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Kaitlyn Merola Mapping the Customer Journey with Kaitlyn Merola
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Discover how to effectively map the customer journey and understand the non-linear paths buyers take to find your brand. Kaitlyn Merola, of Möve Marketing, shares insights on building top-of-funnel brand awareness for startups, identifying content gaps, and leveraging the right channels using practical strategies to enhance your marketing efforts.

Mapping the Customer Journey Summary

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the Non-Linear Customer Journey: Kaitlyn explains how customer journeys have evolved and why it’s crucial to insert your brand into your audience’s daily digital footprint.
  • Starting Points for Mapping Customer Journeys: Learn the importance of leveraging sales team insights, historical engagement metrics, and A/B testing to understand and map out customer journeys.
  • Simplifying the Customer Journey: Kaitlyn advises keeping customer journey maps actionable and straightforward, consolidating steps to avoid complexity.
  • Content and Channel Alignment: Discover how to map existing content to different stages of the customer journey and identify gaps to fill with new content.
  • Granular Email Marketing: Kaitlyn highlights the effectiveness of hyper-targeted automated email campaigns

Mapping the Customer Journey Episode Transcript

Rich: My next guest is the CEO and founder of Möve Marketing. She is a renowned marketing leader and expert in demand generation, customer experience optimization, and revenue growth analytics. With over a decade of driving success through data driven strategies, she offers a wealth of actionable insights for businesses across B2B, B2C, SaaS, and SMB markets.

As master of marketing operations, she seamlessly orchestrates user experience architectures, marketing automation tools, CRM systems, and multi-channel campaigns. Her extensive experience spans lead gen, lead nurturing, content marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, account-based marketing, social media strategies, and multimedia campaigns.

Her passion lies in shaping holistic marketing approaches that seamlessly align sales and marketing efforts for a consistent, exceptional customer experience. And today we’re going to walk down one of my favorite topics, the customer journey, with Kaitlyn Merola. Kaitlyn, welcome to the podcast.

Kaitlyn: Thank you for having me.

Rich: So let’s talk about customer journeys. How do you define a customer journey when you’re at that networking event with a glass of Chardonnay in your hand?

Kaitlyn: For sure. Yeah. So that definition has changed quite a bit over the years, and it’s still ever changing. Bright now a customer journey is really about understanding the nonlinear pathway that your buyers are taking to get to you.

So, how are they interacting with your brand? How do they know your brand exists? Where are they spending their time online? Where do they live every day in terms of their digital footprint? And making sure that journey that they’re taking every day, you’re inserting your brand into that already existing customer journey so you can stay top of mind. So they can see you and when they’re ready and when they’re aware of the problem that you solve for, and when they have it, they remember you. You’re the ones that they’ve been seeing in their feed, and their inbox, et cetera.

Rich: So if we’ve never done this before, if we’ve heard ‘customer journey’, but we’ve never really acted on it, how might I get started to figure out what is the customer journey or what are the customer journeys that will ultimately lead a customer to buy from me?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, there’s a couple of different sources to start with to understand your customer journey. One, if you have a sales team as part of your org, start there. Ask them what they’re experiencing when they’re talking to customers, when they’re talking to prospects, what kind of questions are they getting from prospects? That’s going to really help you understand the level of education these prospects have when they reach out or when a sales rep is able to get a hold of them. And then also, sort of what those conversations are like. That’s one place to start.

Another place is if you have historical data, engagement metrics in your CRM, anything that can help uncover for you what people are already interacting with as it relates to content, social posts, paid ads, whatever it might be that you’ve run in the past, how did those perform? That’s another place to start.

But a lot of it too, is A/B testing. Putting content out there, trying different channels, distributing content through those channels in different ways to see what comes back in terms of engagement. That’s a third way to get started.

Rich: All right. Kaitlyn, I have seen customer journeys with three stages, I’ve seen them with 19 stages. Do you have a set customer journey in terms of the number of steps there are for you that you recommend working with?

Kaitlyn: I think sometimes when customer journeys, and we’ve seen clients before where they have really complex ideas around their customer journey, and there’s different journeys for each buyer persona and within those buyer personas. There’s different journeys for each vertical. It can get really complex really fast.

I think most of the time there are ways to consolidate different steps. Because in reality, the tool of a customer journey is really It’s an actionable tool for you to use in your marketing strategy. It’s not necessarily for the buyer or for anyone external. So make sure it’s actionable, make sure it’s consumable by you, your team, other stakeholders in the org. That’s really what the goal is. So as much simplicity as you can bake in, the better.

