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Journey Mapping

If you’re selling a product, good or service, this episode is for you. AMP UP podcast hosts, Bryan Earnest and Rachael Holland discuss the marketing journey experience through the lens of the consumer.

Joining the conversation is Erin Bishop, AMPERAGE’s VP of Strategy. Listen in as they share how brands can strengthen customer engagement, remove ineffective touchpoints, and bridge the gap between marketing and operations.

Journey Mapping
Erin Bishop

As vice president of strategy, Erin excels at leading teams through the successful development, administration and presentation of market research and analysis projects. Erin is also a skilled brand builder, leading clients through processes to grow, strengthen and develop their brands. She creates extensive integrated marketing and brand rollout plans and facilitates Creative Fusion Sessions for clients across the country.


 Bryan Earnest: Welcome back to the AMP UP podcast. I'm Brian Earnest here with my co-host Rachel Holland. It doesn't matter what industry you're in these days; if you're selling products, goods, or services, well, this is the episode for you. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel Holland: Hey, Brian. Yes. Today we are talking about creating a better customer experience and doing that through journey mapping, which is a process I really love that we do with our clients because it's usually using visuals as a way to help tell a story and really outlining all of those touchpoints that a consumer has along their journey with a brand. Additionally, they're also mapping out what their thoughts and feelings are at each stage. Now, Brian, you know, I don't love feelings.

Bryan Earnest: Ewe.

Rachel Holland: But I do like this process, because when we're looking at the sales funnel from the consumer's point of view, I don't think it's something that organizations do enough of. We've all, I'm sure, experienced a time where we've known that there's maybe an issue within our organization or something feels off. Maybe sales are down, retention isn't where it needs to be. Or on the flip side, maybe sales are up and outperforming, but we're not sure why it's happening. So when we're experiencing it on the other side as the customer, the patient, the student, we can pretty much, most of the time tell you exactly where those performance gaps or breakthroughs are. So I love this process.

Bryan Earnest: Yeah, absolutely. Great points, Rachel. You know, when I think about this topic of touchpoints and journey mapping those touchpoints, I think about all the connections an organization has with its customers. It's a really empathetic process, right, for organizations to walk in the shoes of their customers, to see it from really 180 degree perspective.

You know, here at Amperage, we work in some very sophisticated industries where the touchpoints, connections, and communications opportunities can sometimes be a little tricky. For nonprofits, nurturing donors on their information gathering and giving journey; it takes patience and a real layering of the story to get that, to get that potential donor over to your side and be ready to make a gift.

You know, Rachel having three sons that have all gone off to college, I've seen firsthand all of those important touchpoints in the process that are so critical. There's first the awareness of the dozens and dozens and dozens of schools that start bombarding a student or prospective student about their school.

Then there's excitement, as your student gets kind of excited about one or two of those schools, and then there's that enticement period like, Hey, this is really the place for you. Then there's application and acceptance and oh, financial aid and learning things like FAFSA and, oh, who would ever think they'd need to know that stuff.

And then orientation and it goes on and on. And it's certainly complex. Bottom line for organizations, clear and on-brand communication is key at all of these times.

Well, and then there's healthcare that's always so complicated. Wow. So much jargon and so many players involved. It can be very intimidating for patients and their families, and all their caregivers especially in the time of crisis. Not to mention navigating insurance and alongside the medical care, ugh, ugh, ugh. Rachel, like me, you've had some recent firsthand experiences.

Rachel Holland: Yeah. Yeah. Especially on the healthcare side, being the patient advocate for I've dealt with experiences with both my mom and my dad, unfortunately. But you touched on the jargon piece, right? And the medical terminology, especially with healthcare. Let me preface this with, I have three sisters that are all in the healthcare industry, so I clearly missed the memo on that.

But I've made the mistake, as my sister would call it, mentioning that she's a nurse when we're at the hospital. So there were a couple times, we were there in the room with my mom and the doctor came in and I'm like, oh, well she's a nurse, and she would get really mad at me, and I didn't understand why at first, but I quickly realized like, oh, every time that has happened, more often than not, I should say when the physician knew that she was a nurse, there was that communication shift. So all of a sudden they had been using layman's terms, they were talking directly to the patient, our mom in this case. And then all of a sudden it flipped.

And I couldn't even spell any of the words the doctor was saying. Um, the physician was speaking directly to my sister versus our mom. So it just changed our entire experience. And it also put a lot of extra pressure on my sister, right? So you're dealing with the emotional side of it. It's a scary time if you're dealing with those things.

And then having to take in all of that information. So we've had positive experiences too, but that has happened more times than we would like.

