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A step-by-step guide to mapping the B2B customer journey (with real-life examples)
It’s tricky to effectively map out all the different user personas and purchasing processes in the B2B customer journey. But understanding your customer's experience is key to improving conversions and retaining users.
That’s why it’s essential for B2B companies to follow an effective customer journey mapping process.
Use our step-by-step guide to create a map for your business-to-business (B2B) company that tracks your users’ unique journeys, giving you key insights into your customers and their needs.
Get valuable insights into your B2B customer journey
Hotjar helps you understand how buyers interact with key web and product touchpoints to improve their experience.
How to map out the B2B customer journey in 5 steps
Mapping the customer journey is essential in understanding your buyers and turning them into loyal customers.
Follow these steps to create an actionable B2B customer journey map that gives insights into who your customers are and helps you build an optimized user experience (UX) for them:
1. Set goals unique to your business
Before you start mapping out the customer journey, define your larger business and customer goals.
To begin, ask yourself what you want your customers to achieve—what are their jobs to be done (JTBD)? Does your business depend on repeat customers, or are your products one-off larger ticket items? Your customer journey will look different if you sell business clients a one-time-purchase product, like a hardware device, versus a subscription service.
For example, different B2B firms—like GE Renewable Energy and Hubspot—will have very different objectives. A company like GE Renewable Energy that sells large equipment to B2B customers may prioritize goals like generating more website conversions and creating brand advocates who recommend GE products to other businesses in the industry.
On the other hand, a software company like Hubspot will need to emphasize the customer journey's onboarding and renewal components to increase customer retention.
Know what your goals are before creating your B2B customer journey map to prioritize the most important steps for your customers and your business.
2. Identify your customer segments
The purchasing process is an especially nuanced cycle for B2B businesses, because the end users of your product or service are often not the same people making the purchasing decision.
Typically, multiple people have influence over a deal. Maybe one person researches how to replace a current tool, then a second person does a demo, and a third person actually cuts the check.
Don't just focus on the users who’ll try out your product or service, or on the C-level decision makers: understand every stakeholder involved in the purchasing process to map out an accurate B2B customer journey.
Consider the different needs of end users versus purchasers and think about how your user personas may differ depending on company size and type.
Take Canva, for example: the design tool is used by a variety of businesses, from freelancers to large corporations like PayPal and Danone. Understanding different user profiles and needs gave Canva the insight they needed to design their homepage for different B2B customer types who can choose their own adventure and head off on their most relevant user journey.
Pro tip: once you define your user profiles, learn more about different buyer types by asking the right survey questions. Use these questions to dig deeper into user goals and jobs to be done to better design the B2B customer journey.
3. Define the B2B customer journey stages
Once you have clear goals and user personas, it’s time to define the stages of the customer journey. Let’s take a look at a typical 7-stage B2B customer journey, using the popular SEO tool Ahrefs as an example.
Awareness: a buyer becomes aware of their problem and begins to search for solutions, which is when they discover your brand. In our example, a buyer knows they need to improve their website’s SEO performance, so they search for “best SEO tools” and come across Ahrefs. They visit the homepage, where the tool’s value proposition entices them to learn more.
Consideration: customers consider your product or service as a potential solution. Here, the buyer visits Ahref’s website and learns about the brand’s unique selling proposition, reads about features, watches a demo, explores resources like the Ahrefs blog and SEO guide, and weighs up whether Ahrefs is the product solution for them.
Decision: the buyer makes a decision and purchases the product or service that best fits their needs. In the case of Ahrefs, the buyer purchases the subscription (Lite, Standard, Advanced, or Enterprise) that’s right for them. The Ahrefs website guides users in the decision and purchasing process by displaying clear CTAs that encourage users to become paying customers.
Onboarding: the buyer starts to use the product, goes through the onboarding process, and gets familiar with the tool by reading guides and watching demos. They (ideally) start to adopt it into their everyday workflow.
Support: users contact customer teams as they need support. In our example, customers have easy access to customer support agents and the Ahrefs help center to smoothly resolve issues and questions.
Retention: customer retention is a key part of the B2B buyer journey, and at this stage, buyers decide whether or not they’ll remain loyal customers and continue using your product. Ahrefs offers a range of subscription models and gives users who sign up for an annual subscription a two-month free plan.
Advocacy: the final stage in an ideal customer journey is turning customers into brand advocates. Ahrefs has done a good job of this: the homepage shows reviews from real users who recommend the tool, including pro SEOs, content marketers, and agencies.
Pro tip: your product's user journey may look different depending on your company and customer types: a business customer purchasing a one-off product will have a very different journey from a company subscribing to a service.
"Since the vast majority of SaaS companies utilize subscription revenue models, this directly impacts the customer journey. B2B customer journeys often scale back a notch shortly after a sale has been made, but that’s when the customer journey of a SaaS company just starts kicking in."
4. List all possible B2B customer touchpoints
Once you map out the steps in your customer’s B2B journey, identify each ‘touchpoint’ where they interact with your company, from social media posts to your homepage CTAs and your product itself.
Let’s go back to the Ahrefs example.
A key touchpoint in the early awareness, consideration, and purchase stages of the B2B customer journey is their homepage and a clear call-to-action (CTA) button. These onsite touchpoints show customers what their next steps in the product experience (PX) should be and give them the information they need to make a decision.
In the next phases—onboarding and support—follow Ahrefs' example by making it easy for users to connect with your B2B business, resolve their issues, and upgrade. On the Ahrefs help center page, customers can reach out to representatives and receive support within minutes.
Make sure you continue mapping out how your users interact with your B2B after they become customers—in the retention and advocacy phases. How can you make it easier for them to renew their subscription? Do you offer any rewards for referrals?
As well as mapping out touchpoints by customer journey phase, consider the different touchpoints experienced by different user personas.
For example, the product experience of high-level executives who make the purchasing decision may not be the same as their employees who are your end-users.
By identifying key B2B customer journey touchpoints for different customers and purchasing stages, you can improve UX, making product advocates out of your buyers.
Pro tip: use Hotjar's Observe tools—like Heatmaps and Recordings—to explore how your users interact with key B2B customer touchpoints on your website and product—and get the insights you need to improve their journey.
Hotjar Session Recordings show you how users experience your page to improve low-performing touchpoints
5. Measure and analyze the success of the customer journey
One of the most important customer journey mapping best practices is measuring the success of your customer journey.
Use the right customer journey mapping tools to help you evaluate the impact of your touchpoints. For best results, combine website analysis tools with software that offers more in-depth product experience insights and user feedback.
Use Hotjar's Observe tools to track how customers are engaging with your touchpoints. Then use Hotjar’s Ask tools—like Surveys and Feedback widgets—to learn what your users really think and feel about their B2B experience.
Tools like Google Analytics also help in mapping and analyzing the customer journey, giving you more general information on the types of users that visit your website and whether they convert or bounce.
After you’ve mapped the customer journey, regularly check in on your key goals and what matters most to your customers. Keep measuring the outcomes of your customer journey to understand which aspects of the B2B customer journey are successful and what needs improvement.
Create a brilliant B2B user journey for happier customers
Successfully mapping out the B2B customer journey requires a deep understanding of all your buyers and how they interact with your brand and product.
Adapting these steps to your customers and company helps you create a customer journey map that identifies what your users need at each stage of the buying cycle to provide them with the best possible experience.
Get valuable insights into your B2B customer journey
Use Hotjar to understand how buyers interact with key web and product touchpoints—and improve their experience with your B2B business.