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Can you use journey maps to develop a new product or service?

A question similar to that was posed to me on Twitter several months ago after I published my post on The Most Import Rule of Journey Mapping.

Specifically, the question Andreas Jonsson posed was:

How about customer journeys that are still in the making and thus have no users/customers yet?

I asked for clarification, and he responded with:

Any new service that is being developed that has 0 users and no track record to gather insights from (1/2); Users of similar concepts would be great to involve, but accessibility and time will be a challenge. Ideas?

From a journey mapping perspective, I suggested that he start with building an assumptive map – what he and his team assume the journey to be. I love this idea: I do believe that journey maps can and should be used during the design/development phase; if they were used during this phase more often, then we wouldn’t have as many customer experience breakdowns as we do today.

Build the assumptive map and iterate from there. Even if you don’t have any actual customers yet, take the maps and the concept out to prospective customers and beta testers to get their thoughts.

Create your personas, identify the different types of users/customers, and enlist their help. There must have been a customer need to fulfill or a job to be done that the product or service was based upon. You built the product or the service with a customer in mind. Find that customer.

Customer journeys (and maps) need to be based on customer research, listening, understanding. During the design phase of your product or service, you’ll be conducting focus groups and other research with potential customers, so play out the customer journey with prospects by using maps. If you’re building a better mousetrap, prospects can certainly provide you with insights into the ideal experience.

The steps will look something like this:

  • Know the personas of your ideal customers, i.e., know the customers for whom you are building the product or service
  • Most importantly, start with the job the product or service is going to help the customer do
  • Identify steps the customer must take to do that job
  • Create an assumptive map that is built on your assumptions of how the customer will interact with you and the product or service
  • Take it to the field to use as a research tool
  • Find your ideal customers/prospects and have them validate the assumptive map or have them build a map from scratch based on the job they are going to try to do with your product or service
  • Do further research among competitors’ customers

The different customer types (ideal, prospects, competitors’) will all help you build a better product and design a better journey. The map then becomes iterative at this point – as it moves from assumptive to validated to ideal to evolving as the concept evolves, needs change, etc.

When I first read the question from Andreas, I was concerned that he was designing a service for which he had no customers, in other words, someone had an idea and, well, that’s all they had. With no customers, you really don’t have a product; just an idea. (I know that’s not what he meant, though.)

So I’m going off topic for a minute to reiterate that every product or service has customers or prospective customers. One thing to remember here… what is the purpose of a business? to create and nurture customers. Who are you building the product for?

In Bernadette Jiwa’s latest book, Meaningful, she talks about creating products for customers, not hoping customers will like the products you create. She makes this important distinction.

The opportunity to build a great business starts not with creating a great product, but with understanding and then creating a great customer

All companies have customers, regardless of whether their concepts are new or not. Design products and services with the customer in mind. Use journey maps to design the product and the experience before it goes to market. The maps are an invaluable tool to get it right from the start!

Making products for your customers is far more efficient than finding customers for your products. -Seth Godin