What is Journey Mapping in Higher Ed Marketing?
Hand drawn. Printed atlas. App based. When it comes to traveling to an unknown or unfamiliar destination, most of us rely on a map of some kind. We’re used to plotting our journeys, noting possible stops or delays and marking our progress along the way — if only with a glance at a driving app.
What we’re not as familiar with is mapping someone else’s journey.
As marketers, especially in higher education organizations trying to boost enrollment, journey mapping of a prospective student’s trip to our campus as a registered student is an important tool in developing campaigns and improving the student experience.
So, what is journey mapping? As the name implies, it’s a visual representation of someone’s journey from the moment they encounter your brand until they engage with or choose what you offer. It can also be used to reveal a customer’s experience once they’ve chosen you.
What is Journey Mapping?
Journey mapping is especially important for higher education organizations as the prospective student’s journey is often complex and not in a straight line. Students — or their parents! — may research different schools for months or even years before making a decision, and they are likely to interact with your brand through a variety of channels, including your website, social media, mailers and in-person events. Those interactions continue after enrollment, perhaps taking different forms but often deeply impacting the student experience.
In higher education, a journey map becomes an extremely valuable tool for identifying and correcting points of disconnection, lack of connection or even excessive connection with a prospective or current student.
Specifically, a journey map identifies your audience’s:
- Behaviors, actions and steps taken or not taken
- Challenges and pain points
- Thoughts and feelings
- Touchpoints with your organization
A deeper understanding of these key areas allows you to “walk in their shoes,” and, if necessary, to adjust virtually any aspect of your brand presence, communication or attempted engagement to meet prospects where they are and help guide them to a deeper connection with you.
At the very least, a journey map can help you see:
- What you are doing to engage, support and guide the journey
- What you should be doing
- What you shouldn’t be doing
Journey Mapping 101
There are many ways to map students’ journeys. From software and apps to whiteboards and other “old school” methods, the key is to give you an easy-to-interpret visualization of the student experience.
According to our AMPERAGE strategy team, one great way to build a journey map is to get your team together in a room and place Post-it® notes on a wall to display key behaviors, touchpoints, pain points and identifiable thoughts and feelings over the duration of a student journey from hearing about you to enrolling and showing up on campus.
Having multiple voices contributing to the map ensures a deeper and more accurate reflection of the student journey. Having more eyes on the map helps ensure a deeper understanding of the student journey and experience on the part of your team.
The trail of sticky notes shows more than just the route through those key areas, however. For example, clusters of touchpoint notes in one segment of the journey may indicate excessive communication attempts, while too few or no notes at a pivotal time in decision-making can show you where to bump up engagement.
Interestingly, journey maps can also show operational challenges that may need to be addressed or worked around. It’s not always something that marketing can fix, but at least they’re revealed as issues to look at and account for in strategic and tactical decisions.
For example, once a student arrives at their enrollment decision and is “handed off” to Admissions, marketing teams may lose contact or control of the journey in ways that may impact the student experience. That’s okay, and there’s no need to micromanage. What’s great is that such a moment can create an opportunity to support students in new ways once they’re in the door and outside the sales funnel, and to collaborate with other departments to create an ever-better student experience.
Whatever mapping format you choose, if done correctly, be prepared to feel like you’re living inside the hearts and minds of your audience. For marketing teams, it’s hard to think of a better destination.
The Benefits of a Pleasant Journey
- Improve your understanding of the student journey. Duh, right? But it’s easier said than done, and journey mapping is one of the best ways to identify stages of decision-making and build more targeted and effective campaigns.
- Identify touchpoints, intersections and interactions. Where do prospective students connect with you? What happens when they do? Not only is journey mapping great for identifying these contacts, but it also gives you a great visual depiction of the timing, frequency and effectiveness of your engagement efforts.
- Understand emotions, challenges and pain points. Let’s face it: Choosing a college is a complex process that’s fraught with a range of thoughts and feelings, from excitement and happiness to fear and dread. Getting a grip on what a prospective student might be feeling, plus why and when they feel that way, presents a golden opportunity to create a supported, welcoming experience wherever they are in their journey.
- Uplifting the student experience. It should go without saying that addressing the pain points in the student journey gives you the best chance of creating a positive, engaging experience.
And it’s that outcome that will lead to the purpose of journey mapping — and higher ed marketing in the first place: higher enrollment and retention rates.
For more insight and answers to the question “What is Journey Mapping?”, listen to our podcast “Journey Mapping” . This episode features AMPERAGE CEO Bryan Earnest and co-host Rachael Holland, AMPERAGE director of marketing, interviewing AMPERAGE’s Vice President of Strategy Erin Bishop about the power of the journey map.