Digital Transformation / Strategic Planning

Follow the Breadcrumbs

mouseOrganizations put out an amazing amount of content out into the universe, so much so that I imagine it as a giant forest and the buyer is like a littler mouse who is almost overwhelmed by the idea of navigating through the woods to get to the cheese he hopes is somewhere out there (or, from the buyer’s perspective, solving his problem).

We’ve talked about tagging your marketing touchpoints to capture data and, when you apply that tagging to touchpoints and look at them a whole, patterns emerge. On the most basis level is the pattern of what the buyer is doing. (You may have heard of the concept of digital footprints. These are the pieces of data that users leave behind when they interact with content online. If you string each interaction together, you basically get what I call a trail of breadcrumbs. We’ll talk below about why I’m referring to breadcrumbs and not the digital footprint but digital footprints are super important so we’ll talk about them in a future blog post.)

I think of the buyer’s path through the forest of content as a trail of breadcrumbs the buyer leaves behind for us to see the route through all your marketing content in his journey. Your marketing transformation help make this breadcrumb trail visible and useful to marketers, not just practically but also culturally.

Breadcrumbs are Data

Client journeys fit into two macro-level categories. There is the intended journey that marketer wants buyers to go on and then there is the actual path –the breadcrumb trial –that the buyer really takes through the different stages of the purchasing cycle. By connecting various execution and measurement technologies, you can see the difference between the two. The first step, of course, is to come to grips with the fact that the intended journey was a hypothesis of what the buyer would do and the breadcrumb trail is actually a string of data points that can help you adjust your hypothesis.

Some marketers are not yet comfortable with data or technology (amazingly, even in some companies that sell technology).  They “leave that stuff to the experts.” In fact, according to the IBM chief marketing officer (CMO) study, 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to handle today’s “data explosion.” The issue here, of course, is that marketers need to become experts in their data or they can’t tailor the customer journey to the level modern buyers want, making the intended journey and the actual journey align more closely. And they certainly can’t use journey data in more complex ways to increase the organization more successful.

At a basic level, marketers have to understand that having this data is either an opportunity to improve their resumes and get these skills or that they need to consider moving to a role that doesn’t have anything to do with digital. There really aren’t too many other options, given the direction that marketing is going today. Get the human resources department involved and make this a priority early on in your transformation, even before you have your project plans finalized. Embracing data is fundamental to everything else that will happen later so don’t skimp on the effort here.

Even for marketers who accept that their campaigns are have a strong science component to balance the art aspect of it, though, you need to help make another cultural leap. Some marketers tend to fall in love with their intended journey. They can’t detach enough to think of it as a hypothesis they are testing out. The basis of the scientific method – that thing that all data users need to embrace – requires that you adjust your hypothesis based on the results of your test.

Make sure to emphasize that the transformation not only accepts testing but requires it to improve marketing. As part of that concept, help marketers understand that, since they likely don’t have a telepathic link to their buyers, the intended journey will never be perfect in its first draft – and that’s ok. People who can’t accept revisions will be less enthusiastic about pursuing data and improving the Mona Lisa they have created with their intended journey. And that is a sure fire way to sink a marketing transformation.

Breadcrumbs Show Performance

For marketers who choose to embrace data, the issue becomes “what to do with your breadcrumb data?” Help your marketers (and other users or contributors of customer journey data) to understand and apply the following concepts and you’ll be much closer to the fantasy client journey mappers have of how it should all work:

Marketing Optimization: As we discussed earlier, once you have all the necessary pipes connected properly, you can see what the customer actually did as he progressed through the buying cycle. This allows you to optimize your campaign and focus your efforts on ‘what works.’ For example, you can use tactic conversion rates to help identify channels and formats for the future or even re-organize the order in which you put tactics, especially if you did some A/B testing of that. You can calculate the return on investment of each tactic (when comparing to the revenue generated), cost per lead, and even customer lifetime value so you know which customer segments to focus on. The post-launch phase of a marketing campaign isn’t as sexy as the strategizing and creative development but this is where you can really improve the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Increased Buyer Centricity: You can also use the breadcrumbs to start comparing the actual journey to the intended journey you created. This often-overlooked way to use data is really where customer journey mapping is different from other marketing frameworks and where you can derive long term value for your organization in new ways.

You created an intended  customer journey based on your team’s understanding of a specific buyer persona. If the buyer didn’t follow the intended journey, or even progress through the stages as quickly as you expected, look at the data and try to determine why. Did the landing page cause most buyers to bounce and then pick up the journey from another piece of content? Did you’re A/B testing of the webinar promotions show that the key word you assumed would work best was actually not best, contrary to your persona research?

Build this data back into both your intended journey by adjusting the contents, the alternatives to the primary call to action, and so on. Then, take the data and add it into the buyer persona, so that you know which keywords resonate most with that buyer’s mindset etc. This will help you refine your target buyer persona and this deeper understanding will, theoretically, allow you to make your journeys more effective.

Comments are welcome, especially examples of how your organization uses intended versus actual journeys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *