If there’s one thing every business has in common, it’s a desire for growth — more leads, more signups, more revenue. Growth is the high-octane fuel that startups, industries, and enterprises thrive on.
At the same time, we need to prioritize growth that’s sustainable. We’ve all seen a business grow too fast and crash as a result. One of the best paths to sustainable growth is Customer Journey Marketing: A blueprint to acquire, nurture, and grow customers automatically, while also improving existing customers' experience and winning loyal advocates.
In this ultimate guide, you’re about to discover how the best companies use customer journey marketing to achieve rocketship growth sustainably while engaging in a more personal and contextual manner
Customer journey marketing definition
Customer Journey Marketing is a proven framework for acquiring, nurturing, and growing customers automatically.
Where inbound marketing is about ‘getting discovered’ and reactively using content, journey marketing is about proactively driving the customer experience: getting found in search or social, converting visitors into leads, turning qualified leads into customers, and creating growth loops.
Customer journey marketing uses data to trigger personalized experiences and convert leads into customers at scale. It automates your best practices: your lead funnel, your most impactful and usage-driven product ‘nudges’, effective sales outreach moments, customer onboarding or lifecycle nurturing strategies, event or webinar follow-ups, newsletters, and campaigns.
Another commonality among these high-performing businesses is that they bring customer journey marketing and customer experience. In fact, high performers are 2.1 times more likely to be tightly aligned on a customer-centric approach and goals and 2.1 times more likely to regularly collaborate on customer experience initiatives.
In short, successful businesses are focused on the entire customer journey, not just the acquisition phase. There are three main reasons why this is the case:
1. They deliver a remarkable customer experience
Leaders like Amazon and Uber Eats show that reinvesting gains into creating a personal and contextual customer experience pays for itself many times over. While following in their footsteps may feel like a leap of faith, in fact reinvesting gains into customer experience can create growth loops. If your happy customer sticks around, that’s one less customer you have to spend pay to acquire. If they share their great experience with five friends, and two of them convert, you’ve just gained two customers at a $0 CAC. Not bad.
You want to show stakeholders in the business that you have stellar activation rates and rampant word-of-mouth growth. You want customers raving online about their experience with your brand. Prioritizing customer experience and reinvesting gains is a fast-track to just that.
2. They scale what works
When you automate your customer journeys, track results, and optimize them, you essentially codify your best marketing strategies, messaging, and engagement tactics so you can easily recreate them for every new customer that comes along. This allows you to grow in a way that’s scalable and profitable.
For example, free trialist to paying customer conversion rates can be increased dramatically by tailoring your messages based on product usage and specific actions. The more you learn, optimize and, if you’re an Ortto customer, take recommendations from Ortto AI, the better your this customer journey gets. So when the next customer lands in your CDP, they’re hit with an experience that’s backed by data.
The lesson? Love the marketing that loves you back.
Retention is crucial to sustainable growth. As we suggested above, if a customer sticks around, that’s one less customer you have to go out and find. Not only that, but loyal customers tend to spend more. In fact, the average loyal customer spends 67% more in their 31st to 36th month with a brand than in their first six months of the relationship. And 65% of new customers will actually come from current customers who recommend your product and service.
If that’s not compelling enough, consider how much cheaper and simpler it is to retain 20% of your existing customers or reactivate 20% of your hard-earned leads than acquire that number of brand new leads.
For many companies, retention-focused marketing is an overlooked yet lucrative source of growth and prioritizing customer journey marketing is a fast track to making retention work for you.
Customer journey marketing analytics
Customer journey marketing requires you to really understand who your customer is, and what motivates them. So, before we even get into the types of journeys and how to market within them, you need to get your data in order.
Data helps you monitor changes to your customers’ behaviors and actions, and allows you to gain insights into your customers’ worlds so you can create content that captures their attention. If you have a rich set of data at your fingertips and a powerful marketing automation software doing all the boring legwork, you’ll find getting to know your customer easy.
To get the most out of your data before you embark on building your customer journeys, follow these steps:
Ditch the Data Silos
To truly understand your customer, you need to bring data across departments, teams and channels together. Consolidating your data in a customer data platform is the only way to get a unified view of your customer and empower yourself to understand and respond to your customer’s needs across the entire journey.
Ortto was designed to solve this problem. When you’re an Ortto customer, you can quickly integrate data from your CRM, website analytics, customer support, billing services, and more to get a single source of truth.
Not only that, but reports and dashboards in Ortto are incredibly easy to use, meaning you can increase data literacy across departments and open up opportunities to collaborate.
Identify the metrics that matter
With your data unified in a customer data platform like Ortto, you can start to measure performance across the entire customer journey. This means you’ll get more visibility into the metrics that matter to your business.
If you’re a SaaS company with a product-led growth strategy in place, it could be that there’s one specific product action you’re driving freemium or free trial users to take in order to see them convert. You’re also likely tracking MRR, and hoping to attribute MRR to specific journeys, campaigns, or messages.
If you’re an ecommerce company, it’s likely revenue is top priority, but you may also be looking to increase your customer lifetime value. With your data unified, you can start to attribute revenue and CLV to journeys, campaigns, and messages so you can replicate their success.
No matter what kind of business you are, identify the metrics that really matter to your business so you can gear your customer journey towards driving those actions.
Nothing measured, nothing gained. Customer journey marketing is most successful when every department is tracking success and making optimizations with each new insight.
With every customer journey you set up, track how many entries, exits, and conversions you’re seeing. It’s also important to keep an eye on the open rate, click rate, conversions and conversion rate for the messages overall, and dive a little deeper to measure the same metrics across individual messages in the journey.
If you’re an Ortto customer, keep an eye on your Playbook and Campaign reports to track all this and more. Plus you can set up customized dashboards tracking all the most important metrics.
With your data unlocked, it’s time to start setting up those customer journeys.
Customer journey marketing stages
At the highest level, the customer journey can be broken down into three distinct stages, each of which has unique goals, triggers, and messaging. Each of the phases is outlined below — keep in mind, there are different types of customer journeys within each stage. We’ll get into that later.
Stage 1: Acquisition
In the Acquisition phase, the objective is to convert anonymous website visitors into paying customers. Here are the stages contacts cycle through during this phase:
Anonymous Visitor → Known Contact → Raw Lead → Qualified Lead → Customer
Stage 2: Nurture
In the Nurture phase, the objective is to warm up and educate contacts who aren’t ready to buy, then identify those contacts whose actions show buying signals. Here are the stages contacts cycle through during this stage:
Lead doesn’t convert → Add to Nurture → Qualify and Score → Engage
Stage 3: Growth
In the Growth phase, the objective is to implement or welcome new paying customers, then maintain a steady drumbeat of automated and batch communications, including online training, events and webinars, usage-triggered nudges, product announcements, newsletters, and upsell or cross-sell journeys, which are designed to grow customer lifetime value (CLV) and earn referrals. Here are the stages contacts cycle through during this stage:
New customer welcomed → Remarkable Customer Experience Delivered → Increase Customer Lifetime Value → Long-term Customer → Referral
Types of customer journeys
With these macro phases, there are micro phases. These phases will give way to customer journeys and, in each journey, you’ll use marketing messages and content to drive your customers through to the next stage.
This means converting anonymous visitors into leads, nurturing leads into customers, increasing the value of customers, and turning customers into advocates.
These are just some of the journeys that will help you accelerate your growth, earn loyal customers and generate more revenue. It’s in no way an exhaustive list — but it will help get you started with customer journey marketing and gather up those crucial data points to help you build better journeys in the future. Let’s go.
Phase One: Acquisition
Acquire and capture new leads
To generate leads, you first need to drive awareness and earn website traffic. There are so many different ways to do this, including:
Capturing the activity of anonymous website visitors and retargeting them
Utilizing lead magnets
Writing useful, search-optimized content
Optimizing landing pages
Creating gated content and making it part of a journey
Sharing customer testimonials or case studies
Lead generation campaigns on social and search
Events (both in-person and virtual)
Newsletter sign up
Phase Two: Nurture
Now you have a lead, it’s time to nurture them. Here are some of the journeys that may be applicable in this phase.
Lead follow up
Once a lead submits their contact information, e.g. via a “Contact Us” form or through a lead form on Facebook or Google, you will want to trigger a journey to follow up with leads after they take a particular action such as downloading a piece of content, filling out a contact form, or subscribing to your blog. These journeys are effective because you’re capitalizing on the moment when your brand is top of mind.
This category can vary quite a bit depending on your business model, sales cycle, and what exactly you’re following up from (e.g. an ebook download versus a demo request). To start, identify the goal of the journey.
If you work for a B2B company, your goal would be to move the lead down the funnel. Let’s say someone has just downloaded your latest ebook, “The 6 step guide to skyrocketing your trial conversion rates.” You’ll likely follow up with more than just their copy of that ebook. If you also encourage them to subscribe to further communications or download more content, you could set your goal to track subscription numbers for the month or amount of content downloaded per lead.
If you work for a B2C company, however, you may follow up with leads after they submit an inquiry. Take a wedding planner, for example. They receive requests to be contacted when companies are planning their big day and evaluating vendors. The goal for a lead follow-up journey here could be to convert 20% of these inquiries into paid customers.
Qualification journeys are the set of communications sent to people who have taken actions that demonstrate an active interest in you.