Rich: Okay. Yeah. I like that. I tend to go awareness / consideration / decision, just because I like to keep things simple for my own self. I’m not a complex man or a complex marketer.

So you had mentioned earlier something about touch points. So as we’re starting to map out these journeys for our customers, where we think the paths they’re most likely to take. What are we starting to think once we’ve mapped that out? What’s the next step if we are thinking about how to maybe direct them or engage with them along that path?

Kaitlyn: Yeah. The first step, once you have a good handle on your customer journey, the first step is to look at content that you have that already exists. So content on the website, any historic eBooks, white papers, infographics, email campaigns you’ve done, any content that you have already that performed well, or you want to keep because it’s still relevant. So that content is where you want to start.

And you want to figure out where that content plugs into that journey. Is it a piece of content that’s really meant for awareness, it was built for awareness. Originally, it still falls in that bucket, that’s where you want to plug that in. Maybe there’s a one-pager or a sales enablement piece that’s really more meant for consideration, and maybe it’s calling out competitors and how your product differentiates. That’s really meant for that part of the customer journey.

And then from there, once you map out the content as it relates to the different stages of your journey, you can see where gaps lie and where additional touch points as it relates to content need to be built, need to be produced. And then you want to look at channel after that. That’s the next step once you have a good handle on the kind of content that you still need based on what you have.

Rich: So start with our websites, fill in the gaps as necessary. And then when you’re talking about channels, then we’re starting to talk about things like, social media, email marketing, other websites, things like that, and start figuring out those parts of the journey as well?

Kaitlyn: Exactly. So once you figure out the content, then it’s about the channel and where you want to allocate your resources in terms of channels.

Rich: And what recommendations do you have when it comes to allocating budgets and resources for these, either the different stages or the different channels?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, so we’ve seen clients invest quite a bit in top of funnel, so the awareness stage makes sense. A lot of our startups don’t have a big brand, they’re early-stage startups, they’re trying to carve out their footing in their space, or they’re trying to disrupt a space that’s existed for a while, so they’re really about awareness. Just making sure people know they exist, building a brand.

So in that case, we do recommend investing more in top of funnel. So investing in paid advertising, investing in paid social, boosting posts on LinkedIn, investing in speaking at events that are hyper targeted to your exact buyers. That all makes sense.

A lot of the stuff that kind of comes later in the customer journey, the consideration stage, the decision stage, that stuff you can produce in house or use an agency. However, you want to do that, but you don’t necessarily need to invest in something like ad spend. That’s where you want to put your dollars.

Rich: Makes sense. And you mentioned that you work with a lot of startups. Some of these companies may be disruptors or attempting to be disruptors. I would think that the customer journey mapping process would be very different for companies like that. Can you speak to maybe how you might approach this if you are entering part of the market where you’re disrupting things? Like the customer journey that has been well worn is what you actually want to disrupt and get people to stop thinking about doing it the same old way and actually go with your path.

Kaitlyn: Yeah. No, that’s a really good point. A lot of our clients are early-stage startups. So what we have found is sometimes it’s better to start. And I mentioned this earlier, A/B testing is a really great tool to use. Stand up these channels. Stand up a LinkedIn profile and start posting on it and try different things.

Start to post in LinkedIn groups where you think your buyers are spending time. Start to do some of those things, start to send some emails out through your CRM. Change up the messaging, start to do some testing there. Then maybe do that for 90 days, do that for six months, and then revisit your customer journey based on engagement metrics.

Instead of trying to anecdotally guess at it or take a customer journey that exists in the space that you’re trying to disrupt. You don’t want to necessarily… you want to design a new journey for people because you are trying to disrupt the legacy space. You want to start doing stuff at that point, get some content out into the ether, see what comes back in terms of people who it resonates with versus people who it does not resonate with. And then you can revisit your customer journey a few months in to doing that, and you’ll be in a much better place to actually do it in a smart way.

Rich: As we’re thinking about moving people from one stage to the next in the customer journey, is there some specific tactics or strategies that we can use to help them move from that place?

Because if we’re talking about awareness / consideration / decision, so that we’re aware that there’s a problem where they are, we create some content that kind of addresses this. Are there specific hooks we can use that then move people down that funnel where they’re still thinking of us still coming in contact with us signing up for our newsletters or whatever it might be?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, you want to make sure that you’re always thinking about putting the right conversion opportunities in the right places. So for instance, we’ve seen companies have a pretty robust blog, for instance. They’re writing a blog every two days. They’re posting blogs three times a week. It’s a lot of content at the end of every blog. It’s just a conclusion and it just ends. So where do you expect that reader?

