Which CX Journey Map Flavor is Right for You?

To the marketing strategist, a “journey’ implies that the organization is taking its customers on an adventure, something new and different. “Map” indicates a plan of action or a blueprint. Mother’s milk to the forward-thinking marketing leader, but these terms can sound ominous to rank and file employees – many of whom are dreading the disruptions that a real change in practices will entail.

Journey mapping concepts and practices inhabit the critical space of experience design. If you are thinking about journey mapping at all, you have probably come to the realization that fielding disconnected marketing tactics focused predominantly on acquisition are not going to work especially well in the long term. You may see the potential benefits of building customer profiles in a strategic fashion, or you understand the power of differentiated communication to optimize channel execution, or you recognize the financial benefits of maximizing customer value over time.

So you recognize the need for a more structured, strategic and integrated customer engagement strategy, and you’ve been told that Journey Map as a necessary planning tool. So you call your friendly marketing agency, sign a contract, and get started on a 2-3-x month exercise. Later on you discover that the mapping project hasn’t resulted in a change. What happened? Oftentimes misalignments are to blame between your company’s goals, the maturity of the organization (on its CX /digital transformation evolution) and the agency’s idea of what constitutes an effective end product)

Define the problem that you are trying to solve

What’s motivating the transition to customer centricity? Is there an existential need to do business differently due to competitive or other pressures? Do you need to provide an overall vision of future customer interactions to a board or senior executives or to all employees? Are you designing something aspirational or closer to what you can do with existing technologies? Who on our side needs to be involved in the process? What will be the next steps? How will we keep momentum? How will we move to execution?

The message is that there are as many different flavors of journey maps as there are strategic imperatives for your business. Luckily we can demystify some of that below.

Problem #1: Changing Course

Your company is successful, but has been doing business the same way for 50 years – focusing on mass marketing and acquisition, with some emerging channel execution capabilities. Some on your leadership team are convinced that a customer-centric data driven approach will help you compete over the next decade, but some important players are not. Unlike your colleagues, they do not eat, sleep and breath data, analytics, personalization and measurement. They need you to paint them a picture of the future. Thus your journey map should reflect this imperative.

To meet this challenge, we recommend a higher level, more conceptual approach to journey mapping that clearly outlines “what’s going to be different” for customers in the new world. Using pictures, narratives, storyboards and working in close collaboration with your marketing practitioners, describe the future state experiences across the marketing funnel and customer lifecycle. In a very large healthcare payer and global automaker I worked with, videos and animations were used very effectively to paint a clear vision of the future and reinforce the message across the organization.

In this scenario the journey map process focuses on the end state, with fewer details around technology, data, marketing processes. The goal here should be to activate your management and get commitment for the next stage of the process.

Problem #2 We just bought a crap-ton of technology, now what?

Ugh! In this scenario, your organization has made technology investments, more than likely spearheaded by your colleagues in IT with minimal input from the business. No one really knows whether these platforms will meet your goals, or worse, no goals were expressed during the procurement process. To help rein in mass confusion and make productive use of these new assets, a more detailed journey map is in order.

In most cases, technology is not the reason for the failure of a customer-centric transformation effort – it’s a failure of vision, strategy, executive alignment, lack of expertise and change management. Here the journey map is a wickedly effective tool to focus your marketing team on how to leverage existing or planned technology and data investments to maximize financial benefit.

Problem #3 – We need to deliver more effective experiences to key segments.

In our experience, the best Journey Maps are designed around specific customer segments. In this scenario, we can design very differentiated “treatment strategies” for key segments. For example, an insurance provider will target products to specific demographic-value segments, and seek to find more of these in the wider population. To improve the chances of success with these segments, the business will design tailored marketing, sales, and service interactions with a specific mix of channels, cadence messages and creative. For high value customers, these experiences may be more “high touch” and tailored. Conversely, for we a my spend less time, energy and resources on lower value segments, or simply provide a lower cost (see – digital) treatment strategy that fits their contribution to the bottom line.

Many times organizations will start with high level customer profiles derived from existing research or segmentation. Other times firms will engage in data discovery and/or qualitative and a quantitative research to define segments and drill down more accurately into segment needs and motivations.

Other CX Journey Map Flavors

# 3 is my favorite: the alignment to the needs of a specific segment makes the recommendations highly actionable. I like to think of each lifecycle stage on the map as a mini-creative brief, that includes marketing goals, customer needs, targeting strategy, a marketing blueprint, and the necessary data, technology and insights to drive experiences. I often incorporate KPIs and an experience narrative to add that extra punch that can guide proper execution.

In some cases thought you don’t really need to “boil the ocean” with a large journey map effort. You may have more limited goals, like leveraging a specific marketing platform like a DMP or an orchestration suite such as Adobe. Think of these “Use Cases” as mini journey maps with a limited scope. They often describe 2-3 marketing tactics and can be completed rather quickly with the right expertise.

That said, there are some flavors that I would personally avoid:

1. The creative-driven journey map. In my experience these maps look visually stunning, cost a lot, but lack specific examples of tactics or data collection. They usually include a qualitative customer profile (good!) but end up as a mishmash of channels and spaghetti lines with no coherent strategy expressed or direction to marketers to actually field campaigns. When given a preference, my clients ask for the meat!

2. The non-linear journey map. We all know that the marketing lifecycle is a continuum, where customers jump in and out at different points. Marketers often get concerned that the maps don’t cover every single interaction scenario under the sun, and want a map that’s less linear with lots of on ramps. I’ve seen round ones, triangle-shaped ones, “swoopy” maps with lots of lines. These are bad and avoid them at all costs. While consultants love these, there complexity hinders understanding and actionability.


Journey maps can be a fantastic tool to transform your marketing organization. In planning your journey map project, consider the following:

1. What problem are you trying to solve? You will need a different level of journey map depending on your organization’s strategic needs and the maturity level of your organization

2. Narrative or Vision-driven journey maps are best for changing hearts and minds to see the true value of customer centricity

3. More complex maps that take into account planned or existing data and technology assets and clearly express the new connected marketing tactics are best for preparing for implementation

4. Segment driven maps provide an additional level of insight around the specific needs of valuable customer segments and can improve actionability.

5. Don’t buy a creative driven by creatives vs. experienced customer strategists.

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