How to Improve Business with a Guest Journey Map

Image: Dubo / Shutterstock

Within the bar and restaurant industry, we talk a lot about both guest experiences and storytelling. These are two important aspects to understand when putting together your marketing plan.

We know (or should know) that guest experiences are important to ensure that our guests build an emotional and memorable connection with our brand to develop loyalty, affinity, and “brand ambassadors.”

With storytelling, bars and restaurants must now make their stories meaningful, personal, emotional, simple, and authentic. Despite the word “story,” it isn’t even confined to the written word. Colors, decor, vendors, staff training, plating, glassware, and packaging—even the simplest visual segments within your brand messaging—can all paint a picture worth a thousand words.

Here’s another fun component of storytelling: It’s not just a tool to engage our customers, it’s also a powerful way to teach us operators even more about our targeted guests.

Today, paying guests are complicated, emotional, and confused individuals. What’s an easy way to better understand them while maximizing the potential of the guest experience?

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The answer: Develop what’s referred to as a “guest journey map.” You’ll find out how to get started below.

1. Guest Profile(s)

First things first: know your targeted guest profiles. I don’t mean just their age cohort and their average income—that would be too easy. Let’s take it a few steps further.

  • Give your person a name and photo. Let’s say her name is Sarah.
  • Sarah is 40 years old, married, and making $64,000 per year as a sales manager.
  • She has a 5-year-old at home, a home she owns with her husband.
  • She has established wealth: Sarah and her husband are well educated and well traveled.
  • They focus on the quality in their purchases: in restaurants, in stores, and online.
  • She enjoys good food, good wine, and ethnic flavors, but prefers natural or organic products.
  • She is into DIY gardening and home remodeling. She is physically fit and pursues sports.
  • She appreciates and makes liberal use of technology but still reads local magazines while spending nearly double the national average on entertainment.
  • She spends the following on food purchases: $474 groceries + $202 on food away from home.
  • She is motivated by her career and family plus taking vacation time with her family.
  • She is concerned about and frustrated by not spending enough time on herself or with her friends.
  • She uses Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for her social media platforms.

Do you have a vision of this person I just explained? It’s ideal to create two to three different profiles of your target customers, based on your area. Every person reading this will have slightly different profiles. If you’re targeting ages 21 to 40, create one profile for a 21-year-old, one for a 30-year-old, and one for a 40-year-old.

Why? Because they’re all going to be different as they’re all going through different points in their life. You simply cannot target them the same way or think they’re going to have the same guest experience when they arrive in your venue.

Like the people themselves, buyer personas change over time with the market, the times, and flows of different products and services. Information on attitudes, lifestyles, activities, and spending habits—how people spend their time and their money throughout the day—leads to the formation of psychographic profiles of a specific population, as shown above.

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It’s important that this profile is reviewed every six to twelve months within your venue.

2. Experience Map

Now that you know two to three of your most targeted guests, create an experience map for each person. Create one that will tell the story of each experience: from initial contact through the process of brand engagement and into a long-term relationship.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You can also ask these questions of actual guests of yours that fit within each psychographic profile. The best and easiest way to create this map is by creating a chart:

Top Row:

  • Pre-Visit: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling before deciding on brand?
  • Entering: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling as they enter venue?
  • Ordering: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling as they place their order?
  • Finding Seat: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling as they sit down?
  • Eating & Drinking: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling as they eat their meal?
  • Paying: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling as they are paying and exiting?
  • Post-Visit: What is the guest thinking, seeing and feeling after their visit/meal?

Left Side:

  • Verbatim: What are they thinking during each noted experience point?
  • Guest Actions: What actions are they doing during each noted experience point?
  • Pain Points: What could potentially create a negative emotion during experience point?
  • Goals: What are their personal goals during each experience point noted above?
  • Touchpoints: Which branding and marketing points will create an emotion? List here social media, website, print, staff, menus, signage, exterior etc.
  • Emotional Experience: The feeling. Revised every 90 days. Are they happy, sad, confused or angry? If it’s not a 100-positive emotion, make adjustments.
  • Opportunities: What opportunities does the brand have to ensure it creates a positive experience during each touchpoint?

It’s important to recognize that the journey map needs to be revisited every three months to analyze and adapt any changes, allowing you to create more positive opportunities.

3. Design It

Don’t overthink it, but at minimum create a chart on Word or PowerPoint, for example. Think of the guest profile and map as a series of posters pinned to the staff information wall. The guest profile should fit on an 8.5x11 document while the map should fit on one 11x17 landscape document.

At a glance, leaders and front-line staff should be able to see the key touchpoints that a guest passes through. It should remind them that the guest’s needs must always be at the forefront of their thinking.

4. Implementation

Now that you fully understand your target customers and what they’re thinking and doing throughout the entire interaction with your brand, you can implement stronger activities and campaigns within your marketing plan, operations plan, and training program.

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In summary, a journey map gives leaders within a bar or restaurant an overview of the guest experience. It tells an in-depth story of what people are thinking, seeing, feeling and touching throughout their experience. Without that important information, your marketing plan will be weak and your concept will not be prepared for the potential of scalable growth.

Want more? Doug Radkey will be hosting the Nightclub & Bar Show 2020 presentation “When One Just Isn't Enough: Expanding Your Business,” sharing his experience as an operator and consultant. Donald Burns, Andrew Freeman and Candace MacDonald are teaching Workshop 5, “Breaking the Marketing Machine,” Aleya Harris is hosting “Advanced Marketing: Building Your List to Personalize Your Message,” Andrew Corbett is presenting “Nightlife Marketing Promotions to Fill Your Bar,” and Jayne Portnoy will host “The New Four P's in Marketing.” Don’t miss out on these and many more game-changing marketing presentations—make sure you’re registered for the 35th Nightclub & Bar Show today!

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