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Build a Customer Journey Map in 5 Easy Steps

Remember the age-old adage "The customer is always right?" Well, it's still true.

If you want your business to survive in a challenging, competitive environment, the customer experience is essential. You need a clear vision and strategy for solving customer needs and leaving them satisfied, so they will come back and engage again. 


Enter The Customer Journey Map.

In one 2022 report about customer journey mapping from Hanover Research, 94 percent of businesses using customer journey maps said they help develop new products and services to match customer needs. Seventy-nine percent said customer journey maps helped make them more customer-centric. And 91 percent said maps drove sales. 

But only 47 percent of companies use them.

It's no longer enough to present your product or service and "wing it" on the customer experience end. You have to anticipate what potential clients will do, how they think, and what they will feel about each step of interacting with your business. That's what a customer journey map can do.


What is a Customer Journey Map?

A customer journey map is a diagram that shows the process your customers go through when interacting with your business. It's a flow chart – a visual representation of a customer's experience with your brand. It could track an experience with your website, visiting a physical store, ordering a service, or any other interaction, and you can make one for each type of transaction. About 55 percent of companies using customer journey maps have between three and five versions.

Importantly, a customer journey map is data-driven. It should include "touchpoints" where a customer does something, plus the team members involved, the feelings customers experience, and whatever action you want them to take.

They often look like detailed timelines. Customer Journeys can ultimately help you refine the product or service you offer to better serve the customer and your overall community. You are ultimately leading to more revenue and better community engagement.


5 Steps to Building a Customer Journey Map

1. Set Your Goals

First, imagine a fictitious (but realistic) ideal customer. Imagine them interacting with your business as realistically as possible. Think about what you want this person to come away with after interacting with your business. Determine what the big picture and fundamental goals of your customer experience should be.


2. Conduct Market Research

Next, build up some data. You could interview actual customers and look through online reviews to see what the people using your business are really like. Talk with your team members as well. Find out how easy or hard it is to interact with your business and what customers are likely to do and feel about it.


3. Define Customer Touchpoints

Touchpoints are the moments customers interact with your business and how they experience your brand. The number and scope of touchpoints will depend on the business. A car repair garage is different from a coffee shop, after all. 

A customer might need to find you through a web search – how hard is it to reach your website? They might walk up to the counter and look over your menu – what kind of feelings does that elicit?

List every interaction from the initial idea to interact with your business, through finding you, making a purchase, using the product or service, and the resulting impact. Include information in each touchpoint, like what the customer does, how they feel, and any challenges they face.


4. Map Current States

Now organize your info on a graphic flow chart. Start with a timeline, placing touchpoints in order along it with employees/teams involved in each one. There's no "right" way to make it look, just as long as each step of a customer experience is accounted for. You should include how the customer feels and be as truthful as possible.

This is the current state of the customer journey, and it should help show where things are working well and where they could be improved. If you have team members, make sure they share input on the steps of the process they are included in.


5. Map Future States

Using your customer journey map, we now know how good the customer experience is – and where it could be better. It's time to start taking action. Referring back to the goals you initially established, determine where and how you could make the customer experience better. 

Maybe the transition between one touchpoint and the next could be smoother or require less of the customer's time. Maybe that coffee shop menu could be bigger and easier to read. Maybe getting in contact with customer service about an issue after the purchase could be more pleasant and easier to access.

Remember, a customer journey map is just a tool. It's not about playing the blame game but working together to create the best customer experience possible.


Learn how Cause Machine can help take your vision of a better customer experience and make it a reality.

Schedule your free demo.

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4 Best Email Marketing Tools

"Email marketing" sounds a bit old school considering it has been in widespread use for nearly 40 years. But when it comes to reaching customers, email marketing is still one of the most effective tools aspiring companies utilize.

Considering its importance, choosing an email marketing tool that serves your business needs is crucial. 

First, a little context for any doubters. 

According to recent research, email marketing has an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent – much higher than any other form of marketing. As of 2020, over 4 billion people use email worldwide, and by the end of 2024, 361 billion emails will be sent each and every day. That means consumers are comfortable with this form of communication, and many report being glad to hear from a business they like.

Actually, it’s more than that.

A full 60 percent of consumers have made a purchase as the result of a marketing email they received. In contrast, just 12.5 percent say the same of social media marketing. That may seem counterintuitive in the age of TikTok, but the numbers don’t lie, proving email marketing is still a vital part of the business world – especially if you have a small budget to work with.