Bryan Earnest: Wow. Quite the journey, right? So the examples are certainly endless as are the benefits to going through the process. So let's bring in our guest today. Erin Bishop, Amperage's VP of Strategy. Welcome and thanks for joining us again, Erin.

Erin Bishop: Thank you for having me.

Rachel Holland: Hey, Erin, we're excited you're here. You're no stranger to the AMP UP podcast, but the approach to developing a marketing and communication strategy varies, right? If we're selling a different product or a service depending on what our brand and our industry is; which also means that each of those touchpoints and the interactions that a customer's having with a brand is also going to vary.

So can you talk to us a little bit about one, identifying the persona and defining what experience we're going through, and then also what should marketer, marketers be prepared for as they're looking at doing the journey mapping process?

Erin Bishop: Sure. Absolutely. Starting with defining the persona and the experience you want to map out. Especially with large complex organizations, you both gave examples of these types of organizations with healthcare and higher ed, right? They're big, there's lots of moving parts and pieces. There's lots of different ways a student or a patient or a family member may interact or intersect with an organization or find their way to the organization.

So it's super important to get really specific when you're defining that persona. Saying that you want to map the journey of a heart attack patient is one thing. But saying you want to map the journey of a heart attack patient that's coming into the ER through an ambulance is a very different thing. Right?

Saying that you want to map the experience of a traditional student is good versus a non-traditional student. We're getting a little bit more specific there, but what are they, what's the student's major? Are you a community college and this is a diesel tech student or is this a student that's coming in and focusing on arts and sciences and going to transfer to a four year university after their time at your college?

Those are very different journeys. There are very different motivations there. There are very different goals. That same can be said for nearly any organization. So starting with taking a hard look at what is that journey that you want to map and let's get pretty specific. When you can get specific, that's where you really uncover the golden nuggets and you can really, truly move the needle with your map, when you're getting that specific. Some of those insights can be broadened out, right? And brought up to a higher level. But it helps to hone in, which can be super hard. I understand that, but it does make for a better outcome.

Rachel Holland: Absolutely.

Erin Bishop: Then as far as what marketers should be prepared for, I guess my first answer to that question is literally anything.

Um, we find out all sorts of information as we're going through this process and things that are completely surprising. Our best practice when laying out a journey map is to bring a group of people together into a room and actually physically use a wall and Post-Its and map out the journey.

And there are so many insights and things that you find when you're going through that process because there are people in the room that plug and play into different parts and pieces of that journey, right? And those people don't always talk to each other on a daily basis, nor are they really always aware of what the other one is doing, right? They know what their piece of that pie looks like and what they do, where the student or patient or whomever goes next when they're done with their piece of the pie, but they aren't always aware of the ins and outs of what happens before or after they interact with the student, not in specifics.

Again, a lot of what will come out of whether it's a journey map session is what we call the group sessions, or even if we do individual interviews, you can expect that you would uncover some operational challenges. Um, marketing and operations intersect all the time. And when you're going through this process and doing a journey map, that is a key area that you will find that they intersect and either connect or don't connect. And most often, you know, when it's connecting, you don't always know when it's disconnecting. So uncovering, some of those sorts of things and then begins the process of identifying, okay, there is this challenge, this operational challenge. Is this something that we can fix? If so, maybe we need to elevate this to someone else who can help us fix this, or a different group.

Or it could just be we need to shed some light on it and let them do their thing and get it fixed. There's also operational challenges in some cases that you can't fix right? A big one right now is supply chain issues or workforce. There's not an easy button to fix it, you know, it's a challenge and it's good to know that it's a challenge.

But then the conversation needs to become, how do we market around it? We want to make sure our marketing and messaging is authentic. And you can still effectively market when you know that there's a big operational challenge in the middle. But you do need to know that it's in the middle, so then you can develop messaging and marketing tools around that to ultimately still make it a good consumer experience with your organization.

Bryan Earnest: Wow. All great points, Erin. Just thinking about experiencing a brand from the perspective of a customer, a patient, a student, a parent, whatever it might be, a donor, is so incredibly invaluable. It also makes me think about the internal marketing folks that we talk to all the time of doing some of their own secret shopping, some of that just a chance for them to experience what's their own service like.

It's quite often we hear from those in healthcare that they refer back to their own experiences of going to a primary care physician or going to a specialist. When they've had that chance to walk in the same shoes as their customers; it really helps the experience. Knowing that not every one of these journey maps become a one size, one map fits all; have you seen any trends or common aha moments with the brands that you've taken through this process?

