say, “you must understand your customer,” no one in marketing will refute you. Yet 63% of respondents in a survey by Ascend2 said that data-driven personalization is a difficult tactic to execute.

Obviously, you understand the value of personas and customer journey maps — since you’re here, reading this blog — but maybe that’s not true of everyone on your team. Or maybe your boss thinks it’s just a creative exercise with no real impact. Ready to show them how wrong they are?

By the numbers

The results are in — marketing personas and customer journey maps work. Check out these stats:

How are personas and customer journey maps used?

Personas serve as the foundation for countless successful marketing campaigns. Part of the reason for this is their wide applicability, with uses including:

  • Content strategy
  • Customer service
  • Human resources
  • Ad development
  • Email/social targeting (and retargeting)
  • Landing pages
  • Web development/UX
  • Recruitment and hiring…

…and so many more.

As for customer journey maps, or buyer’s journey maps, the same uses apply in a different manner. Since this method plots out the touchpoints of a prospective customer, defining each stage of the buying process, it’s useful both on its own, to ensure relevant touchpoints exist, and in combination with personas.

When a persona is applied to a customer journey map, marketers can acutely develop the experience to meet that persona’s expectations at specific moments in the buying process, alleviating pain points, answering questions and helping them achieve goals along the way. It’s also a great auditing tool, highlighting where marketers may have gaps in their current content strategy.

Build a persona and buyer’s journey in 7 steps

We’ve distilled the process of creating marketing personas and customer journey maps into seven concise steps each.

Seven Steps to Persona Development

  1. Understand the brand. You’ll want to have in-depth familiarity with your company’s brand goals, positioning and personality, including the “reasons to believe” in its product or service and the existing core messages in use.
  2. Collect and analyze data. This is where you’ll do some research to find the data that informs your persona development. Look to demographics, segmentation data, designated market areas (DMAs) and survey data. Another key component here is empathy mapping and an “All About Me” workshop, in which people collaborate and discuss the brand, customers and more to begin to craft the framework of a persona.
  3. Consolidate key themes. After your market research, identify shared goals, pain points and questions among the audience you’ve discovered.

    xtensio persona template

    Extensio Persona Template:

  4. Now, you’ll build the persona outline. This include psychographics, behaviors, assumptions, expectations and personality details. Check out the examples later in this post for inspiration and guidelines. There are plenty of tools out there to help you, too, such as this one.
  5. Validate. Arguably the most important step in persona development, validation means you’re interviewing real customers to gather real-world experiences, opinions and more. You should also look to survey data, feedback and actual quotes or testimonials. Essentially, you want external buy-in — that is, your actual customer personas should agree, for the most part, with the marketing persona you’ve developed. Also crucial here is internal buy-in — you need to validate the personas with those inside your company to ensure consensus and understanding.
  6. Refine. Here’s when you will adjust your personas based on any additional findings in the validation process. This is a time for fine-tuning, not re-defining, to best capture the key characteristics of the persona. It’s an opportunity to adjust original assumptions and align your research with actual customer input. The output of this refinement step is the final persona documentation, typically a combination of visuals and text (see examples throughout this post). Most importantly, this step involves training your teams and coworkers to use the personas in their marketing (and other) work.
  7. Revisit. Now that you’ve defined your persona(s), you’ll have to periodically come back and revisit them to keep everything accurate. In an ever-evolving market, the needs and wants of your customers — not to mention the customers themselves — may shift. Update your personas regularly and engage in ongoing validation to keep them up-to-date. It will be up to your team to decide when the market has changed enough to warrant fresh personas. Then, you can start again at Step 1.

Seven Steps to Customer Journey Map Development

  1. Create personas. Without personas, there’s no one to go on this journey!
  2. Identify stages. Sketch out (literally, a white board is great for this) the following milestones in your buyer’s journey: discovery, awareness, consideration, acquisition, delivery and advocacy.
  3. Identify touchpoints and “moments of truth.” You’re going to want to rally the troops for this one — get everyone in a room and start throwing ideas on the board (or on sticky notes, etc. Have fun with it!). Once gathered, you’ll start to list customer actions, things they do or decisions they make at each stage; touchpoints or channels your customers engage with, such as websites or social media; pain points they may experience along the way; sentiments, feelings, opinions or attitudes they experience at various stages of the process, such as confusion, frustration or open-mindedness; and opportunities for your brand to provide value to the persona long their unique journey.
  4. Build customer journey map outline. Translate your offline notes into a visual journey map by utilizing spreadsheets, wireframes and more. It will also be helpful to have a text version of your journey, typically using bullet points to lay out the stages, then layering in touchpoints and moments of truth.

    Example of a buyer's journey

    Digital Current

  5. Validate. Just like with your personas, you need to validate the journey you’ve mapped. In this case, you’ll want to work with real customers, walking through their buying process, to see if you need to make any adjustments based on the real-world feedback. Internal sales teams will also be a resource here, but real customers are most valuable — consider leveraging your strong client relationships here.
  6. Refine. With your company workshop and customer insights in mind, refine the customer journey map to best fit the common real-world experience. At this stage, you’ll be designing your final documentation — see the examples in this post for inspiration — and making sure your coworkers know how to use this tool. This may require training around how specifically to apply customer journey maps to various departments, and not just in marketing and sales.
  7. Revisit. Again, like personas, you’ll need to set some kind of cadence to regularly revisit and refine your customer journey maps. That includes engaging in ongoing validation to make sure you’re painting an accurate picture.

Putting personas and customer journey maps to work

OK, so you’ve done all this — now the leads should flow in, sales easy as pie, right?

Indie Game Girl Persona Template

Persona Template by Indie Game Girl:

Well, not quite. You’ve still got some work ahead of you, but now you’re armed with an arsenal of information on your prospective clients/customers.

That means you can get more specific in your appeals to better resonate — at a deeper level. This shows the customer you understand them: their distinct needs, goals, pain points and (in B2B cases) business objectives.

Audience segmentation is the name of the game now. You’ll want to design distinct ads and experiences for each persona — and make sure they fit into the buyer’s journey at the right time and on the right channel (social, web, email, etc.).

Audience segmentation can mean something as simple as customizing the subject line on your email campaigns to developing completely distinct landing pages and email messages for your different personas.

Even more, the persona and customer journey map will tell you how persistent to be — perhaps one persona responds well to a follow-up email, while another gets turned off by too much communication. Stick to email for the former, but pivot to social ads, perhaps, for the latter.

Understanding your audience, especially how they’re segmented, is key to defining impactful marketing techniques that resonate.

Let’s talk about personas and customer journey maps

You can go after personas and customer journey maps on your own and see stellar results. But to really move the needle and provide lasting impact, an integrated digital marketing campaign is the way to go. Let us help you take your marketing to the next level with a customized strategy that suits your unique customers and business objectives.

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