If you’re a start-up business or one of the many digital creators aiming to monetize your work, you need to get this task right, and that means finding the best email marketing tool for the job. There is no shortage of services aimed at helping harness the power of “you’ve-got-mail,” but to grow a business effectively, you’ve got to know what to look for. 


Our Picks: The FOUR Best Email Marketing Tools. 


1. Mailchimp

When it comes to the best email marketing tools, this is one of the biggest names out there – and for good reason. Founded in 2001, it set the standard for the “all-in-one” email marketing category, and it’s still one of the best options for beginners or small operations. Its templates are clean, its drag-and-drop editing is intuitive, its automation will run effective email journeys and its analytics will help you decide what worked, and what didn’t.

All those features are bundled into multiple price tiers, and there’s a popular Free Plan for users with less than 1,000 email list subscribers. Not to mention, the Customer Journey automation tool serves your audience with timely content.

Key Features 

  • Industry-standard email builder that's easy to use.
  • Free plan if you have <1,000 email subscribers.
  • Great variety of features to automate and nurture your audience.


2. ActiveCampaign

Email Marketing Tool

ActiveCampaign is another top choice; its email builder is drag-and-drop with dynamic features that can serve a variety of your email marketing and automation needs. ActiveCampaign also helps optimize your work by letting you A/B test up to four email/subject line variations at a time. And if someone puts an item in their cart, but leaves without buying, ActiveCampaign can help get them back to finish the deal.!

Key Features 

  • Straightforward email builder with dynamic features for simple or complex email needs.
  • Automation builder that allows for easy creation and deployment of timely content.
  • Built-in A/B testing to get the most from each campaign.


3. HubSpot

Email Marketing Platform

HubSpot is much more than an email Marketing tool. In fact, they have developed quite complex software for all things CRM. The email marketing features offered by HubSpot are similar to numbers 1 and 2 on this list; however, where HubSpot is unique is its all-in-one CRM solution approach. Essentially it's like buying into an ecosystem where each tool (email marketing, website, CRM, etc.) is all running on the same system.

Key Features 

  • Industry-best email marketing features and customizability.
  • Great for growing companies needing an all-in-one solution.
  • Wide variety of features for small businesses.



4. MailerLite

MailerLite is an easy-to-use email marketing tool – especially for beginners – but where it really excels is at selling subscriptions. Users can choose from three campaign styles, then personalize the messaging for different target customers to get the most out of your email effort. Much of the workflow is automated, and one of the best features is its free version.

If your email list is 1,000 subscribers or less, you can design your own custom email campaign and send as many emails as you want, making it great for smaller businesses or digital creators with a subscription model. Many in the growing digital economy are focused on e-learning and online classes – it's an industry projected to be worth about 645 billion by 2030 – and if that’s you, this might be a winner. 

Key Features 

  • Targeted customization for different customer segments
  • Automated workflow templates
  • Free version for 1,000 subscribers or less


Email Marketing Serves One Purpose.

Email marketing is still an important part of today’s digital landscape, even if you’re not running a massive company. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a sound email marketing strategy/platform in place, your business can realize more revenue, greater customer loyalty, and growth.


Get Started With Cause Machine

Starting with a community engagement strategy is the secret to building a successful platform in the long term. Cause Machine helps customers build the plan of engaging a community well and then begin mapping out the technology to help support that strategy. We’re certain that you’ll find some great resources and powerful tools in Cause Machine to better engage your community. Learn how it can work for you here.

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How to Market Online Courses: 10 Must-Try Methods

By 2030, the online education industry is expected to be worth almost $200 billion*. But in this growing field, many entrepreneurs make a crucial (and understandable) mistake. They focus too much on the coursework itself.

It makes sense. Even with a great idea and the necessary expertise, educators know presentation is key – but it’s not enough. These days, knowing how to market online courses is integral, too. Each year, thousands of new online courses are created. In order to stand out from the pack, creators need to present their products well and capture attention. 



10 Methods on How to Market Online Courses

1. Know Your Audience

Even before you create your online course, there are some marketing rules you should keep in mind. The first is to know who you’re talking to. Imagine a person who is likely to take your course – this is your ideal user. Along each step of the way, you will make decisions with this ideal user in mind. From the way you write instructions to the color scheme and pricing, it should all be designed to appeal to them.


