Think Outside the Funnel: How to Create a Custom Customer Journey Map

Think Outside the Funnel: How to Create a Custom Customer Journey Map

In the beginning, there was the funnel, and marketers and salespeople revered it, and it spread across the marketing world, because it was a simple way to understand how marketing works. Many potential customers enter at the top; a few buyers trickle out the bottom. Maximize the number that enter at the top, and barring a leak or two, you can increase how many actually convert.


But then came the Big Data boom. And while the funnel still has value as a content strategy tool, these days marketers have far more insight into the customer journey. We know it’s not one straight slide through the funnel. There are an infinite number of ways that customers go about becoming aware of a need, researching alternatives, and ultimately deciding on a solution.

A customer journey map attempts to take all of that data and make it useful for creating strategy. Think of it like a subway map:

How to Create a Custom Customer Journey MapThe London Underground Map, also known as the Tube map, is widely considered one of Britain’s design icons. Source:

Notice the London Underground map above doesn’t show every twist and turn on the tracks. It doesn’t have every feature, building, or bus route. It’s a useful abstraction to show how the majority of people move through the system.

Mapping your business’ omnichannel customer journey can help you focus your strategy, create more relevant content, and ultimately guide more customers to purchase.

Here’s how to create a customer journey map that’s unique to your business and your customers.

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How to Create a Customer Journey Map

  1. Invite Stakeholders from Across the Organization

    Your map will be a valuable document for setting marketing strategy. But creating it shouldn’t be a task confined to the marketing department. Your organization is probably already moving to break down silos, share information between departments, and consolidate data to help shape the customer experience. It’s vital to the future success of the organization to have departments working together toward shared goals.

    The customer map project is a perfect opportunity to start bringing other departments to the table. The sales department can share details about interactions with prospects, for example. They can talk about frequently asked questions, referral sources, what causes prospects to bail, and more.

    Your customer service department can help with statistics on customer interactions, demographics, common complaints, and more. Even the finance department and HR could have data that helps complete the map. And, of course, it’s a good idea to involve leadership, too. They likely have unique insight into the buying process, and it’s good to get their buy-in early on.

    When you involve all your stakeholders, the end result is a more comprehensive view of the customer for everyone, not just the marketing department.

  2. Tell a Story

    At the heart of it, your map should be a narrative. It tells the story of how a particular type of customer encounters your brand and chooses to make a purchase. As you pull together data, keep the story in mind. This template, called “The Story Spine,” is a good way to keep the narrative front and center:

    • Once upon a time, there was a ______
    • Every day, _______
    • But one day, __________
    • Because of that, ________
    • Because of that, ________ (repeat)
    • Until finally, ________
    • Every day after that, _____
    Applying narrative to the customer journeyThe above customer journey map, created for Intuit, highlights various stages of the customer journey.

    This map from Intuit is a great example of applying narrative to the customer journey. It tracks the emotional journey as well as the economic one, using emoji to illustrate customer feelings during each phase. It’s easy to see at a glance when customers might be at risk for dropping out.

  3. Keep It Simple

    As you pull in data and begin to visualize the customer journey, it’s natural to want to capture every single detail. Just remember the goal is to create a useful abstract; an at-a-glance look that hits the key touchpoints.

    Don’t get bogged down in minutiae or clutter your map with endless branching paths. Stick to a single narrative. If you find there are too many variations to include in a single customer journey, it’s okay to create more than one map. You can divide your customers by persona and create a simpler map for each. Paring down the information will help you focus—the process of elimination will bring into sharp relief what matters most about your customer journey.

    For example, compare the map from the previous section with this one:

    Customer Journey Maps: Think Outside the FunnelCustomer experience maps take many forms. This multi-layered map is jam-packed with information but harder to read at a glance.

    The latter has a great deal more information in it, but it loses the at-a-glance immediacy. It can be hard to tell what the biggest priorities are when there’s so much information on display. It’s worth seeing how simple and effective you can make your map.

  4. Focus on Key Touchpoints

    Part of keeping your map simple is to only include the crucial moments where marketing can exert influence. Identify opportunities—times the customer has a need that your marketing can meet. But also look at potential risks, points at which the customer could choose to move on without you.

    The sales department can be a great help at this stage. They can provide a wealth of anecdotal evidence on what causes prospects to lose interest and how marketing can help bring them back around. That data can help make your map more precise, and also help with sales enablement in the future.

    This map from Digital Experiences has an elegant depiction of key touchpoints for a hypothetical hot chocolate store:

    Digital Experience JourneyThis customer journey map clearly outlines where marketing can have the most impact for this hypothetical hot chocolate shop.

    This map makes it easy to see exactly when there is the greatest opportunity for marketing to make a difference, how different marketing technologies affect consumer choices, and what marketing’s end goal is for the ideal customer.

  5. Make It Visual

    The goal should be for your map to be as widely seen in the organization as possible. As such, it should be pleasing and rewarding to look at. A well-designed customer journey map is equally at home on a PowerPoint slide and hanging on the wall above your desk.

    It’s worth having your design team participate in distilling your data into something both visually appealing and easily understandable. Here are three potential templates to work with:

    • A fully-designed infographic can convey the information with a creative twist. If you have the design resources, going full visual will help keep the information manageable and consumable.
    • A simple table or graph puts the focus more squarely on the data. It’s a good idea to still add some design flourish for visual interest, though (See the example below).
    • A grid or flowchart is the most “pure data” version, but it can still be visually appealing (as the example shows).
Table or graph for mapping a customer journey

Here is an example of a customer journey map created using a table or graph template.

Grid or flow chart for mapping a customer journey

This is an example of how a grid or flowchart can be used to create a customer journey map.

Help Your Customers Reach Their Destination

The days when marketers could only do a few things to cause customers to passively fall through the standard-issue marketing funnel are over. Today, marketing journeys take countless shapes, with many diverse touchpoints.

But one thing hasn’t changed: The goal of all your marketing efforts is still to help customers—who come to you through many different media, channels and paths—to realize that your brand is the best solution for a particular problem. A good customized customer journey map will help you understand how your customer searches for a solution. And ultimately, it will enable you to meet the customer wherever they may be, and become a trusted guide for the rest of their journey.

Tom Treanor
Tom Treanor
Tom Treanor heads up marketing at Treasure Data. He focuses on marketing, martech, CDPs and digital marketing. Follow him on Twitter @RtMixMktg.
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