Understand your customer’s mindset with engagement journey mapping


We often think about customer journey as a series of touchpoints and device interactions. The customer opens an email, visits a website, or opens a mobile app. But it is often more meaningful and far more rewarding to examine and understand the customers’ state of mind as they progress through the engagement journey.

A stronger grasp of the customers’ mindset allows us to craft more meaningful messaging and understand how it should evolve from email to email. It also allows us to think through the multiple scenarios that can unfold as customers engage with our digital assets.

In doing so, we shed light on intent, as well as on blockers and concerns that consumers may have when considering a purchase.

This approach is particularly valuable for high-ticket, high-involvement purchases where the decision journey may unfold over days, weeks and months and involve multiple interactions. Think of a trip to an exotic travel destination, home renovations, signing up for a training program or purchasing a big-ticked item.

Such purchases are generally not spontaneous acts. They are the product of a series of moments or micro decisions leading up to an informed and purportedly rational purchase decision. I use purportedly because research tells us that people buy based on an emotional response and then rationalized their choice after the fact. And when emotion is involved, state of mind is key.

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What is engagement mapping really all about?

As I alluded to in the intro, engagement mapping is not a simply a question of channels and devices. The purpose of engagement mapping is to shed some light on what goes on in the minds of your customers.

The mapping process consists of documenting the triggers that lead to a search of a solution as well as the steps and potential actions taken by a customer in their search.

Thinking about the questions that arise in the process also tells us a lot about state of mind. And the purpose is understanding the clues that come from a certain customer behavior or interest in certain pieces of content, like visiting a specific page, or abandoning a shopping cart, or comparing choices.

Triggers and goals

Identifying triggers is essential to understanding mindset. A trigger is an event that sparks the search for a product. And although receiving an email for the latest cool product may in fact be a powerful trigger, others are full out of our control, yet powerful motivators of consumer behavior.

For example, the Superbowl is the trigger for many a giant-screen TV purchase. A newborn child is a trigger for many things from furniture to minivans, to life insurance. The purchase of a new refrigerator can be the result of a breakdown, or a kitchen remodel. The end result is the same, but the consideration timeline is totally different as so the messaging will be very different (reliability vs styling)

Start by identifying the top five triggers for your product category. Next, think of the state of mind associated with each? Are your customers searching to avoid or relieve pain or are they seeking pleasure? Are they concerned, stressed or excited about the potential purchase? This is the start of the engagement journey. But how do you tie each customer to a specific trigger? Well one place to look is in the digital data that’s all around us.

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Content and data clues about customer motivations

Capturing customer source data is a great way to understand what customers have in mind when they land on your site.

Search term clues: One often neglected, albeit imperfect tool is utm_term, which can provide the search keyword used by your customer on Google.

Passing the UTM values into your sign-up and lead forms allows you to leverage this data to better understand the intent. This data can then be used to customize subsequent email messages. Of course, there will likely be a lot of missing values for a variety of reason, but each datapoint is a step in the right direction. Remember, perfect is the enemy of good.

Site content: A second source of insights is the content viewed on the website. If the site is structured and tagged appropriately, pages visited will tell you a lot about customer interests and concern.

Do they look at reviews, case studies and testimonials (need for reassurance)? Is it all about pricing (buying signal or budget constraint)? Do they engage with informative or educational content (early-stage information gathering)? Do they use your compare tool (narrowing down the choices)?

Conduct a high-level audit or inventory of your site content and ask yourself if you have appropriate content for each stage of the buyer journey. If not, get cracking!

Email engagement: A third source of insights are the links that your customers click in your emails. Particularly in content rich emails like multi-topic newsletters. Assign unique values to your links and capture these values in your automation platform. Use them to understand intent, to customize content or to trigger follow-up messaging.

Concerns and blockers

Understanding the customers mindset at the moment the trigger occurs helps you to identify potential concerns, issues and blocker that would influence the purchase decision and their interest in your brand. By addressing them up front in your content.

Mapping the most common objections avoids creating a lot of loose ends in your messaging and leaving it up to the customer to make assumptions. And you know what they say about the word “assume”!


Typical engagement mapping involves identifying and classifying customers into a series of buckets: trigger/need, research, consideration, decision, purchase, use/experience and repurchase/loyalty.

Identify which trackable behaviors are associated with each stage of the journey and then tag each customer based on when you believe they stand in the process. Are they new visitors and subscribers or high frequency repeat visitors that have a high time on site?

Understanding these stages, you can then map out what key messages and desired actions are most relevant at each stage.

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An example of engagement mapping showing content, messaging and actions at each stage of the conversions process.

By actions, I mean what are the micro-conversions that will help move your customer forward in the decision process. Like using a “compare” tool, viewing an explainer video, subscribing to your newsletter, chatting with an agent or chatbot, creating a wish list, etc. Ensure that these micro-conversions are included in your content as strong conversion CTAs.

Key messages at each stage

Give the customers potential state of mind at each stage of the engagement journey, what are the key messages that they need to receive in order to move them forward? Treat them as dynamic content block for some or create distinct email versions for others.

Use decision rulesets that examine clues in the data to trigger the inclusion of certain content, or the send of a specific email or series. Build all this as an automated program that runs continuously in the background. It’s an investment that will last for many years.

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Tying into promotional messaging

Once you have a solid engagement framework, think about how you layer in your promotional messaging. As customers near the end of the journey, a strong offer can be a powerful conversion motivator.

However, at the start of the journey, when customers aren’t ready to buy, an overly promotional BUY NOW! message may have a dampening effect.

Early-stage “see our promotions” content may be more appropriate while a standalone promotional email or Flash Sale at the end of the process may be highly effective in converting those that remain on the fence. This is a great opportunity for A/B testing to find the right balance between content and offer.

Timing is everything

As with many things in life, showing up in the right place, at the right time is critical to success. But why leave things purely up to chance. By better understanding your customers’ mindset and examining the clues they leave along their engagement journey, you can increase the relevance of your communication and tell a more compelling story along the way.