First published April 5, 2018, and updated April 2019.
An audience journey map -- or user journey map or audience mapping -- is the path your audience takes from becoming aware of your company and brand all the way through to becoming a loyal client or customer.
The journey answers questions like: Where do they start? When and why do they take action?
An audience journey map helps you lead the visitor to the right places at the right time, and reveals opportunities to improve this path.
It's a great exercise to complete BEFORE any large website refresh, website writing update, or website re-design.
The path usually involves these seven stages:
The idea is that an ideal audience journey will start somewhere along this path, depending on what they know already and what their mindset is, then follow along until completion. If they leave mid-experience (which they probably will many times), they are tugged back through drip marketing or social media. Different brands may have a slightly different ideal audience journey.
Before you can create your ideal user path, you should take a look at what's happening now. Here's what typically happens in a real-world audience journey map:
By "bounce out," I mean they leave your site or brand experience. You know they're bouncing because of site analytics and/or user experience testing. Or you might have done client or customer interviews. And you might be sad because they bounce before they gave their contact info, or because you don't have an ongoing relationship email campaign or strong social media strategy to lure them back.
Start by analyzing all the "bounce outs," and try to determine why they are leaving. Is the website content not appropriate for that stage of their journey? Is the call to action not appropriate for their mindset -- or not available at all? Test different theories to see what works best.
Also, we've found that information gathered from audience interviews is immensely helpful for ideal audience journey mapping. Potential clients, past customers, current clients: invite them to share their thoughts of your brand and their personal experience with it. To get the most candid responses, someone outside your company should do the interviewing.
(We've done plenty -- ask us your questions!)
At this point, you'll be able to describe and draw out a user map that shows how people should experience your brand at different points in their buying journey. This will greatly inform the organization and type of content you create for your website experience.
Shelly Bowen, MFA, is a content writer, content strategist, and founder of Pybop.
For decades, Shelly has written for businesses on complex topics from disease prevention and medical devices to alternative energy and leveraging data. Today, she's hyper-focused on supporting B-B technology businesses. In her spare time, she hikes, kayaks, draws, and works on her T-Bird.
A wide variety of brands rely on Shelly as an essential freelance writer and content strategy resource.