Following up on these buying signals with communications that qualify the prospect further gives them an opportunity to receive more information about you and for you to identify whether or not they are sales-ready.
There are several ways to determine what actions trigger qualification journeys. You can either use predictive lead scoring software to grade leads based on recent website activity, demographics, and content engagement, or trigger your qualification emails from inbound inquiry submissions, such as filling out a form to download a product one-pager or watching a gated customer story video.
A simple example is to score leads based on their activity on your website, like checking a pricing page multiple times in a short period. If you’re a SaaS company with a free trial activated, you can track engagement scores, whether the user has taken a product-qualifying action and, using data enrichment from Clearbit, even find out the size of the company to get a sense of how big the opportunity really could be. With all of this information, you can not only qualify your leads, but score them and send them into an appropriate journey, whether that's product-led or sales-led.
Once you’ve qualified a lead, test your follow-up methodology. Here are some ideas:
Deliver call-to-action content, e.g. Request a demo or Sign up for a free trial
Offer a free consultation, strategy session or audit
Automatically assign the person to a team member and give them a quick call
Send a simple email asking them what’s driving their interest
Invite them to a product demo
Welcome journeys are often the first set of communications someone will receive from your brand after they have opted-in to receive your marketing or newsletter. They are designed to create a strong first impression (i.e. look really good, but not sell) and warmly welcome your new contact into your community.
These journeys will differ depending on the type of business and the entry point. For example, an ecommerce company may set up a Newsletter Welcome journey that gives the new lead an indication of when they should expect to receive emails (e.g. weekly) and what they might include (news, information, how-tos, company updates, and the occasional offer or promotion). That lead would then receive the newsletter every week, as well as a series of messages set up in the journey. This may comprise of product announcements, customer testimonials and offers that help turn the lead into a paying customer.
New user onboarding
New user onboarding journeys are designed to show customers the value of your product during the course of their SaaS or software evaluation, rather than just telling them.
The concept is simple—if your customer doesn’t enjoy their free trial experience, they won’t come back. Improve the trialist’s experience by sending tips and insights designed to help users navigate your product, overcome common obstacles and reach their ‘aha’ moment.
Start by affirming they made a good decision by reaching out to welcome them to your community and give them an idea of what to expect moving forward.
Trials typically range in length from seven to 30 days long and optimally will include three to 10 interactions during that period, depending on the complexity of your product. Successful trials offer an appropriate mix of how-to and best practices resources, as well as competitive intelligence, pricing/buyer guide content and offers to engage with solutions teams or sales reps.
Before your trial ends, follow up with a net promoter score survey in a journey.
Lifecycle nurture journeys
Your new lead has been welcomed, and now the real nurturing begins. Lifecycle nurture journeys are sometimes called the heart of marketing and are arguably the most important of all automation journeys.
Once you’ve acquired and qualified leads, shift your focus to converting them into paying customers. An easy way to do this with Ortto is to nurture leads until they’re ready to engage. Your goal should be to help buyers overcome common hurdles while teaching them about the space.
By nurturing your customers, you can help them:
Understand core challenges
Catch up on industry trends
Digest product best practices
Build the business case
Learn from relevant customer stories
Plan their purchase and implementation
Effective nurturing requires mapping out your customer’s buying cycle and crafting messages to send at the right time. Advanced tactics to drive performance include omnichannel messaging (i.e. email, SMS, direct mail) and personalizing content based on product usage or customer data.
Lifecycle nurture journeys help companies stay on the mind of these early-stage researchers by providing valuable content, which can be repurposed from:
Popular blog posts or website content
Existing ebooks or infographics
Videos or archived webinar recordings
Industry news, insights, and roundups
Customer case studies
Lifecycle nurture communications are generally timed five days to four weeks apart, provide links to public or gated content, and offer ways to connect on social media or at upcoming events. The objective of the lifecycle nurture journey is to earn enough interest and engagement to qualify them into a call-to-action journey (bottom of the funnel).
Phase 3: Growth
Once you’ve converted your leads into paying customers, they enter the “grow” stage of the customer journey marketing framework.
At this point, your focus shifts to growing with that customer: Help them implement your product or service, nudge them to achieve success milestones, provide updates about new product features, or use a survey to get their feedback.
Over time, you will have amassed more data from your customers to help you create more specific segments and journeys, and deliver more personalized messages at every step.
Retargeting in the customer journey
Ad retargeting can play a powerful role in your marketing strategy, especially as your retargeting messages become more personalized. In fact, there's data suggesting that retargeting ads get a 10x higher click-through rate than regular display ads. Every now and then, however, ad retargeting can do the exact opposite of what you want; instead of engaging your customers, the retargeted ads can sometimes annoy them — and you definitely don’t want that!