Erin Bishop: Absolutely. Some things that pretty consistently come up, one is communication gaps. And that's communication gaps all throughout the process. That could either be internal communication gaps of different departments not communicating or maybe not fully communicating all of the information that's needed. There's that.

And then there's also outward facing communication gaps on a consumer gets to a certain stage in the journey and is kind of left standing there like, uh, what's next or that's great Doctor, you just downloaded a whole bunch of stuff on onto me and it sounds super smart. And I trust you and I feel like you know what you're talking about, but I don't have any idea what you're talking about.

And now I'm completely overwhelmed and you sent me on my way with nothing to take home with me that I could read or Google, which I know they don't want you to do that, but everyone does. So are they giving you all the big words so that you can go Google them? Right. Um, there are dozens of different types of communication gaps, but you can expect that you're going to find multiple ones and a lot of them are very easily solved.

Very rarely is there a gap that can't be solved. It's just the awareness that it's there and then you work to fill the gap. But you have to know that it's there in the first place.

Rachel Holland: Yeah.

Erin Bishop: And I also mentioned a little earlier about our journey map workshop, which is where we bring everyone into the room and you physically map out the journey.

Because it is like a very intentional exercise. And it's something that's done in person, it's something that's visible, it's interactive. You can actually see this journey up on the wall and start to take shape, all of the touchpoints, all of the messages that you're communicating, all the different people this consumer is interacting with, all the different ways they're interacting with your organization, right? This isn't just in person, this is online. This is over the phone. This is literally any way they might be interacting with your organization. We are putting it up on po. We are writing it on Post-Its and putting it up on the wall.

So as you're sitting there in that group and looking up at the wall, it becomes a very apparent where your Post-Its are and where they aren't. Very often you will see that one stage of the journey is stacked pretty heavily while there's almost nothing on another stage of the journey, and it's a huge wake up call to be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

What are we doing here? Like, this is the point at which they're making their decision and we aren't communicating with them at all. Or we aren't interacting with them at all. Like this is a key moment. We need to put some strategies in place around this moment. Or we are investing way too much time and energy way up here at this part of the journey and almost no energy at the end of the journey.

We need to right-size the ship. It is very apparent almost immediately where those gaps are when you are actually looking at it up there on the wall.

There's also, I would say, for marketing staff specifically, a lack of knowledge about what happens once they're beyond the marketing funnel. Right?

As marketers, we are very focused on the funnel and getting them in the funnel and worked through the funnel. We lose control once they're through the funnel and now they're being handed off to admissions, or now they're actually calling or clicking a link to schedule a doctor's appointment. We don't always know what's happening and we don't have control over that, and that's okay that we don't have control over it.

We don't. We don't want to micromanage by any means, but we do need to be aware of what's happening. Because there are often ways that our marketing teams can come in and support that patient or that student or that consumer throughout the rest of the journey, beyond when they're through the marketing funnel. But we don't always know where or how.

Rachel Holland: Absolutely. Well and we know that filling up that funnel is a lot more difficult than retaining our customers, our patients, our clients. So that's something too that we've seen right, Erin, during this process is we think, okay, the main goal here, the main focus, we're having challenges with actually getting people in the door to maybe come in for a consultation, come in for a tour, but then we're finding, oh wait, there's no communication, three fourths of the way through our marketing funnel and now there's a retention issue.

So you might be solving one problem focused on that, but then, you have to also pay attention to the other side of it. Right? So I love those tips.

So we've talked a lot about uncovering the shortfalls and identifying those opportunities, but can you talk to us, Erin, a little bit about the stage where you go through the journey map workshop, now you're back at the office and you start putting some of these key insights into an actual visual map. What are some of those key components and some of those takeaways?

Erin Bishop: Sure. Well at the top, is literally their behaviors, and this is from the consumer perspective. So that persona that you worked on developing at the top of the map outlines their behaviors. And it's actually a visual map on they're doing this, then they're doing this, then they're doing this, and then they're doing this.

Now, even when you're being specific about your journey, there is no one size fits all, right? Everyone's journey varies a little bit. But what we're looking to do when we start outlining those behaviors and literally mapping them out, is what are those big ones? What are the big milestones that we know are taking place that we need to be aware of and paying attention to?

So that's at the top of the map, is what are those behaviors? We also outline their thoughts and feelings. In order to develop effective messaging, we need to know what they're thinking and feeling. What's going through their head? How are they feeling? Are they anxious? Are they happy? Are they depressed? Are they scared? Are they excited? Right? Your materials and your communications need to take a different tone depending on what they're thinking and feeling at any given stage in the journey. So those are identified on the map as well. We're also identifying touchpoints that the organization has.

