CMO audit series Part 1: Customer journey — the greatest strategic need
In this first article of a series dedicated to CMO-level audits, columnist Scott Rayden explains why understanding the customer journey is a key component for driving your brand's marketing growth.
Our CMO audit series is based on what we see as the six true drivers of growth in today’s marketing landscape: customer journey, technology, growth channels, user experience, devices and analytics.
Without a true understanding of the first one — a customer’s journey — marketing growth is severely hindered, even if a business nails the other five. In our years of working with high-growth startups and mature enterprises, the same top need is identified almost every time: to understand the customer journey better. I mean to really understand the customer journey.
But back to understanding the customer journey — what does that mean?
To know from empirical evidence:
- what motivates someone to need their solution.
- what they want to accomplish from the solution.
- what they consider success from the solution (the outcome).
- what questions they have as they decide whether to purchase or use the solution.
- what barriers and constraints they face in the decision to purchase, in the transaction itself, or when using the solution.
- what decisions they make along the way.
… and finally:
- which of the above is both most important and least satisfying.
If you can’t answer these questions off the top of your head, can your marketing team? Are your answers consistent? These seven points may seem to overlap a bit, but they’re all important.
Understanding your customer
Some decisions are more difficult for some people than for others, and they are highly dependent on context:
- If the user is in a rush, there’s less time for comparison shopping — the user may make a gut decision or may do nothing (not buy).
- If the user has financial constraints, he/she will tend to shop around more to make sure money is not wasted.
- If the user doubts his/her decision-making skills, he/she may walk away — or find a vendor who better connects his/her need with their solution.
Missing any of the seven aspects of understanding your customer handicaps growth. For instance, you might have the best channel-management techniques in the world, but if you have misaligned goals for each channel regarding what the customer needs, you’re cooked.
In today’s hypercompetitive world, this cannot be tolerated. If you’re not nailing what your customer truly needs, someone else will.
At 3Q, my employer, we gather data to understand what matters to buyers, and then we engage the client and our account teams to make changes that matter. The process looks like this:
The output is a detailed account and workshop of the findings. This fact-based discussion helps integrate what is needed to drive growth. From there, we measure results and watch growth accelerate.
This exercise is not set-it-and-forget-it. Brands should revisit periodically as customers adapt and as they add new products or services that address different customer needs or desires. And it’s not meant to be easy.
True understanding (or pursuit of true understanding) of the customer journey should ultimately influence every marketing decision and investment a brand makes. A big part of that investment — analytics — is what we’ll cover in the next edition of this series, so stay tuned.