Seed To Growth: Know Your Customer Journey

The single biggest difference between venture-stage founders and growth-stage founders in VC pitches: the venture-stage CEOs often can’t articulate their Customer Journey.  We’re surprised how often venture-stage CEOs are unprepared when asked this.  They can’t even provide a wrong customer journey, which is better than nothing.  Many (even most?) venture-stage CEOs haven’t even considered it yet!

Your customer is the most important part of your business.  So understanding how a customer becomes a customer is a great way to invest your time.  It’s really the first step in building a company that scales, which is why 100% of growth-stage companies understand it.

That’s why you need a Customer Journey.  Your entire organization needs to know what potential buyers think as they advance towards becoming customers.  What they feel.  What their problems are, and what pushes them towards the ultimate decision to buy.

If the Customer Journey is a new concept to you, here’s some helpful resources:

  • First, read The Sales Acceleration Formula.  Roberge has a great section on how to plan a Customer Journey, and mapping it to your CRM process.
  • HBR has a good primer on Customer Journeys
  • A very good template for mapping Customer Journeys on Usertesting
  • SurveyMonkey has a good (if slightly self-interested) version for B2C Customer Journeys

Some general tips on the Customer Journey planning process:

  1. Understand your customer more deeply than you do now.  The whole Customer Journey planning process is really an exercise in just that.  Interview customers, analyze data, review industry best practices.  Question all of your assumptions and be very outward looking in your planning.
  2. Make sure your Customer Journey is action-oriented.  This is NOT a thought exercise.  Every stage in the journey should have an external trigger, an internal action, and a metric for how well you’ve taken the Customer through this stage.  This is especially true for BD, where every stage in the journey should sync up to a bucket in your CRM.
  3. Add loss branches.  These are even more important than the sale.  Track and understand why customers fall off at each stage of the process.  Once you understand the most vulnerable stages in the journey, you know where to focus.
  4. Take the Customer Journey beyond sales.  The customer journey should drive product design, customer support, and every other area of your business.  This is what it actually means to be a customer-centric organization!  I’ve invested in a company because they had the Customer Journey posted on the wall of the lunch room.

It doesn’t even need to be a business – this works for any BD-type process you’re working on.  Building your personal network?  Trying to get a promotion?  These should all have Customer Journeys too.  Whatever it is, start with a set of discrete states that map out how the customer will get from cold to purchase.