So if you have your behavior and you have your thoughts and feelings on the consumer side, now we're going to focus a little bit internally and ask the organization, ask ourselves like, okay, so what are we doing while the consumer is doing this and thinking and feeling this, how are we matching that?

And that takes two different forms. It's both what are we currently doing and what should we be doing? And then a third, what are we doing that we shouldn't be doing? Right? Sometimes you uncover, like I was talking about the things being tilted too far one way or another when you're looking up at the wall.

If you're tilted more one way or another, what do you need to stop and what do you need to start doing somewhere else in order to make sure that the time, energy, money, resources that you're putting into each one of these touchpoints are effective and as effective as they can be. We'll also identify communication channels.

So what are those touchpoints and how are you communicating? Is that something that's advertising either online or offline? Is that content that they're reading when they're Googling something? Is this someone they're talking to on the phone? Are they physically at your facility? Are they on a virtual call?

So taking into consideration what are those not only touchpoints, but how are those touchpoints happening along the journey. And then lastly, what are the opportunities. That's typically why someone would start on this journey is because they know that there are opportunities, or they have a gut instinct that either they have a lack of knowledge about the process and want to educate themselves, or, and or generally they have an idea that something maybe is off in that journey and we're looking at uncovering it so we can make it better. And that's where the opportunities really come in. What are those opportunities to either enhance or improve and what are the recommendations on how we go from here or where we go from here?

Bryan Earnest: I love how it exposes as an organization where you may have too much content and where you may not have enough. I mean, for organizations to visually see where there's those gaps. Really powerful. Erin, this is an incredible planning tool. From your experience, how have you seen organizations use a journey map as part of their planning or maybe shifting their strategy?

Erin Bishop: It starts with educating everyone. A lot of that education, if you do have the opportunity to have a large group in-person workshop, not everyone does for various different reasons. But if you do have that opportunity, the education really starts there, which is what makes it extremely valuable when they see everything up there on the wall. There's at least an awareness of it, even if they don't know they need what to do about it yet, they're aware that there's a problem somewhere.

If you don't have the opportunity to do that, it really does start with circulating the map and educating people on here's what's happening, here's what's good, and here's what's not so good, and here's what we're going to do about it. And at that point of here's what we're going to do about it, is really where that action takes place on how do we need to rev our, revise our marketing strategy or marketing plan for this particular service line or recruitment opportunity or whatever that might look like.

Taking a close look at what you're doing, when you're doing it and how you're doing it, and does it align with the journey. And if it doesn't align, then we need to bring that back into alignment. That's a key tool. Also with some of those operational challenges that you uncovered, having that conversation internally with whatever people and departments you need to, based on what the challenge is to uncover, is this something that we can fix and what's that timeline look like for fixing it?

Or is this something that I need to market around? Because if it's something that I need to market around, then we need to take another look at our strategy and messaging and figure out when and how we are marketing around that to account for what we know is a bit of a shortfall in maybe the overall experience.

Rachel Holland: When would you say is the right time for an organization to go through this process?

Erin Bishop: The short answer is anytime. Um, but also if you have a big initiative or big campaign that's coming, that's a great time to start. And if you don't have the time or the resources to embark on a big process that might take you a few weeks to go through. If you don't have the resources to hire someone to help you go through that, it'll still take a few weeks.

But if that's not a luxury that you have, even just starting somewhere internally. If leadership is handing down an initiative that we need to focus on babies and we need to deliver more babies. Okay? Even doing some legwork yourself or with your team to pick up the phone and make a call, or go visit your OB page on your website.

Can you schedule an appointment online? If so, when you try and schedule one, what happens? If you pick up the phone to make a call, does someone answer the phone? And if they don't, that tells you something. And if they do, what do they say? There's things that your team can do, marketing teams can do, even at the grassroots level that don't have to be big initiatives that can provide insight when you're going into your next big campaign or next big push.

Bryan Earnest: Wow. This has been a great discussion today. I love the idea of organizations diving in to explore the minds of their customers and walk in their shoes to improve their communication. Really good stuff. Thank you, Erin, for joining us, and as always, thank you Rachel. Well, we've reached the end of this podcast journey. She's Rachel Holland. And I'm Brian Earnest. You've been listening to the AMP UP podcast, an Amperage Marketing and Fundraising production. For more content on how to increase the strength and spark of your brand, head over to and subscribe to our podcast and newsletter. On behalf of all of us at Amperage, thank you. Check in on another podcast and we will help you move the needle.