Let’s say the reader does get to the end of the blog. The blog is really compelling. They’re into it. Where do you expect that reader to go? Now they’re going to bounce away. You have to have something there for them. That’s the next step that is a logical next step to convert them into the next stage of the journey.

Maybe there’s a white paper that dives deeper into that topic that you just talked about in the blog, so you’re asking them to download it. When they download it, then you get their contact information. Then you can funnel them into a hyper targeted email campaign, making sure that those steps are really obvious and they’re where the person is right in front of them. That’s how you’re going to start to see people move through the journey.

And then once they get to a consideration stage and they’ve entered your CRM, you have their information, maybe a sales rep is going to take ownership of that lead from there. Working really closely with the sales team at that point to make sure that continuity is there in the messaging and the content that they were seeing from the marketing side. Now they’re getting that same sort of messaging from that sales rep and that continuity is there. So that’s important, too.

Rich: Nice. How can we leverage email marketing? Because it feels to me like social media, they see it or they don’t. Our website, they have to come. But if we can get them onto the email newsletter, then we do have that opportunity to stay in front of them, that permission-based marketing. Is there a specific approach you take to email marketing when it comes to helping improve this customer journey?

Kaitlyn: Yeah. So we’re big proponents of automated email campaigns, hyper specifically targeted automated email campaigns. So when somebody comes in based on their job title, their company, their location, any information that you can gather from them on their contract record, use all of it to granularly put them into a segment that’s going to receive this email campaign.

Maybe that email campaign has six emails in it that over the next 10 or 12 weeks those emails are going to subsequently go out to that person over that time frame. Each email builds on the last one to really tell a story specific to that person. That’s where we’ve seen the best results, as opposed to a newsletter or a company announcement that blasts out to everybody in the database. Or it’s like, “Let’s just send this to all the leads that we have in HubSpot”. Those don’t perform as well. If you can really get granular and super targeted, that’s where we’ve seen email work to help push people down the journey

Rich: Alright. It may be that we’re solopreneurs or startups, or it may be that we’re part of a bigger established company with multiple people on the sales or marketing team. It sounds like documenting the customer journey is important. What are some ways in which we can better document this customer journey? What does that look like, and then how often should we be updating and improving that documentation?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, it could be as easy as just a set of slides or a G doc even. Something that’s really easy to update collaboratively, people can leave comments as they’re uncovering something in their day. Maybe you have a digital marketer who saw something in the engagement metrics, and they want to put a note somewhere. When we do revisit the customer journey, we can see that note and talk about it. Something that’s really easy to use and that everybody can galvanize around, that’s the best. If it’s a PDF or if it’s something too designed and it’s too much about what it looks like and not really about what it’s for, that’s when you’ll lose people and you’ll never revisit it.

So we like to revisit ours on a quarterly basis. That gives enough time between visiting it to get some learnings and some newness in terms of data. So that’s how often we’re looking at it. And to us, it’s usually a slide deck or a G doc or something like that.

Rich: Okay, nice. So as we’re thinking about how we can improve this, there’s probably some KPIs that we should be paying attention to. Which ones do you recommend that we spend the most time on in regards to this customer journey?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, so we use pretty robust lead scoring models for most all of our clients. So we roll that out within their marketing automation platform. So we’re looking at that on a monthly basis. We’re looking at the lead scoring model all the time to understand, okay, we’re awarding this many points for this action based on marketing qualified leads that are coming in through the lead scoring model. Are they qualified enough to warrant the status of MQL? If they are, great. Our lead scoring model is working. If they are not, or we’re seeing MQLs make it to the sales team and then they’re being disqualified for whatever reason, we want to look at all of that and make sure that our lead scoring model is reflective, what we ultimately want are best fit leads.

So a lot of the KPIs that we look at. The number of MQLs that then make it to the next stage, whether it be SQL or up. How many MQLs were disqualified by the rep that cared for that MQL and why.

And then once you have that in place, you can go a level deeper and say, okay, the MQLs that did make it forward in the buyer journey to SQL or up, what about them? Are there any patterns or trends amongst those people that maybe they have a specific keyword in all of their job titles, or maybe they’re at companies that look like this. Then we can start to really double down on things and really allocate our resources the right way from there.

Rich: For people who are early on in this journey that we’re discussing today, and may never have heard of MQL versus SQLs. Can you just give us a quick breakdown of how you define them and where the MQL becomes an SQL?

Kaitlyn: For sure. Yeah. So MQL is Marketing Qualified Lead. So that is when, for us, our lead scoring models, we build them all in a very similar methodology. So the number of points each behavior is awarded may change per client, but an MQL is somebody who has reached 100 points. That’s what an MQL is across all of our clients.