2. Identify Your Lane

The biggest question any brand faces is “Who am I?” so lock that answer down before moving forward. It should be crystal clear what problem your course solves or what need it fulfills. Make sure your course offers something of unique value with a unique voice, and remain laser focused on that identity. This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience. It may be tempting to try appealing to everyone, but you’ll end up appealing to no one.


3. Get Social

Now it’s time to start spreading the word, and the most powerful tool in your arsenal is social media. You should create accounts on major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, but don’t count out the smaller/newer ones. Ramp up to your course’s launch date by teasing small bits of valuable content, and then after the course is live, maintain a consistent posting schedule with quality content that drives conversation and engagement. 


4. SEO Is King

SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it’s the mantra digital marketers live by. Almost all of the internet’s search traffic (about 90 percent) goes through Google, so you should try to work within Google’s algorithm to become the top result for a given search term. There are lots of best practices for this, but the biggies include researching keywords and using those keywords in context on your online course platform. This will help push it toward the top of Google’s search results.


5. Targeted Ads

Once you know what keywords you’re targeting, you can use Google ads to create an advertisement that will appear when someone searches for those keywords. These can be incredibly effective since they only show up for people who are already interested in the topic. You can also use Facebook to advertise, using that ideal user you came up with to target specific demographic features like age, occupation, and interest. Another idea is to buy some influence. Use a site like Fiverr to pay social media users for tweets promoting your course, just like big brands use celebrities to endorse their products.


6. Check the Reviews

In today’s digital marketplace, consumers are understandably wary of getting ripped off by a fake product, so they often look for user reviews when deciding whether or not to buy. You can use this to your advantage by asking students to leave reviews of your course. Feature those positive reviews and testimonials front and center so potential customers know they’re getting the real thing.


7. Podcasting

Podcasting has quickly become one of the fastest growing media segments, and it can be a great option when deciding how to market online courses. Set up a show that revolves around the topic you are teaching, and host a conversational discussion about that topic each week. You could also seek out other podcasts on the same topic and appear as a guest. But no matter what, make sure to include a shout out to your online course at the end. You’ll soon be building an audience who may also become students.


8. Create Mini Courses

Once your online course is live, you might want to add a few smaller follow up courses, diving deeper into a related topic or something students expressed interest in. These add value to your brand and can also be promoted in the same ways we’ve discussed above. Tease them on social media before they launch, create a targeted ad to hook potential students, and talk them up on your podcast. It’s a great way to keep your content fresh and keep people coming back for more.


9. Sales and Bundle Deals

Everyone likes a good sale, so be sure to consider them on a strategic basis. You could go the traditional route, offering new students a discount for signing up. Or, you could bundle services together. If you’ve got multiple standalone courses, why not sell them as a package deal (for a limited time? Or throw in access to those new mini courses you developed—anything to give people a little added value.


10. Live Events

Finally, it may seem counterintuitive for a digital business, but getting in front of real people can still be a useful tool in how to market online courses. Seek out local events that are related to your course’s topic, and ask if you can give a presentation. You could preview part of your course for the audience and slide in a pitch to check out the rest at the end of your time. You can even consider hosting virtual events to drive even more course sales. Make sure you choose the right event management software to make your life easy. Some platforms even have event management and online course features already built in.  


There's a ton of interest in the online course business: 



In today’s online learning market, there is still plenty of opportunity for an expert with a great idea to start a thriving business. But in order to reach your full potential – and to maximize your return on your effort – you need to stand out. If you use these tips on how to market online courses, you’ll be on your way.



Get Started With Cause Machine

Starting with a community engagement strategy is the secret to building a successful platform in the long term. Cause Machine helps customers build the plan of engaging a community well and then begin mapping out the technology to help support that strategy. We’re certain that you’ll find some great resources and powerful tools in Cause Machine to better engage your community. Learn how it can work for you here.

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Master Alumni Engagement Best Practices

For any university, college, or school system, alumni networks are important. A network of alums doesn’t just help meet fundraising goals, but members can even act as public ambassadors, mentor students and offer post-graduation job opportunities, support athletic departments, and even help increase new student enrollment. 

But the key to all that is good alumni engagement, and not everyone does it well. Today we’ll explore some alumni engagement best practices to make your network as strong as it can be.


How Important is Alumni Engagement?

According to a 2020 report by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, alumni giving at U.S. colleges totaled more than $11 billion in 2019. That’s a lot of money, but it’s not spread out evenly.

