6 Tips for Mapping Customer Journeys Through the Education Sales Cycle

A customer’s journey starts long before they’ve signed a purchase order. It begins when an administrator goes online to search for a solution for challenges she’s facing in her district. Or when a teacher saves a piece of direct mail because it promotes a product that could help with lesson planning.

Simply put, the customer journey starts when educators are just beginning to research a product or service to fulfill specific needs in their districts, schools or classrooms.

It’s a long process from prospecting to signed PO. Therefore, it’s important to map out educators’ journeys through the sales process and develop a strategy for how to nurture those leads at each stage.

What is a customer journey?

Mapping the customer journey is the practice of visually tracking every touchpoint a customer has with your company and the experiences they have at those points of contact when trying to achieve a specific goal. In the context of this article, that goal is nurturing leads to a sale.

Education vendors typically have many customer journeys: one for purchasing, one for onboarding, one for professional learning, and more. It’s important to document journeys for every educator you connect with as well. For example, you might have separate journey maps for library media specialists, classroom teachers, curriculum directors, principals, and superintendents. All of these individuals will likely be involved with your product, but they’ll be involved in different ways. So, their journeys will differ, too.

Why is it important to map customer journeys through education purchasing?

Depending on the product, the education purchasing process is long — typically taking about a year from when educators begin their planning — around May — to when they make a purchase —the following summer. If you want to nurture leads through the education purchasing cycle, you need to know what their experience is at every stage and how you can enhance it.

The practice of mapping the customer journey gives you valuable insight into your target customers and deepens your understanding of the wants and needs of key audience segments. When you’re aware of their specific behaviors, common concerns, frequently asked questions, etc., you can create a better sales and marketing experience and identify gaps in customer service. Improving the quality of the customer experience can increase conversions and ROI.

How do I begin to map customer journeys through education purchasing?

Every company’s customer journey is different. However, there are some factors that should always be taken into account when creating customer journey maps. Here are six tips to get you started:

  1. Know your audience. Before you begin to map your customer journey, you must dive deep into the specific characteristics and habits of your audience. You can gather this intel in a number of ways: leverage existing data, review digital analytics (website, email, social), conduct a customer survey, and even talk to members of your sales and customer service teams. After all, they’re in direct contact with the educators using your products. Once you’ve gathered this data, boil the information down into an educator persona for each of your audience segments using our educator persona worksheet.
  2. Know the education purchasing cycle. Though long, the education purchasing cycle is rigid with clearly defined steps. Learn more about those, here. Get to know the key phases, including what prospects are feeling emotionally at those phases, the specific questions they’re asking, and the specific behaviors or actions they exhibit at each stage. Make a plan for how you’ll answer questions or solve pain points before they ask.
  3. Know your touchpoints. Determine how prospects find your company, and document all of the ways you’re connecting with them. Know each and every moment that prospects interact with you, even if those moments are minor. Do most educators find your website via online searches? If so, how can you improve SEO so that they find you faster? Once they find your website, are they visiting specific pages or specific content? Create content that addresses popular topics in even more detail.
  4. Conduct a content audit. As hinted above, it’s important to identify specific touchpoints along the customer journey so that you can deliver the right information on the right platforms at the right times. To do that, you must take stock of your existing content and resources and identify gaps that need to be filled with fresh, new content. This also is a good time to brainstorm effective channels for releasing information to prospects.
  5. Include multiple stakeholders. Customer journey maps won’t be accurate if they’re made in a bubble. When you start this process, break down silos within your organization. Various teams — product, sales and marketing — must come together to lend their unique insight. You all interact with customers in different ways, but from a prospect’s standpoint, you’re a single entity.
  6. Make it visual. Include a designer in these mapping meetings. It will be much easier to understand the customer journey and communicate it with the rest of your team when you can see it laid out.

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