And so downloading an e-book could be worth 50 points. Opening an email is five points. Visiting a blog is 10 points. As they accumulate, their score gets higher and higher. They reach 100. That’s when they become an MQL. Once they become a marketing qualified lead, they get routed over to a sales rep based on territory, based on company target. However you want to route your leads, we can build that for you.

And then once that MQL is in the hands of a sales rep, they can then decide through their own vetting based on the timeline of that person, what led them to become an MQL. Maybe they do their first outreach, whether it’s an email or they connect with the person on LinkedIn.

If for whatever reason that person says it’s bad timing, they don’t have enough budget, whatever the reason is, they want to disqualify that person and revisit them in six months or revisit them later. That’s cool. Otherwise, if they do get ahold of the person and they can do a demo or they can have that meeting, that’s when they would move that person from marketing qualified lead to sales qualified lead, and move them forward from there.

Rich: Awesome. Very helpful. You’ve mentioned a few kind of tools or systems that you’ve got in place. What do you think we should have as far as a tool set when it comes to mapping and improving the customer journey?

Kaitlyn: Yeah, so you don’t need a whole lot in terms of technical tools to do this effectively. Most all of our clients, most of the companies that we’ve worked with have a CRM of some kind. As part of that CRM, there are marketing automation tools within it. There’s email marketing. There’s a way to schedule social posts. HubSpot is the one that we see the most often. Using all of those tools within that singular platform is helpful. You could get a lot of data and engagement metrics, you can build custom dashboards within that tool. So you really need that.

And then you need the right team. You need people that know how to use those tools, understand what the goals are, and have specialized expertise to optimize channels the right way to then move the needle and see that data improve.

Rich: All right. Tell me a little bit more about Möve Marketing and the kind of clients that you most often serve, and what role you play in their success.

Kaitlyn: For sure. Yeah. So we are five years old. We are a fully integrated demand gen agency serving mostly B2B tech startups that really range in maturity as it relates to inbound marketing. Some are really early stage. Some are a little bit more mature. Maybe they’re at their B round or C round in terms of the fundraising.

We’ve also worked with companies that are not tech startups, maybe they’re professional services companies or they’re consulting groups. And what we do is really everything we’ve been talking about. We really build that marketing architecture. We build a lasting marketing engine for our clients where they can take ownership of it once it’s built, and work with us from there in content production, refinement, expansion, maybe allocating more and more in terms of investment into certain channels and seeing those things grow with us.

But a lot of what we’re talking about is what we start with. Really building out that ops framework so they can start to see things happening and they have that visualization.

Rich: Nice. All right. And Kaitlyn, one thing we didn’t really talk about, but I’m sure you run into all the time, is when we have different customer groups, we have different audiences we’re speaking to, maybe end users as well as vendors, whatever it may be. How do we prioritize that when it comes to building out these customer journeys if we might be selling to different audiences? Is there some special steps that we should take, or some special considerations, as opposed to just having a single audience out there?

Kaitlyn: Yeah. I think typically what we’ve seen is three to five target audiences. So getting as granular as you can with segmentation is a good thing. So you want to have at least three hyper targeted segments. There’s no way that you have one segment, and every person in that segment is cared for in the same way. You want to really make sure that people at the VP or above level are getting certain messaging. And those that are at the manager and below level, maybe the end user is getting different messaging. Even that is segmenting into two different groups. So you really want to think about that.

And like I said, in the beginning, when you’re first starting out with this stuff, you really want to make sure you’re touching all of the different groups equally. You’re running A/B tests equally for each different group. Because you might find that something that you thought would resonate really well with group A, you’re actually finding resonates really well with group B. So you want to make sure you’re getting both or all messaging out equally to all the different groups. Because you might find that your anecdotal guess is not quite accurate, and you can change and pivot from there.

Rich: Awesome. Kaitlyn, if people want to learn more about you, they want to learn more about Möve Marketing, where can we send them?

Kaitlyn: For sure. So our website is www.move-mktg.com.  M O V E dash M K T G. com. Or you can find me on LinkedIn.

Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have those links, in case you missed those letters, we’ll have all those links in the show notes so it’ll be easy to get to. Kaitlyn, thank you so much for your time today, I really appreciate it.

Kaitlyn: Of course. Thanks for having me.


Show Notes:

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Kaitlyn Merola is the CEO and founder of Möve Marketing, specializing in demand generation, customer experience optimization, and revenue growth analytics. She is dedicated to developing integrated marketing strategies that unify sales and marketing teams, ensuring a seamless and outstanding customer journey. Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.