Only 8 percent of U.S. alumni give to their alma mater on average, according to that same survey of 1,451 ranked colleges. Meanwhile, the top schools in the study were seeing giving rates of 44 percent and higher. Once again, the difference is a strategic approach to alumni engagement.

Donor Search notes that a full 93 percent of alumni associations “offer no direct benefits to their members.” Let’s make sure you don’t fall into that category.


6 Alumni Engagement Best Practices

1. Know Your Audience

As with any community nurturing operation, the first step is to know who you are talking to. Your alumni network is mostly likely diverse, so create a few categories and different messaging for each category of alums. Make sure to keep your member database (CRM) up to date, too – there’s no point in reaching out to people who have dropped off the rolls.

  • Update your database constantly.
  • Make sure you have a system for getting 'new' alums involved.
  • Segment your target members into categories.


2. Tailor Content to Your Alums

Now that you have some categories set up, it’s important to create messaging that speaks to each one directly. If you’re talking to fans of the school’s sports programs, keep that in mind. Graduates from an Education program? People with a Finance degree? Take a different approach with each different group of people. Not everyone will want to engage with the school. But lifelong fans are ready to jump in and support/engage how they can. 

  • Find out what content (videos, news, articles, podcasts, etc.) your alums will find valuable (test if you're not sure).
  • Create a distinct customer journey alumni will work through, then insert relative 'asks' along the way.


3. Don’t Just Ask for Money

Fundraising is a big part of why the network exists, but when it comes to alumni engagement best practices, you can’t just solicit donations and nothing else. Members will start to delete or ignore the content reflexively. Instead, send them news on new programs and sports updates, offer perks from local partner businesses, and anything that will make them feel like they're still part of the community. Free guides, offers, and perks are always good choices. 

  • Add in non-fundraising communication.
  • Include local news, program updates, and sports results are all good ideas. 
  • Offer alumni discounts from partner businesses.


4. Mix Things Up

People get bored easily, and if you’re only reaching out via one mode of communication, it will get old fast. Plan out a healthy mix of email campaigns, articles, video content, podcasts, snail mail, and even texting. Also, use video and social media to reconnect with old alums – especially alumni-generated content, which sees a high rate of engagement. Alumni photos from the big game? Student snaps of their favorite part of campus? That’s all great.

  • Utilize different modes of communication.
  • Vary between email, newsletters, alternate platforms, etc.
  • Highlight user-generated content whenever possible.


5. Keep It Steady

High on the list of alumni engagement best practices is regular communication. Plan out ways to be consistent in reaching out, even as you mix up the mode of contact and message. It shows you are engaged and that effort will be appreciated. It will also keep your school fresh in the alumni’s memory.

  • Set up an editorial calendar to track content production and publishing. 
  • Look to start monthly email nurture campaigns, quarterly newsletters, regular events, and reunions.


6. Deliver a Sense of Ownership

Finally, the most engaging alumni networks have one thing in common: They make their members feel a sense of ownership in the institution. They probably already feel a sense of pride in the school, so you just have to take that one step further. Creativity is welcome here, but it could be done with something as simple as a survey. Take the results, listen to the members, and keep them in mind when making changes, planning events, or expanding. Then report back through your network.

  • Remind alums that they (and their honest opinion) are valued.
  • Create surveys and act on feedback.
  • Build your site on a reliable membership platform that offers features to help engage alums.


To Succeed, You Need a Strategic Plan to Manage Alumni 

As we’ve seen, engagement is the most important factor in a high-functioning alumni network, and the returns on your hard work can be game-changing. These alumni engagement best practices aren’t complicated, and most of them aren’t even hard to do, but they will help you give the most to your members and get the most for your institution.


Get Started With Cause Machine

Starting with a community engagement strategy is the secret to building a successful platform in the long term. Cause Machine helps customers build the plan of engaging a community well and then begin mapping out the technology to help support that strategy. We’re certain that you’ll find some great resources and powerful tools in Cause Machine to better engage your community. Learn how it can work for you here.

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How to Create a Membership Website for Free

A membership website is any website with content that is 'gated' and hidden from the view of most users. They can be very useful and even profitable if built with a few best practices in mind. 

Membership sites are used by clubs, teams, professional associations, influencers/niche-based guru's, non-profit organizations, and even businesses (big or small). The possibilities are endless, but the purpose is the same: To foster community value, lead members on a journey, and create more revenue.

