I thought I was going to be a journalist.
I wrote for my high school and college newspapers and interned for several newspapers, covering everything from school board meetings to the Delaware poultry industry.
But life happened. And I became an entrepreneur and marketer. Not a professional marketer. Rather a card-carrying Seth Godin accidental marketer. But a marketer nonetheless.
Marketing has long been a place where lost souls like me from every industry could find a home. A fun home that valued new and big ideas -- never-been-done-before ideas -- over measurable, proven results.
Marketing is the only industry without a definition. A game without rules where anyone can jump in and define their channels and personal paths of choice.
But that game has ended, thanks to the tremendous mobility strides of the last five years. Everything is connected to the internet. Not an "Internet of Things," as we have been led to believe. But an internet of people -- an internet of customers who connect with everything.
People we labeled "consumers," "viewers" and "users" now expect us to know not only who they are but what they want, the devices they carry, the apps they use and the products they buy. Instant isn't soon enough. Free isn't free enough. Is it fair? Who cares? It's expected.
The good news is that these customer expectations have shattered our collective industry identity crisis.
The future of marketing is, quite simply, the process of mapping and optimizing journeys for customers. With so much at stake here, it's clear that there is a growing need for a steward -- a guardian for the customer's journey, looking after them to ensure an awesome and hopefully never-ending experience.
Previously fragmented campaigns must now become seamless experiences. Personalization is no longer a feature -- it's an expectation. Our reliance on cookies crumbles in a world with people and connected products at the center.
The smartest marketers at the most innovative companies have stopped focusing solely on the destination (a purchase, an upgrade, a download) and invested heavily in the journey. It's not that we don't care about the destination, it's that consumers won't get there if we obsess about the destination and reverse-engineer the journey.
It's the marketers -- the journey masters -- who are taking the lead here. More than half of the largest marketers in the world said they have greater ownership of all teams that touch customers and have been given greater revenue growth responsibility.
Marketers are no longer solely responsible for the distribution of messaging. They are responsible for the entire journey, from the initial touch to the win-back process and everything in between. The CMO is the new Customer Journey Officer.
As with all pivots, this is easier said than done. It's hard. And it will take time. But is that a reason not to start today?
Marketers need to help their companies answer four fundamental questions about the customer journey. Answering each of these questions is the essence, the truth, the most pure and specific definition of marketing. Most importantly, answering these questions is the future of the modern, customer-centric business.
1. Do you know your customers?
Customers expect you to understand who they are and connect with them on a highly personal level. Without a unified view of each customer, it is extremely difficult -- I'd argue impossible -- to reinvent how you do business.
2. Do you know where they are in their journey?
It's not enough to just know your customers. You need to know where a customer is in his or her journey with your business.
Are they a customer? Are they a former customer? Have they downloaded your app? A highly relevant and timely personalized customer journey is what every marketer wants to accomplish. This is impossible without mapping out all various customer journeys and knowing where your customers are in that journey.
3. Do you have a strategy to move customers along in their journey?
Once you have the first two questions answered, focus on a plan to map out highly personalized customer journeys. You need to have the organizational structure, content and strategy to execute optimized and personalized content across every channel and every device.
4. Are you able to measure the business impact?
How you measure business impact should be directly tied to customer journeys. You should be able to see at every given moment where any one customer is in his or her journey and, in aggregate, how many customers are in various places in the journey.
Marketers who embrace this new concept of the Customer Journey Officer will thrive and be rewarded. All others will be left behind.