Want to stop your customers from getting frustrated every time they see your retargeted ad? Incorporate your customer journey into your ad retargeting strategy. By doing this, your customers are more likely to be drawn to your ad.
Why is customer journey retargeting effective?
Your brand’s retargeting experience should evolve as customers move through your marketing funnel (and their buying journey).
A customer at the start of their buying journey could be discovering your brand for the first time; they may be curious about your brand and what you have to offer, but they are not interested in handing over their money to you just yet.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have customers who are more advanced in their buying journey; these customers may be regularly viewing your website to see if anything new has popped up lately, or they may have purchased from you several times. And naturally, there will be many customers positioned at various points in between the two spectrums.
Customer journey retargeting is all about tailoring the retargeted ads to be relevant to each visitor, based on where they are in their journey. It can help you achieve the following outcomes:
Build emotional connections with your customers
Tell your brand story more compellingly
Create a memorable customer experience
It is a strategy that’s much more effective than merely showing the same old ad to your customers, regardless of where they are in the journey.
What does customer journey retargeting involve?
Incorporating your customer journey into your ad retargeting strategy comprises the following 2 steps:
Create unique ads for every stage of the journey; and
Use intent-based segmentation
Let’s do a run-down of both steps now:
Create unique ads for every stage of the journey
As your customers move from one stage of the buying journey to the next, they should be seeing different ads. For example, a customer may be viewing your website for the fifth time this week, so you don’t want to throw them into the same retargeting loop as someone who’s only visited once.
Or perhaps you’re giving Facebook Ads a try for the first time. Your aim here is to show your ad to people who are not yet your customers; what you don’t want to do is to show the same ad on repeat to those who have already bought (you’ll be paying for nothing otherwise!). It’s also important to consider how you can add a level of personalization to retargeted ads. Take a look at the two examples from 1st Dibs below.
One may be served up to anonymous visitors who navigated to the furniture section, or a specific piece of furniture, while the other could be targeted at visitors who navigated to the art category. In either example, the ad is going to be more successful when it is retargeted towards people who have had some exposure to the brand.
Use intent-based segmentation
Marketing automation allows you to discover so much information about your visitors, right down to their intentions. Even using a simple website tracker can tell you a lot of things; metrics such as website clicks, time spent on specific pages, and page scroll depth are all measures of customer engagement. All this data can help you determine whether a visitor is likely to convert or not.
Furthermore, these data points can be used to segment your visitors according to each stage of the buying journey into one of three intent signals: low, medium and high. The customers in each segment will then be exposed to different sets of ads, resulting in a more memorable experience with your brand.
Other benefits of customer journey retargeting
In addition to providing your customers with a more memorable brand experience and seeing a higher level of engagement, you may find that your ad retargeting strategy is more aligned with your wider marketing strategy.
You are also making your customers happier by not clogging their feed with the same repetitive ad; instead, you’re serving up fresh ad experiences that tell your brand story in a way that allows an emotional bond to develop between you and your customer.
How to measure success in customer journey marketing
High-performing marketers are generally very goal-oriented people. And starting a customer journey without a goal is like going for a hike without directions — it may work out, but there’s a high chance you’ll end up getting lost.
When it comes to customer journey marketing, the best way to measure success is it set goals that connect to the action or event you’d like your contacts to take.
To get you inspired, here are some of the most popular customer journeys along with great examples of goals for each of them.
Welcome journey goals
Consider what you want to get out of your welcome journey, and what’s realistic in any given time period. Goals may include:
Discount coupons redeemed
Second contact open rate / click-through rate
New user journey goals
SaaS businesses with new user journeys will want to set goals based on whether they’re driving free trialists to become paying customers, freemium users to convert, or new users on a paid plan to get the most out of their subscriptions. Goals may include:
Product-qualifying actions taken
Free trial to paid account conversions
Freemium to paid free trial conversions
Engagement (individual and organization level)
Lead follow up journey goals
Think through your funnel and aim to convert the lead to the next stage in the process. Goals may include:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) created
Product demo requested
Total purchases or sign-ups
This journey aims to drive users from the top of the funnel, right down to the bottom. Goals may include:
Sales-ready leads created
We have listed a variety of goals for some of the more common customer journeys. However, the goals you identify are likely to differ based on your business model, marketing goals, or sales cycle.
Customer journey marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. It’s an opportunity to constantly experiment and improve your performance. Doing so requires logging your tests and measuring the right business, revenue, marketing, and journey metrics for your company.
The final word
Customer journey marketing can feel daunting at first, but with the help of a unified customer data platform like Ortto, it’s incredibly simple to set up and get started. Tap into templates to start experimenting and gathering data on simple journeys like a welcome flow.
Once you see the growth, you’ll be motivated to set up new journeys and continuously optimize towards your top-performing messages, campaigns, and journeys.