Marketing Is a (Buyer) Journey, Not a Destination

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Our marketing discipline is about to get a whole lot more interesting and I have the numbers to prove it.

I’m referring to some eye-opening research. The CMO Club and IBM surveyed 100 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to better understand where they are investing budget now and going forward. However, instead of examining the normal list of channels like mobile or social, the question was framed around the buyer journey. Things got really interesting when 8 CMOs did in-depth interviews to share their perspective on the marketplace, the research, and its implications.

Today’s CMO is much more focused on investing across the entire customer journey from discovery to advocacy and allocating resources equally across them.

This research is significant as marketing has long focused on constructs of awareness and purchase funnels, placing emphasis or individual channels like social, digital, or mobile, etc. Now leading CMOs are not only working to understand their buyer’s journey, be it a new or existing customer, but also investing resources to create a comprehensive experience. They are also engaging across their organization to deliver this experience.

57% reported marketing budgets were going up, due to either strategic/innovation funds or strong organic increases.


And advertising is no longer king. Generating content is, grabbing the top expenditure spot. This makes sense when we think of content as the core of conversation that links the stages of the buyer’s journey, and therefore the engagement experience. One interesting note: The CMO testimonials made a clear distinction between the importance of quality content versus quantity content. As Chris Campbell, CMO of CNO Financial, humorously pointed out, “Our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish, we need to build content with that in mind…I am encouraging our team to produce less, more precise content.”

Driven by higher revenue success, rapid experimentation with multi-taskers is prevalent


Marketers are testing the waters and trying different channels to tie into higher revenue success. A & B testing has been a marketing competency for decades, but we are now testing multiple iterations across messages, channels, tactics, and buyer stages. Social, websites, email, digital, and apps consistently appeared in the top 5 when CMOs were asked about their preferred channel by buyer stage. The fact that digital channels are multi-tasking (addressing the buyer at different stages of their journey) may be a fortunate accident, but it allows for more agile and nimble experimentation to test and refine different engagements.

So what does it all mean? Our discipline is about to get much more interesting, but what should you do about it today?

  1. Read the full research brief (or check out the research infographic). While I have covered some of the highlights, it’s full of practical ideas for your business.
  2. Evaluate your understanding of the buyer journey and how you create an experience. CMOs are reporting spending across the buying stages but you must understand what that means for your business and what role marketing and other parts of your business must play across the buyer journey.
  3. Quantitatively review your content and determine if you are encouraging quantity or precise content. Think of content as the conversation, not as the collateral itself.
  4. Start experimenting (and failing) – that’s part of the job. You likely have the multi-tasking tools in place, don’t be afraid to experiment in new areas. Determine an evaluation time frame that makes sense for your business to measure and make changes quickly.

We are in for a very interesting journey as marketers. It is new territory, and the buyer is our guide. It’s an opportunity to challenge traditional models to and innovate—to be better at what we do and how we engage with our customers.

VP, IBM Customer Engagement Solutions

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