When Dr. Rosita Thomas joined the Market Connections research team, she brought her vast experience with journey mapping to our range of offered services. What is journey mapping and why is it important? Notably, how can it help you with your marketing efforts? We sat down with Rosita to get some insights.
Rosita: In essence, it’s a way for businesses to see exactly where and when they have the best opportunity to leverage their capabilities to impact customer decisions. We use a qualitative research methodology to map their process — or journey. We start by recruiting our target population for interviews, whether they are patients, purchasers of technology products, or consumers of any kind. We conduct one-on-one interviews by phone, or using web-assisted technology. We ask them detailed questions about every stage of their process.
For example, at each stage we would ask our respondents about the emotions they experience, the people and experts they talk to, whether they look for information and, if so, where. At each stage, we ask them about what works, what doesn’t work, and what is missing. Because we are asking respondents to recall and talk about very detailed aspects of their journey, we sometimes start off with an online questionnaire. The questions are primarily open-ended, which allows the respondent to use their own words. Their choice of vocabulary provides us with additional insights.
Next, we analyze the respondent’s answers and devise a follow-up interview guide to fill in any gaps. For example, if I see a patient visited five different health professionals before they got a diagnosis, I will ask them more about that process. Was it typical? Frustrating? I will ask them about the emotions they were feeling when they received the initial diagnosis. What questions did they ask the provider? What questions were unanswered? What advice would they give the provider about their approach?
By asking such detailed questions, we are taking a magnifying glass and looking for places along the respondent’s journey that might provide opportunities for our clients to connect with that population. It helps our clients learn what they need to do and when to do it — to identify those key stages of the customer or patient journey. Mapping also benefits customers, because it highlights their unmet needs.
MC: Can you give us a patient journey example?
Rosita: Sure. A pharmaceutical company was having difficulty unearthing the barriers that prevented patients from starting their prescribed medication promptly at the onset of symptom awareness approached us to find out why. The company wanted to develop a new marketing campaign targeted at changing that behavior. The primary question they brought to us: what unmet clinical, informational, financial, and emotional needs will help us increase patient compliance?
In this example, we discovered that a person with symptom X typically waited three to six months after noticing the symptom before seeing a doctor. That extended wait time negatively impacted their condition. We recommended the pharmaceutical company reach patients much earlier and communicate the importance of seeing a doctor immediately after becoming aware of the symptom. We also recommended the pharmaceutical company provide action-oriented informational materials to healthcare providers so they would begin to routinely talk with at-risk patients about how to recognize symptom X, in addition to asking whether they are experiencing it.
The outcome of this research was the pharmaceutical company was able to get the word out effectively to patients and healthcare providers. Patients sought treatment more quickly and their time to recovery was dramatically reduced.
MC: What’s unique about this type of research?
Rosita: In addition to its ability to reveal important details, it has some really neat and different features. With journey mapping, we can use online dashboards. The respondent can actually see a graphic depiction of their personal journey and modify it so it presents a true timeline of their journey. Usually we conduct 20 to 40 patient journeys (we determine the number based on the study objectives). As we compare and analyze the journeys we begin to see patterns. We might also see some “Aha!” moments where at a particular point in the patient journey there is an especially amazing opportunity for our client to have an impact.
MC: Can journey mapping be used in any industry?
Rosita: Definitely. While journey mapping is very common in the healthcare industry, it’s use is applicable to any industry. We now have access to technologies making personalized messaging possible. But to really do that, we need to have a granular, detailed understanding of how people are making decisions and find out about their experiences at every step of the process. This helps us identify the leverage points of influence for our client — when and where to provide information, what information to provide, and how to best communicate that information.
MC: What are some examples of how other industries could use journey mapping?
Rosita: Two examples immediately come to mind: government contractors and associations.
For example, we could map the journey government decision-makers go through in selecting a technology provider. The government contractors I have worked with understand the challenges that government decision-makers face — the long contracting process, limited budgets, LPTA; there are so many hurdles to pass through. Because of the granular level of exploration used in journey mapping, this research tool can help a contractor uncover and understand what specific actions/non-actions impact their customers’ purchasing decision process, and how the contracting company can best position itself and its assets so it clearly speaks to the customers’ unmet needs. At the same time, it can position a company to differentiate itself as the one most capable of addressing those needs.
Journey mapping draws attention to the leverage points along the government technology purchaser’s journey. It identifies the points the contractor can best get a step up on connecting with a government decision maker’s unmet needs. That is powerful.
We can also use journey mapping to help associations. Associations are always working to better understand how to retain and increase their membership. It would be interesting to see journey mapping of those who recently made the decision to join the association, renew or upgrade their membership, or, who recently made the decision to leave the association. Journey mapping would pinpoint exactly what prompted a current or prospective member to make their decision to change their membership status. This granular data we pull from the member journeys allow us to provide the association with very clear-cut, actionable recommendations about how to retain members and reduce attrition.
MC: How long would a normal journey mapping project take? This sounds like something that could be pretty in-depth?
Rosita: Generally, it’s about 12- to 15-weeks, depending on the number of interviews conducted. It’s a very elaborate and labor intensive process. Once the data is analyzed and the findings are written up, we have an immersion session with all of the client’s key internal stakeholders and some of their external stakeholders if they wish (such as their advertising team). We review the unmet needs of the patient or customer and then our team communicates our consensus on how best to leverage identified opportunities.
MC: Any other thoughts?
Rosita: Journey mapping is a powerful tool in the marketing toolbox. I’ve seen clients use it to dramatically change how they interact with their customers, providing better service and setting themselves apart from their competitors.