how to map the customer journey

To get the most out of your search marketing campaign you need to know exactly what the customer wants to know, and how to present that information in a way that will fit into the conversation that they are already having. When you know exactly where the customer is in the purchasing process, it makes it easy to create content that will resonate with their needs.

So, how do you map out the customer journey? And what kind of content is best for potential customers at each step of the journey?

The journey of almost any customer can be broken down into three simple stages:

  1. Discover
  2. Deliberate
  3. Decide

Stage 1: Discover

The first step in the customer journey is when the potential customer becomes aware of a problem or an opportunity.

As an example, we will follow the customer journey for a car detailing business. In this case, the consumer may see that the leather seats of their car are beginning to crack (consumer is made aware of a new problem – cracked leather seats). Alternatively, the car owner may decide that they would like to sell the car (consumer is made aware of a new opportunity – to make money by selling their car).

What Does The Consumer Want?

At this early stage of the customer journey the consumer is simply looking for more information on their problem and what has caused it, or how best to take advantage of their new opportunity. They may not even be aware of your product or service yet, and they are certainly not prepared to make a purchase yet.

Creating content for consumers in this initial step of the customer journey gives you a chance to build trust and establish your brand as an industry authority.

The ideal content type for customers in the discovery phase is informative articles that provide value and educate users on the problem/opportunity at hand, including what to do next. These informative articles should be based on long tail keyword research to ensure that your content is made to answer the questions that your audience is actually asking.

What Content Should You Make?

Using the car detailing business again, some examples of potential content ideas to target consumers in the initial discovery step would be:

Cracked Leather:

  • What Causes Leather Car Seats To Crack?
  • Why Leather Car Seats Crack

These articles would be used to educate readers on why leather cracks and the care required to prevent leather from cracking (including car detailing of course).

Selling A Car:

  • What’s The Best Way To Sell A Car?
  • How To Sell A Car

These articles would be written to inform rather than sell, and should provide real value to readers who are looking to sell their car (this article could include a section on how pre sale car detailing can increase the resale value of your car, creating a natural opportunity to link through to more sales driven content).

How To Optimise:

Once you have created new content to target consumers in the initial awareness phase it is also important to optimise that content accordingly. For example, using strong sales copy and frequent calls to action at this stage will not be effective, as the user is looking for more information on the problem rather than going straight to purchasing the solution.

Additionally, if consumers are looking to educate themselves on a topic they won’t be happy if they click through to a page that is selling something that they don’t even know they need yet. This will likely result in an increased bounce rate and diminished brand trust.

Stage 2: Deliberate

The second step in the customer journey is when the consumer has clearly defined the problem and is researching and considering potential solutions. Similarly, for opportunity based searches, the consumer has identified the opportunity and is deliberating between potential ways to take advantage of said opportunity.

What Does The Consumer Want?

At this point in the customer’s journey, the customer will be looking for a solution to the identified problem, and will likely want to compare all of the different solutions available. This is where you need to convince them that the product or service that you provide is the best solution.

What Content Should You Make?

When you are targeting users in the deliberation stage of the purchasing process you should be creating content that compares available solutions as well as content that highlights the benefits of the product or service you offer.

Using the car detailing business once again, here are some examples of potential content ideas that could be used to target consumers in the deliberation stage:

Cracked Leather:

  • How To Stop Leather Seats From Cracking
  • How To Repair Cracked Leather Seats
  • Can Car Detailing Fix Cracked Leather Seats?
  • The Benefits Of Car Detailing

Selling A Car:

  • How To Increase The Resale Value Of A Car
  • How To Get The Most Money When Selling Your Car
  • How Car Detailing Can Increase The Resale Value Of Your Car

How To Optimise:

At this stage your content should be written to both inform and to sell, however, you must still be aware that your consumer may not be ready to purchase yet. Rather than optimising with in-your-face calls to action (CTAs) like a flashing “buy now” button, you should be selling by convincing the reader of the benefits of your product or service. You should also include relevant internal links to corresponding product pages as this makes it easier for users to progress to the next step in the purchasing process.

Stage 3: Decide

At this final stage of the purchasing process your potential customer will have already decided on a solution and will be looking to make the decision of which product to purchase. If in step two you successfully convinced the reader that your/product or service provides the best solution to their problem then all that’s left to do now is to convince them to choose you over your competitors.

What Does The Consumer Want?

Now that the consumer has decided that they need the product or service that you offer, they will be looking to find the best deal and choose which business to purchase from. This is where you need to show them why they should choose you over your competitors.

If you managed to effectively create content that provides unique value to readers in the first two steps of the purchasing process, then half of your work is already done as you will have already established some trust and authority for your brand.

What Content Should You Make?

You will most likely already have the content for this step in the purchasing process as it is the main selling copy on your website, including product and service pages.

Continuing through with the car detailing example, some examples of content for the decision phase of the purchasing process include:

Cracked Leather:

  • Leather Conditioning Service Page
  • Leather Conditioning Product Description Pages
  • Special Offers Page

Selling A Car:

  • Pre-Sale Car Detailing Service Page

How To Optimise:

This is the point where all of your hard selling copy should be. Product and service pages should be optimised with frequent CTAs, making it easy for users to complete the desired action (eg. call a store or place an order) from any point of the page.

Additionally, main selling points should be prominent on any pages targeting consumers in the decision phase. For example, if you offer a lifetime guarantee, interest free after pay, or free delivery, ensure that this is advertised on the pages where users are most likely to progress from a site visitor to a lead or purchase.

Another important part of optimising for users in the decision phase is to regularly obtain new five star reviews. In fact, positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local businesses more.

[Click here to read our article on how to get more online reviews for your small business.]

The Fictional Customer Journey Of A Car Owner With Cracked Leather Seats

“A car owner notices that one of the leather seats in their car is beginning to crack. The next thing they do is search on Google to find out why leather seats crack, where they find your article “Top 3 Causes of Cracked Leather Car Seats”. While reading this article, the consumer discovers that one main cause of cracked leather seats is poor maintenance.

They then noticed a suggested article at the bottom of the page: “How To Stop Leather Seats From Cracking” which they decide to click through to for more information. After reading this article they became convinced that car detailing is the best solution to their problem.

Now they notice that they are already on the website of a local car detailing company and decide to click through to the product page. (Alternatively, they may notice that there is a link where “car detailing” is mentioned in the article, so they click this link for more information.)

At this point they have all but decided to purchase your product. (However, statistics show that more than likely they will check the reviews of your business before completing the purchase.)

Upon checking your company’s online reviews, they find 50+ reviews with a 4 – 5 star overall rating. This cements their purchasing decision and they return to your site to complete the purchase. (Conversely, if the consumer looks up your business on Google and finds that there are 50+ reviews with an average of two stars, it is highly unlikely that they will continue with the purchase.)”

Once you have mapped out the customer journey for your target audience you will be able to create content that is tailor made to appeal to your target audience based on where they are in the customer journey. This will help to build brand trust and authority with your target audience and increase the conversions from your website.