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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bell

Simple Customer Journeys Drive Marketing Strategy



How Barriers and Drivers Build a More Strategic Approach


Many entrepreneurs, marketers, and customer experience professionals are believers in the customer journey as a better way to serve and sell to people. They research customers' challenges, how those customers discover solutions to problems, and what causes them to select a solution.


McKinsey outlines how “rewired business” outcompete:

“Rewired businesses use data to continuously improve how they serve their customers. This creates a flywheel effect, which requires that companies be intentional about priorities and make explicit choices about what the organization will and will not do to deliver value.”

This last bit about ‘being intentional’ is strategy. They use customer insight to drive what they will and won't do to win.


Big companies tend to get super-complex with insightful, wall-sized maps that explode the journey into a layer cake of insight. Done well; this is all good stuff that helps align team members from across a complex enterprise.


But journey mapping isn’t just for big business. One of my favorite tools to glean insight about customers and then convert that into marketing strategy and creative is super-simple.


Drivers and Barriers

I learned this years ago at Ogilvy from some smart planners. We were always concocting cathedral-like planning methodologies with imposing names: Combustion, Fusion, or The Butterfly. Okay, this last one is a bit fluffier, but you get the idea.


One of the real gems from these methods, Drivers and Barriers, examined a particular customer persona at a stage in their journey, e.g., discovery, education/engagement, etc., and using any available research, identified:

  • Drivers – those attitudes, emotional and rational needs, and resources that could help the customer overcome the barriers and move from one stage of the journey to the next.

  • Barriers – all the things that obstruct the path to purchase.

Small businesses can be tempted to rely on their intuitive knowledge of their customer for the necessary insight to map this out. I wouldn’t. “Any available research” is better than nothing. A survey, observing customers, having 5 conversations, a full focus group – any and all can reveal timely insight about what vexes your customer.



Idealized Consumer Statement

Your thirty-five-year-old sister worries about her skin aging prematurely. Maybe there’s some genetic history there to fuel the concern, or she works in a skin-stressful environment like airplanes or hair salons. She starts by looking for information on skin aging on Google and finds content for women over fifty that focuses on 2-3 common concerns like sun damage. For her, this is the Discovery Phase of her journey.


If she quickly found highly relevant content for her situation, you might imagine her saying to herself an idealized statement like, “Finally, a great resource that takes my concerns seriously and doesn’t just talk about skin health for older women.”


If you are the skin health brand (“Glowy and Silky”) that aspires to acquire and retain this customer eventually, what can you do to inspire her to say this? What are the drivers and barriers to getting her to this place?


What are the drivers?

  • Easily searching and finding credible and helpful content on skin aging specifically for women in their thirties or finding relevant content for air travel or salon workers

  • Seeing similar content from someone they trust via their social feeds

  • Hearing word of mouth from a colleague, friend or family

  • Discovering authoritative content from someone like them

What are the barriers?

  • Too much content tackling the same 3 issues (e.g., UV Rays, etc…)

  • Too much content targeting women over fifty

  • The hit or miss of framing queries in Google

  • AI like ChatGPT not ready for her queries

  • Her professional associations lack quality content

  • Young women don’t like talking about skin problems

There are more drivers and barriers to consider, but you get the idea. As the marketer for Glowy and Silky, you need to push the drivers and overcome the barriers. As the diagram suggests, you can also think about whether the drivers or the barriers carry more weight and acknowledge that by placing the statement higher or lower. In this case, the barriers in the Engagement and Evaluation phases are likely stronger to begin with.


Possible strategies/tactics:

  • By creating blog, video, and Instagram content that puts the thirty-something at the heart of the message and/or caters to people in the airline or salon industries, you can quickly fill a gap.

  • To show up when your sister searches in Google or Bing, you need insight into what terms, questions, and intent she might enter, and you need to make sure your content shows up very high in the results.

  • Who are some of the airline worker influencers and content creators on Instagram? Can you partner with them to create valuable skin health content that highlights the profession's unique stresses on skin and, ultimately, raises awareness for your brand?



The Emotional Angle

How much of a purchase decision is an emotional factor?


“Scientists have studied this question for decades, using a variety of different methods. Gallup's own research has found that about 70% of decisions are based on emotional factors and only 30% are based on rational factors.”

Emotional drivers can include how frustrating search engines can be, the shame people may feel suffering from various skin conditions, or the wariness or vulnerability people may feel when trying to weigh the veracity of online information. If a brand makes it much easier to find good information, if they speak in a compassionate and understanding tone, or if they reveal more about themselves – why they came up with their products, what they care about – the brand can chip away at barriers and strengthen the drivers.


Drivers and Barriers is a simple approach to learning about and documenting the challenges your customers face in a way that can easily inform your own marketing strategy, tactics, and creative. And it won’t break the bank.

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