Navid Madjidi / June 15, 2015

Want to Elevate Your Brand’s Insights? Combine Your Customer Life cycle and Customer Journey Maps

Originally published in CMO Essentials

Long on a collision course, brand and customer experience (CX) have largely been combined into a single concern, prompting savvy CMOs to grab the reins of brand, marketing, and customer experience efforts to ensure they pull in the same direction and work as a team toward a common goal. In order to best align these disciplines, though, CMOs must integrate the traditional tools of each. If left disconnected and siloed, they can create conflicting, incomplete, and potentially damaging perceptions of a brand’s customers.

For a little reference on these changing demands for marketing and CX, recent customer experience research has shown that 100% of organizations report interacting with buyers across at least two or more channels, and, on average, the total number of channels used to communicate with buyers is about four. As marketers evolve from focusing solely on increasing new potential customers to including consideration and nurturing for the needs of existing customers across a variety of channels and contexts, their tools have adapted as well, pivoting from the marketing funnel to a customer life cycle overview hoping to decipher the customer’s entire relationship with the brand. At the same time, the customer journey map is the tool of the customer experience professional, used to visualize customers’ steps and interactions with a brand as they seek to fulfill a specific need.

Both of these tools can certainly be effective when used correctly, but that value is multiplied when they are combined by a CMO who really understands the purposes of each. In fact, CX research also shows that companies with a complete process in place to map and manage buyer and customer journeys outperform their peers by as much as 79% in increased cross-sell and upsell revenue year-over-year—as just one example. Most CMOs know the value of the customer life cycle in providing a high-level, top-to-bottom perspective of a brand’s relationship with the customer. This holistic understanding offers a conceptual framework that guides the brand in all aspects of the experiences it offers, from product to advertising to customer service to online and in-store experiences, attempting to touch every interaction that informs a customer’s brand perception. Research aids heavily in defining this customer life cycle, often including studies of consumer behaviors, brand perceptions, brand awareness and usage, and purchase influencers.

At the other end of the spectrum, customer journey maps should offer CMOs the specific knowledge to put the strategies gleaned from the customer life cycle model into action.

By creating customer journey maps to visually represent discrete moments during a customer’s life with a brand—such as the actions of making a product purchase or engaging with a customer service interface for assistance—CX professionals deliver tightly focused explorations of a brand’s processes in serving and relating to customers, as viewed from the customer’s perspective. These explorations can similarly involve a good deal of research, including individual interviews and behavioral data gathering and analysis. Informed by this knowledge, a CMO can direct the brand in providing well-targeted content and well-executed, effective experiences at each stage in a customer journey.

The CMO’s goal is to derive actionable knowledge and deliver on initiatives designed to improve the quality of the customer experience a brand offers. To that end—whether it’s a fresh website design or upgraded training and technology in the company’s call centers—viewing initiatives through the lens of the life cycle model will invite the correct mindset for enhancing the customer’s brand relationship. Today’s customers have many channels by which they are likely to interact with a brand, necessitating that CMOs focus their diligence and resources on gaining the insights that correctly align marketing objectives with content. Again, this more easily falls into place when companies root their tactical, customer journey-mapped actions in a life cycle model perspective.

CMOs may unify their tools through this (simplified) process:

1. Define your customer life cycle.
2. Recognize and focus upon points of the customer life cycle that deliver on your brand objectives.
3. Map out a customer’s needs and expectations during key journeys along the customer life cycle.
4. Apply journey map insights to optimize the customer experience throughout the brand.

CMOs should always remember that improving a brand’s customer experience with an understanding of the customer life cycle and customer journey maps is an iterative, data-driven process. CX research shows that the top two priorities among CMOs, when it comes to customers, are retention and loyalty, so understanding the customer life cycle and utilizing effective journey maps could not be more critical. In linking these tools, CMOs gain a powerful new mechanism for collecting insights and putting them into action to maximize your brand’s potential.

About the author: Navid Madjidi is the strategy director at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.