Day 3: Why funnels “suck”

You’ve probably heard about conversion funnels. Talking about optimizing and automating your funnel has become every marketer’s favorite pastime lately.

Everybody has got their own secret formulas and tactics, using this or that tool. And a lot of business owners seeing the success some of these people are getting, want to jump on the funnel train.

They read articles upon articles and learn about convoluted webinar funnel templates that they just need to copy to skyrocket their conversions through the roof.

Our opinion? Good luck with that.

We’ve always been about principles rather than tactics. If there’s one principle in conversion rate optimization that you should always keep in mind, it’s this: the user comes first.

So how can you use this principle to focus your funnel on your users, rather than on your greedy lust for conversions?

Enter user journey maps.

A user journey is nothing but the path a user follows from realizing she has a problem, to buying from you. User journey mapping is the way you visually represent her relationship with your brand so you can improve it. Think of a user journey map as your customer’s story.

Here’s what a typical user journey map looks like:
how to create a user journey map
This is a very simple visual representation of your user journey, but an effective one. The map is composed by:

  • User: this is your target customer or persona, or avatar. Think of it as the point of view you’re using to tell the story. If you have more than one you can create a map for each.
  • Scenario: this is where you describe the situation you will address on the map. It can be a sequence of events (shopping, researching for a trip etc.), it can describe a process and it can involve multiple channels (social media, ads, email…). A user journey map is usually about one specific scenario that you want to understand.
  • Goals and expectations: this is your user’s goal for the journey and what she expects from it.
  • Phases: these are the different touchpoints or high-level stages the user experiences when interacting with your business. For an ecommerce site these can be discovery, research, purchase, delivery and after-sales. Touchpoints can be associated with different channels (we have 3 here, but they can be as many as you need).
  • Steps: these are the main actions the user takes in a particular phase (searches on Google, clicks on Ad etc.)
  • Mindsets (bubbles): these are the user’s thoughts, questions and motivations at different key points during the journey. It can be useful to use actual verbatims from customers.
  • Emotions: the curved line you see across the map represents the emotional ups and downs the user experiences across the stages. This is helpful to help you empathize with your user. Usually the lows are the areas that require fixes in the user experience.
  • Opportunities and action steps: this area is pretty straightforward. It’s where you’ll gather your takeaways from analyzing the journey map. It’s also useful to assign different responsibilities to your team members.

This is all great you might think, but why exactly do you need to do all this work?

Why do you need a user journey map?

You’ll make sure your business goals are aligned with your customers’ success

Remember your North Star we’ve talked about in the last post? Well a user journey map is what helps you synchronize your business goals with your customer’s needs. Each phase or step should be aligned with a goal and its relative KPI. This is also a great way to see where you need to restructure or simplify your touch points so the user has a seamless experience.

You’ll get an overview of your customer’s experience

This is especially helpful if you’re a manager or report to one. Executives often don’t have a clear picture of how the customer moves along the entire conversion funnel. This is a great opportunity to make it clear and useful, so they can chime in with ideas.

You’ll identify the gaps

Whether it’s gaps between devices (mobile or desktop), between different departments (sales or support), or between channels, the map will make it stand out so you can fix it.

You’ll narrow down on a specific target audience and problem

As we’ve seen a journey map is about one user and one scenario (usually your primary target audience and the buying experience). Researching your customer’s pain points and needs and mapping them out this way, will give you a pretty good idea of who your users are. When you integrate this with your quantitative research and KPIs, you’ll be able to make better strategic decisions. Don’t worry you’ll learn how to do all your research later in the course.

You’ll get context

Instead of focusing on tactics like SEO, PPC and social media without knowing the broader context of why you need to do it, with a user journey map you’ll shed light on that context. And it will also help your organization understand the user from their perspective, something that most companies forget when they are so immersed in their product and business.

It’s time you do this work upfront so you can reap the benefits later.

You don’t have to make things complicated, that’s why we’ve prepared this template for you. No visual fanciness, this is quick and dirty, exactly what you need if you’ve never created a user journey map.
User journey map template

Start by asking yourself “What business goal does this journey map support?”, “Who is it about and what experience does it address?”

Add your user’s hypothetical name, the scenario and their expectations. Replace the steps at the top with the phases of your buyer’s journey, answer the questions for each column and after analyzing the data, jot down your takeaways.

Something we recommend especially the first time, is that you try it out yourself. For each type of user/avatar, go through their experience from searching for a keyword on Google, to joining your newsletter and then to getting back to your site to buy, for example. It will help you build empathy towards your users.

For additional oomph, collaborate with your team as much as possible.

Most importantly, by doing this exercise, you’ll learn something invaluable: that you don’t know your users as well as you thought. This is where the research work we’re going to look at later in the course will come in handy (and when you’ll get back to this!).

Your homework

Use your journey map’s takeaways and findings to decide which page is the one that needs the most attention in your conversion funnel (and that you’ll optimize during the course).