WIth a membership website, members-only content is what gets you there. You’re selling exclusivity, a pass into the private club. What if you're on a budget, not a programmer, or don't have tons of marketing/sales experience? No worries. You can still create a successful membership site for free. 


What do Membership Websites Do? 

First, it would be to define a membership website properly. It’s different from a subscription model. Both charge a fee for access to exclusive content like online learning courses, private newsletters, exclusive deals, or entertainment content, but membership sites offer all that plus features to participate in the community.

The content or access offered in the membership is often just a perk – a tool to help convince people to become more than users. Because once customers become members, it strengthens your organization. Whether through revenue from subscriptions, products sold, virtual events, or community engagement.


5 Steps to Launch a Free Membership Site

No two missions are the same, but if you’re looking to create a membership site free, there are some basic standard practices you can follow. Each method leaves room for interpretation and personality but will prove essential to success. 


1. Know Your End-Goal

Before you do anything, you first need to know what you’re offering and who you’re offering it to. If you’re running a small business, for instance, think long and hard about what sets it apart and why people will want it. Then consider which people love that specific brand of individuality. What could you offer as an exclusive experience? It must be something you can’t get elsewhere, and it must solve a problem. See who else is operating in your space, and try to stand out.

Action Steps

  • Create a customer journey outline.
  • Define what you do differently and why your target customer needs it.
  • Research and get to know your target customer as people (Typical interests, styles, hobbies, what are they currently consuming?).


2. Build a Value Proposition

Next, it’s time to build the selling point for the membership. You need to figure out what people will get for joining. Make sure the special offer aligns with your goals. Make sure this is simply communicated to the customer.

Action Steps

  • Decide what the basic 'bargain' will be – what do people get for joining? 
  • Figure out what that’s worth based on the current market, and see where you can compete/compare.
  • Keep it simple when it comes to creativity and extra complexity, especially as you get started. 


3. Set Your Pricing Levels

Now that you know what you’re offering, you have to price it. Using what you learned in the last step, strike a balance between what it’s worth and if you'll have any costs as you continue building and maintaining your site. One way to generate revenue based on your customers' commitment level is by creating membership tiers with different value propositions. Consider offering a free tier, which might translate into a paid membership later. Researching similar competitors in your specific market will give you a clear picture of what is successful. Depending on your niche, you'll need to adjust as you go.

Action Steps

  • Find a balance between what your offer is worth and your costs to deliver it.
  • Decide on membership structure and align it with your value proposition.
  • Choose a tier in the middle to recommend to potential customers.


4. Brand It

A key step in how to create a free membership website is branding. This is where you’ll give your website/platform a face – metaphorically speaking. Actually, you’ll give it a name, create a logo, pick a color scheme, and maybe even write a snappy slogan. Whatever you do, make sure it is crystal clear and speaks directly to the purpose of your offer. In short, make it professional, and take your time because people respond strongly to good branding, although it's not important as your content or product. That gives a brand its true identity.

Actions Steps

  • Create an official name that you can own wherever needed (Web URL, social platforms, etc.).
  • Design a logo and color scheme.
  • Make it easy to understand and interpret.


5. Build It

Now we have arrived at the fun stage; you get to build your own membership site and what it will contain. This can be a complicated choice as the 'solutions' are numerous. But again, there are a few basic practices that you can follow as you create for success.

There are countless membership site tools that you can use to craft your plan in real time. Many offer free trials or free plans altogether. Once you choose which is best, you can implement the strategies covered in this article into your approach. 

A few core things to include in your site are:
1. Landing page (make the sale here)

2. Membership options (Pricing tiers)

3. Clear Call to Action (CTA)

4. Gated content/experiences for exclusive members

5. eCommerce store to process transactions

6. A secure domain

Based on your needs, you'll want a platform where you can host exclusive content. Just remember this is the main attraction, so give it special attention.

Action Steps

  • Choose a tool/method for building your site.
  • Create a members-only space to host forums, event details, classes, etc.
  • Remember to include value propositions and sales material to gain new members.


These are some basic elements to create a membership website for free, and now you’re ready to get started. You'll need to dive deeper into a few specifics, like what membership platform fits your needs and how you'll work to deliver your content. 


Get Started With Cause Machine

Starting with a community engagement strategy is the secret to building a successful platform in the long term. Cause Machine helps customers build the plan of engaging a community well and then begin mapping out the technology to help support that strategy. We’re certain that you’ll find some great resources and powerful tools in Cause Machine to better engage your community. Learn how it can work for you here

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