The Trouble with Buyer’s Journey Maps

Let me ask you a controversial question: Is it time for you to rethink the buyer’s journey for your business? I know that for many companies buyer’s journeys represent a relatively new approach, but some recent shifts in the marketplace suggest there might be a better way.

Don’t get me wrong. Developing personas and journey maps for your business is almost always a worthwhile exercise. Your marketing strategists and creative agencies craft personas, buyers’ journeys, and similar tools to anticipate customer needs. And that’s a Good Thing™. Anything that helps get you closer to your customer and better understand what drives their behaviors is a huge win.

Most companies who invest in personas, journey maps, and comparable tools do so to understand customer behavior, anticipate their needs, and develop appropriate responses to guide customers along their purchase path. You’re trying to understand which phase of their journey your customer is in – research, comparison, buying, using, and so on – so you can create the right content to answer their questions and help them progress towards their end goal. And, to be fair, yours too.

At the same time, you should think about whether you might have another, better option to accomplish the same objective for your business.

The real reason journey maps, personas, and similar tools exist is because we don’t know what customers want. Those journey maps serve as proxies for actual behaviors because we don’t have a clear picture of precisely what a given customer is doing at any given moment. These “steps,” “phases,” or “stages” at least give us somewhere to aim. But, let’s be honest, they’re not the same as connecting with actual customers at their precise moment of truth. In practice, doing that has been tough to pull off.

Or, at least that used to be true.

One consequence of the floods of data your customers leave behind during visits to your site or app is that they provide amazing training data for machine learning algorithms. And those machine learning algorithms are beginning to understand and predict the behaviors your customers exhibit, not just as part of a segment, but as individuals. After all, as someone once said, AI makes big data little. And that suddenly opens the door to personalization for many businesses in a very real way. There are a number of startups doing some truly amazing work in this area (Full disclosure: I’m a partner in one of them). And it’s time for you take note.

Now, yes, the history of personalization is rife with over-promised and under-delivered “solutions.” And, again to be completely honest, you’re unlikely to create individualized content for every single person on your site (more on this in a moment). But, these tools do offer the ability to point customers to your existing content that’s most appropriate to where they actually are… not just where you think they might be. This is a hugely important development. And one you should be prepared to take advantage of.

Does this mean that your investment of time and money into developing personas and journey maps was wasted? No. Definitely not. As I mentioned a moment ago, it’s still challenging for companies above a certain size to create individualized content for every distinct person who might be on their site. Not at scale, anyway. But what you can do is use your personas and buyer journey maps to create content that suits customers at various stages of their journey, then use smart technology to point those customers to that content at exactly the moment where it can do the most good towards moving customers towards their goal. And that’s a huge win for everyone.

So, to return to my controversial question, do I think it’s time to rethink buyers’ journeys? I do. Do I think that better tools exist to help customers progress along their purchase path? Absolutely. Do I think that means your existing personas and buyer journey maps have no value? Definitely… not. Instead, it’s time to use each tool where they’re most effective. And to create the right experience for your customer at every touchpoint. And there’s nothing controversial about that.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

SearchChat Podcast: Personalization–Meeting Customers in the Moment

Personalization: why do it? No, this isn’t a suggestion that you shouldn’t. It’s just important to think about why you are doing it in the first place. Personalization needs to benefit the customer experience and drive your business.

In this podcast we start with eMarketer trends — ad agencies are building their own analytics platforms. Steve and I aren’t so sure if that makes sense. If you aren’t prepared to do something with those analytics they don’t matter.

MarTech recently found that marketers find content creation really difficult. How do you utilize automaton to help your content and data actually improve the business? That data should be able to make the content experience more effective in the moment.

You may have also heard that Walmart has basically introduced an “Amazon Go” store. It’s called “IRL” fuelled by AI. It’s about making customer experience more effective. Meanwhile Google introduced Stadia, a gaming platform that will allow them to pull data in and increase personalized experiences.

One of the reasons that personalization has been oversold is that it depends on you, the user, to create content and develop rules for all the various segments of customers you need to talk to. And, as the saying goes, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” We need to be thinking about automation of that instead to cut down on your work and make it do-able.

0:00 Intro

1:50 Ad agencies are building analytics platforms

9:30 Why do marketers find content creation difficult?

14:35 Walmart is doing AI

23:20 Google is getting into gaming

31:25 Outro

SearchChat is available on

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.



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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Why Customer Experience Matters Most For B2B Marketers

The biggest mistake that many companies make in their B2B sales and marketing activities is the way they fragment or silo different touchpoints in the customer journey among disparate functional teams. And, worse, the way they make it difficult for those teams to work together. Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. You’d think you would make that easier to bring to life.

You’ve got a product marketing group that develops the content around your products. You’ve got a content team that develops landing and promotional pages. You’ve got a search marketing team that tries to drive people to those pages. You’ve got a social marketing team, ditto. You’ve got a conversion rate optimization squad that tries to generate leads. You’ve got a CRM team that focuses on developing those leads, funneling them to the right salespeople, and turning them into sales. Or you’ve got one very overworked team trying to do all of these at the same time. And who don’t have near enough time to work together.

You’d think that in 2019, this wouldn’t still be true. “Customer experience is queen” and all that. But, since people keep hiring us to help them untangle that knot, it seems that’s not the case.

Don’t get me wrong. I love helping clients sort out these problems. But that’s clearly not the best solution for your customers. Here’s why. And what you can do about it.

Here’s the thing. Your customers, without being mean about it, don’t really care about you. They care about their own needs, their own problems. As the old joke goes, “Your customer doesn’t want a drill. They want a hole.” At best, especially early in your relationship to the customer, you’re a solution to a problem. Over time, with patience, skill, and more luck than any of us want to acknowledge, you can become a trusted partner. But at the start, you exist only to — and only if you — solve a problem.

That’s why most folks start with search. We consistently see sites receiving at least 40% to 60% of their traffic from organic and, to a lesser extent, paid search traffic. The good news is that the customer is telling you what she wants. She’s literally asking for your help. The bad news is that so few sites succeed in answering her question. Isn’t that part of the customer experience?

In fact, it’s the first chance you get to both create a great experience and to develop a relationship. Why aren’t those better connected? What questions do your best customers ask? Is that information shared with your search marketing team? With your product marketing team? With your content team? If not, why not?

When you fail to connect these functions, you risk breaking the steps of the customer journey — and of breaking the customer experience. It’s tough to create a great customer experience or a great customer relationship when you don’t listen to the questions your customer asks and help them move from one step of the journey to the next.

The truth is that you care about customer experience because it literally informs every step in that customer’s journey. You care about search because, for most companies, it represents the first step in that journey. You care about account-based marketing (ABM) because it helps connect you with the specific needs of an individual customer. You care about behavior-based personalization because, well, it does the same thing.

So how can you fix this? It’s simpler than you might think.

Grab your colleagues from another team. Order a pizza or two. Start talking. Start sharing data. Start measuring where you lose your customers along the way. And start working together to fix those breaks.

Customer experience matters for B2B marketers. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to say many times that customer experience is queen. For B2B marketers, it’s especially true. So give homage to the queen. Help your team get to know her. And don’t be surprised when she showers you with riches.

Originally posted on Biznology.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.