We hear the buyer journey come up a lot in go-to-market meetings, and it means different things to different people.
Marketing thinks of it as a psychological exercise buyers go through as they discover they have a problem, research possible solutions, and eventually make a decision. Sales views it as a blend of psychology and processes - and they use one of many methodologies to help them define where exactly the buyer is in the process. Customer success thinks about it as a post-sale cycle of engaging, re-engaging, and re-selling the customer.
Oftentimes when RevOps is asked to map the buyer journey, what business leaders are asking for is a map of how first a lead is created in the system through to closed won. They want to see how records are transferred across systems and teams, and what kind of data is captured throughout the process.
At the RevOps Co-Op, we define the buyer journey map as a diagram of the possible paths a buyer can take from the first interaction with your brand to customer and beyond. Because revenue operations should enable, support, and measure all go-to-market teams, the buyer journey map shouldn’t stop when the first opportunity is closed-won. We should continue to map out how customers are cared for, upsold, and renewed - or churned.
Before we dive into example buyer journeys, let’s explore why revenue operations should be deeply involved in the buyer journey itself.
The most important aspect of any business is how effective it is at attracting and retaining customers. Because revenue operations supports each of the go-to-market teams by helping them set up and optimize the systems they use to conduct business, we’re in the perfect position to help the company identify where there are sticking points and make the selling (and re-selling) process more efficient.
Optimizing the buyer journey is central to our role. And if we can measure our positive impact on how effectively our company closes business, we become an absolutely critical function (and our resumes look amazing should we eventually want to pursue a new position).
When you take on a project like mapping out the customer buyer journey (and we ALWAYS recommend taking on this project - even if you’re walking into a company with established processes), it’s important to take baseline measurements and create a business plan. Unless a company is struggling to hit numbers, they may be reluctant to greenlight a project that seems unnecessary. Documenting initial findings can help the rest of the business understand why it’s critical to do a thorough business review. (Or not. Although we’d put money on the evidence pointing toward kicking off the project.)
Why do we recommend always mapping the buyer journey?
It allows any new revenue operations professional to an organization understand:
Even if I’ve mapped and documented the buyer journey, I will ask new system administrators to do the same. Sometimes they spot an issue I’ve missed. Every time they come away with a deeper understanding of how, when, and why our go-to-market teams interact with customers.
Traditionally, B2B businesses thought of the buyer journey as the Demand Gen Waterfall established by Forrester (formerly SeriusDecisions). In recent years, companies have been adopting different models that also incorporate the customer lifecycle post-sale. The most common frameworks I’ve seen in the market are Winning By Design’s Bow Tie and the Flywheel introduced by Jim Collins in 2001 in his book Good to Great.
If you’re concerned about your buyer journey ending at the first “Closed Won” opportunity, that’s a good thing. Here’s your sign to update your buyer journey map to incorporate these signals! Your company may have been focused on new acquisition because they’re either in a very early stage startup that hasn’t maximized their customer base (yet) or your team hasn’t taken into consideration the customer success portion of the business.
Winning By Design’s Bow Tie buyer journey shifts the focus from first acquiring a customer to how a business can continue to draw additional recurring revenue from the customer. While an initial sale is good, in the last ten to 15 years, early stage and growth B2B companies have shifted their focus to expansion business based on the knowledge that it costs less money to market to your existing customers than it does to attract new customers.
Personally, I think the desire to incorporate customer success and retention into the big picture is long overdue.
Similarly, the Flywheel’s focus is continuously building traction with your customer base. The goal is to better understand the wants and needs of customers so we continuously innovate and delight them.
In revenue operations, when we’re asked to map the buyer journey, it won’t exactly mirror a conceptual funnel, bow-tie, flywheel, or journey. Our goal is to capture the different systems and how we funnel those signals into something meaningful for our go-to-market teams.
Because the potential scope we’re asked to cover is vast, it may not be practical to map everything on a single document. But you can cram a lot into Figma or Miro 😆 Feel free to break your buyer journey into as many segments as necessary. That said, we do recommend having one simplified version that only shows the most basic systems and signals. Ideally it fits on a single slide.
When it comes to mapping out buyer journeys in RevOps, we’re not tackling how the business defines each stage in the process (yet). Our focus is capturing what happens to a customer from start to finish.
For a detailed roadmap for mapping buyer journey stages, we recommend reading this article by Courtney Chatterton from CWT Consulting.
The most important things to remember are:
We recommend documenting what you find as you go so there’s a reference document for future RevOps personnel. It’s also nice to have a document with stage definitions and system workflows to send to people throughout the company when they inevitably ask about these things.
One funnel may make sense for your organization if your go-to-market teams treat all customers, services, and products similarly. You may want to consider breaking up your buyer journey by business unit, product family, or calling out a distinct process for upsells and renewals if they’re managed to a different process than your net new acquisition sales.
We’ve found that most companies try to manage their sales using a similar process across product families. However, if you have different CRMs, marketing automation platforms, or other systems for certain product families or business units, this will necessitate a new buyer journey map. Any time you’re mapping out new processes and systems, it likely doesn’t make sense to try to blend a buyer journey together with the original.
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