It’s no secret that customers are your business’s greatest asset. And when your customers are happy and satisfied with your products, services, and brand, they’re an incredible engine for business growth. They make purchases again and again, tell their friends and colleagues how great your business is, and sustain and grow your business over time.
This can seem like it only applies to B2C businesses, which sell directly to consumers. However it also is relevant to B2B companies. In fact, the customer experience is increasingly important in the B2B world and a vital way for companies to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
But how can you tell where your customer experience currently stands in your B2B business, and how can you effectively target and make improvements so your customers are more satisfied and loyal? This is where customer journey mapping for B2B organizations comes in. Knowing why they’re vital, as well as how to build one for your business, will all be covered in this guide.
What is customer journey mapping?
Customer journey mapping is the process of creating a customer journey map for your business. A customer journey map is a visual representation of all the interactions a customer has with your business over the course of their relationship with your business, from the first time they become aware of your business to the purchase process and beyond. (Check out a few examples to get a clear idea of what a journey map looks like.)
Why is customer journey mapping important? It has many benefits for businesses of every size and in every industry. It helps companies step into the shoes of their customers and see products, services, and interactions from their perspective.
And gaining this perspective can help you discover common pain points or weaknesses in your customer journey - and once you know what’s going wrong, you can determine the best way to fix those issues.
Journey mapping enables you to assess:
Insights from your existing customer journey so you can understand it and your customers better
Impact so you can determine how to optimize budgets and effort for improvements you want to make to the customer experience
Issues and opportunities in the existing customer journey
Innovation areas where you may want to completely change and optimize the existing customer experience
B2B customer journey mapping
In order to map the customer journey, you first need to understand what the B2B customer journey is. Even though you’re selling to other businesses and not directly to consumers as in the B2C world, you still have customers and a customer journey as a B2B company.
The B2B customer journey begins when a prospect first becomes aware of your business. This could be through content marketing, word of mouth referrals, or other brand awareness efforts. Next, the prospect does research and determines whether or not they will make a purchase. Once they do decide to become a customer, they make a purchase and pay. Then they go through the onboarding or post-purchase process, receiving their products or getting their services set up. And finally, they decide whether or not to remain loyal to your business and make another purchase in the future.
It’s also important to note that the customer in a B2B journey doesn’t necessarily refer to a single person - your customer is another business. B2B buyers often have committees or teams that make decisions on spending and purchases, and so the customer journey map may include multiple people and their experiences.
Since B2B customer journeys vary widely, there are two kinds of B2B customer journey maps that you can consider building.
Types of B2B customer journey maps
Typical B2B customer journey map
The classic B2B customer journey map gives you a full overview of the stages of the B2B customer journey. It also includes the B2B customer journey touchpoints, which are places where a customer engages or interacts with your business at each stage of the journey.
Tactical B2B customer journey map
A tactical B2B customer journey map, on the other hand, focuses on only a particular touchpoint or group of touchpoints in the customer journey. By honing in on just one of the B2B customer journey stages, your business can highlight the journey that the customer goes on at that stage only. This kind of map is especially helpful when you’re looking at a particularly important or painful touchpoint where you want, or need, to make improvements.
For example, if you’re a B2B software company, the post-purchase onboarding process is particularly important to the customer experience. And it’s also a place where the customer experience can suffer. Your team may find a tactical customer journey map useful to discover what customers are experiencing at this stage, the pain points they encounter, and training your customer success teams to deliver a better onboarding experience.
Benefits of customer journey mapping for B2B businesses
The benefits of B2B customer journey mapping are considerable. They allow your company to deliver products and services that are seamless and streamlined. They also help your business determine how to optimize the customer experience across all the departments in the company and enable them to work together to improve the experience for your customers instead of remaining stuck in silos, which is a common problem for large businesses.
With a customer journey map, you can ensure your services are tailored properly so they meet the needs of both your business and your customers. By understanding what your customers and prospects experience, think, feel, and need, you can deliver a personalized and effective customer journey that helps them solve problems and grow in their own business.
Improving the customer experience helps your business increase customer retention, which is especially vital in the B2B world. One customer can make up a significant portion of your revenue, and acquiring new customers is a long and expensive process, so retaining the customers you already have is the key to business success.
You’ll also see improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, and your customers may even become advocates for your business. Since word-of-mouth marketing is highly effective in the B2B world, this can make a big difference in your bottom line and business health.
How to build a B2B customer journey map
Building your own B2B customer journey map is no small task, but it’s well worth the effort. And with the following steps, it can be an insightful and even enjoyable process.
Understand the stages of the customer journey
While the customer journey for every business will look different, because your company and customers are unique, there are common stages for the customer journey that are helpful to understand. Knowing what happens in each of these stages will help you begin thinking about the shape and outline of your customer journey map.
This is when a customer becomes aware of your business. In the B2B world, this could happen when a startup CEO reads a blog or watches a video where your product is mentioned, or a new employee joins and tells their team about a product they used to use, or a CIO attends a webinar sponsored by your business. Social media is also a powerful tool here as many B2B businesses are active on Linkedin.
Next, the customer - someone on the buying committee, perhaps - decides to conduct research on your product as they consider making a purchase. They may attend a demo of your product, ask their colleagues in other companies about their experience with your company, conduct research online to find out more, or watch product videos and read content from your business. If you offer a free trial or freemium option, they could become users of your product as well.
Once the business has seen the value in your products or services and has gotten the relevant stakeholders on board with the cost, they convert to paying customers. This is where they will deal with your sales team and the payment process as well.
