When was the last time you used your customer journey to make a decision? Be honest. We’ve noticed that while many marketers have a customer journey, few are using it to drive decision-making. The result? Your customer journey is gathering dust. It’s not helping you, and it’s certainly not helping your customers.  

As marketing struggles to demonstrate its impact on business performance, budgets are starting to recede.  A Gartner study revealed that in 2017, marketing budgets fell to 11.3% of company revenue. This decline follows three consecutive years of growth with a peak of 12.1% of revenue in 2016. Reasons are varied, and wrought with anxiety. Gartner also reported martech spending is down by 15% amid concerns over managing technology effectively and efficiently. CMOs are overwhelmed and distracted by friction between legacy objectives such as brand sentiment and demand generation, and making an argument for large, cross-functional centers of excellence and customer experience programs that often have yet to prove out in performance and profit.

This lack of focus, paired with competing priorities, makes it difficult to dedicate resources to metrics that really matter – which is how marketing activity delivers ROI and profitability to the organization. The failure to get a handle on this divide will result in continued budget losses, and a strained story about delivering value that leaves your CEO and CFO wanting more. With budgets in jeopardy and a fuzzy narrative about the path forward, immediate next steps are more frightening than freeing. What you crave is vision. Not the eleven-steps-ahead-someday vision. You need something more urgent.

You need connectivity that bridges internal and external forces, and a framework to vault the customer to the center of business activity, instead of deploying old-school tactics and measurements under the guise of “customer-first.” You know you can’t build relevance from campaigns and impressions, but you may not have the tools to change the formula.

It’s not just you.

What marketer isn’t tackling these challenges daily, weekly, quarterly, annually? In 2016, the CMO Council found that the lack of customer-centric vision is pronounced. A full 49% of senior marketing leaders said multi-channel alignment was selective, with some ties between physical and digital, but others remaining “totally disconnected.” What’s more, 26% of respondents cited a “challenge to align platforms, measures and data related to each online or offline experience.” The difficulties haven’t let up in 2018.

What is the surest path to demonstrable returns?

To get it right, recalibrate how to collect, measure, analyze and optimize data to create a cohesive physical and digital experience that serves your customer. It’s a culture change, not a marketing change. It requires grit, patience, hard choices, and the perseverance to break habits and inertia. It even demands a new look at year-over-year budgeting.

Gartner found that nearly half of CMOs either roll last year’s budget into the next year, or apply an incremental percentage increase on last year’s budget. Both methods rely on a dangerous assumption that what you did last year, or in the aggregate of prior years, worked. It handcuffs you to past performance and historical thinking instead of anticipating future returns. It is the opposite of optimization, innovation and revenue contribution. Assume nothing, but ask: What activities work? What doesn’t?

Demonstrable returns monetize your data. If data is a business asset, and you reorient your organizational culture around data-driven decisions with a relentless commitment to serving customers, you will see results in your numbers. You will make money. You will no longer find yourself sweating the minutia of campaign creative – you’ll have a handle on what works, what doesn’t, and what your customers need from you. Here are the four elements you need:

The Connected Journey
A tool for cross-functional decision-making  

Journey 2.0 is no longer the broad-stroke, static curve of activity from awareness to purchase. The connected journey transcends marketing siloes by layering customer impact points across time and channel. It’s rigorous research that is data-driven, and dynamic. It informs every content decision a marketer makes as a holistic view of a customer’s experience. As an organizational tool, it is to be shared widely to document which internal processes, departments and tactics serve customers across their journey.

Journey Analytics
Measurement based on the consumer, not the channel

Measurement remains siloed. For example, it’s not uncommon for the marketing automation team to admit they really don’t care about the how the paid media team is doing - it has no relevance to them, and neither team is held to a common, customer-centered performance standard. Journey analytics is the companion to the connected journey that can change that.

Journey analytics is precision measurement of the right metrics along the connected journey. Journey analytics drive business decisions such as budget allocation and testing priorities. As with the connected journey, it brings activity across multiple channels into view to help you understand customer decisions along distinct stages. It’s the unified, actionable view that marketers long for to focus and allocate spend to the right impact points. It gets the right people talking to each other about the success or failure of effort and investment.

Persuasive Content
Persuade, inform, delight and provoke

The rocket fuel for marketing is top-quality content that persuades, informs, delights, and provokes action. Content that connects to customers consistently over time. Content that builds relationships by meeting specific needs. When you work the connected journey, persuasive content is the outcome. You will know exactly who you are talking to and why. The key to powerful content is context and specificity, and the connected journey framework helps you capture the research and insights required to create both. When you’ve created a rigorous optimization loop within your organizational culture, you are constantly analyzing performance data to tease out insights to sharpen the impact points to then inform and evolve what you produce.  

Your content, or how you say what you have to say, differentiates you. It will help you earn customer loyalty and advocacy if you do it right. If your content is powered by journey analytics, you are well on your way.  

Technology and Execution
How it all gets done

If persuasive content is rocket fuel, then technology and execution are the pistons and the pit crew. No more hand-wringing over which technology platform is the right one for you, and no more tears shed over the realization that no one platform or suite of technologies is a panacea for pain. The martech space is loud, crowded and full of solutions. It’s now incumbent on marketers to get a grip on signals versus noise, and how meaningful data serves their operation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Our own Dave Woodbeck will be digging deep into the Connected Journey on March 21st at the IBM Think Conference in his presentation, “Why Is Your Customer Journey So Difficult? 3 Strategies CMOs Can Use to Solve It.” Check it out, or download your own "Connected" Journey Maturity Model" to learn how to activate the journey to better serve your customers and your bottom line. We'd love to hear your challenges or successes with the customer journey in the comments below or you can always contact us

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