Now that they’re customers, it’s time for the business to be onboarded if that’s needed and begin experiencing the value they get from your product. Since B2B buyers are strongly focused on ROI, they will need to see real value quickly. The setup and support experience is also very important in this stage.
Research your customers
B2B customer journeys tend to be long and involve multiple people as part of a buying committee. That means doing your research is extremely important. You need to know exactly what your target customers do in their business, who is involved in a purchase decision, and how to convert them to customers and keep them satisfied.
Careful research will ensure you and your team are highly knowledgeable about your ideal customers and understand the problems they face, and what they’re trying to solve when they purchase your product.
Your customer journey research on your customers should include:
Level of influence
Create buyer personas
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your customers, which is backed by the research you collect about their behavior. It helps you get into the minds of the people who make the purchase decisions for the businesses who are your customers. Even though you’re selling to businesses in the B2B world, you’re making the sale to individual people who have their own experiences, needs, and concerns - so getting inside their heads is important.
Creating detailed buyer personas helps give you a holistic picture of who your customers are and what they’re seeking from their purchases. In B2B, these buyer personas are typically heavily focused on where your customers work, what sources of information they seek out and trust, and who influences their buying decisions. B2B buyers tend to make decisions based on the long-term view, the big picture, and rational calculations of their return on investment.
You can gather the information and insights you need to create these B2B customer personas through multiple means:
Customer support emails
Identify the stages of your customer’s journey
Next, it’s time to identify the different stages that make up your customer’s journey. It can be helpful to imagine through the journey as a customer yourself in order to get into your customer’s shoes. Consider, as a customer, what are your goals? And what considerations would you make before buying your own product or service?
As discussed above, the stages of the B2B customer journey typically consist of:
What does each of those stages look like for your business? For example, you can think about the efforts you make to increase brand awareness like advertising or sponsorships, the content marketing that helps prospects conduct research, the sales process that results in a purchase, and the customer success steps to get your new customer set up for success.
Plot customer touchpoints
Now that the stages are clear, what touchpoints happen in each stage? Plotting these visually creates your complete customer journey map.
For example, if your business sells a SaaS (software as a service) product to other businesses, some of your touchpoints could include:
When a technologist or CTO hears about your product on Linkedin
Their first visit to your website
When they sign up for a free trial of your software
The onboarding process after they make a purchase
The renewal step after their first year of use
No touchpoint is too small to note - and there may be many of them. B2B customer journeys are lengthy and complex, but each touchpoint has an impact on the customer experience.
Once you’ve determined all the potential touchpoints a customer can have with your business over the course of your relationship, it’s time to put them all together into a visual aid. This is your customer journey map! A journey map is a living document, so be sure to regularly review and revise it so it accurately reflects the current state of your customer journey.
How does B2B customer journey mapping differ from B2C?
Customer journey mapping is an important tool for all kinds of businesses. However, the customer journey map for B2B and B2C businesses does have important differences.
B2C sales are often aimed at the general consumer and have a wide target audience - a retailer of athletic apparel, for example, can market and sell to a wide variety of potential customers. B2B on the other hand tends to be more industry-specific and customized to a particular market or use - a company that sells equipment to gyms, for example, has a much narrower potential market and more specialized customers.
B2C marketing typically aims for a direct ecommerce sale - your customer sees a product or service they like, goes on your website, and makes a purchase right away. But B2B marketing requires cultivating leads over a longer time period due to the complexity and number of people involved. This lead cultivation may include CRM data and pursuing inbound and internal leads.
Also, the friction points that affect retention and loyalty for both kinds of businesses are different. In B2C, the pain points tend to involve individual issues like an emotional frustration with support issues - a lost order that disappoints a customer eagerly awaiting their purchase. B2B points of friction, on the other hand, typically involve problems like difficulty integrating software with apps the organization already uses, or the workflow between departments.
Customer personas are another difference which can be significant.
B2C stakeholders are individual people or families, while B2B stakeholders may be multiple people and are defined by their position in the organization. Creating accurate and actionable customer personas for B2B companies is thus a larger and more complex task - you need to include everyone who could be involved instead of one individual.
B2C buyers are focused on needs like their personal finances, their emotional desires, or a convenience factor. Their purchases tend to be more impulsive and emotionally driven. B2B buyers, on the other hand, focus on organizational issues like profitability or efficiency when they’re making a purchase, so your sales and marketing efforts need to reflect that. Their purchases are more driven by rational thinking and the anticipated return on investment because they’re accountable to the company for results.
B2C and B2B buyers tend to consume different content when they’re researching a potential purchase. B2B buyers are more likely to look at use cases, white papers, and business-focused social media sites like Linkedin. B2C buyers lean towards shorter content like blog posts and social media sites like Instagram. Word-of-mouth referrals are important to both kinds of buyers, however, because people like to hear reviews from users like them when they’re considering any kind of purchase.
Mapping the B2B customer journey is a vital exercise for any B2B business looking to optimize their customer experience in an effective and efficient way. And since the customer experience is an increasingly important differentiator in the B2B world these days, your business can’t afford to ignore this valuable tool.
When you’re looking to gather data on your ideal customers, hear from current customers about their experiences, and keep abreast of customer sentiment, GetFeedback’s complete customer experience platform can help you. With solutions for businesses of every size, your customer journey mapping will be the first step in creating an exceptional customer experience that sets your B2B business apart from the competition.