It's All About the Journey

By Rich Herbst, Nancy Terrell and Peter DeTrempe


Rich Herbst
Nancy Terrell
Peter DeTrempe

It's All About the Journey

2018 was a big year for journey marketing. Not just an intriguing, ambiguous idea to most marketers anymore, journey marketing today is real-world strategy being deployed by many organizations across a diverse industry landscape. And from what we’ve heard at the Ascend Executive Round Table Series we hosted in several cities recently, we can report that it’s going nowhere except, well, everywhere.

We appreciate the opportunity to have learned about personal journey marketing experiences from numerous professionals attending our round table discussions and to have shared our own views from journey marketing’s front lines. The discussions were lively, insightful and revealed the journey challenges as well as solutions that are common to many. As we look ahead this year, we’d like to share what we heard and offer up some thoughts from these get-togethers as journey marketing continues to evolve, playing a leading role more and more in customer engagement strategy.

Free Up the Data

At the round table discussions, we heard from a wide variety of Fortune 500 executives across multiple industries: finance, telecommunications, healthcare, manufacturing and software to name a few. What subject was on the minds of most? No surprise — their data. Its massive amount, limited availability, inconsistent quality and how to leverage it skillfully to hone in on a customer’s mindset throughout the buying cycle to accurately predict behaviors.

Where data lives in an organization and the ability to access data were big issues at the roundtables. Data silos still dot the landscape of many companies, making merging information from disparate and disconnected data bases for critical analysis a daunting task at the very least. When data can’t be easily brought together to form a consolidated view of the customer’s experience or identify when they are pivoting to a different phase of the buying funnel, journey marketing programs can be stopped in their tracks. It was a clear source of frustration. So what are companies doing to combat this data dilemma? How are they successfully integrating data from around the organization to turn it into a powerful tool for journey marketing? We were able to share our own experiences using a thin intelligent data layer and various next-generation martech tools to help quickly frame a unified view of the customer that’s essential to journey marketing success. And we’ll be sharing more on the latest technology that’s helping drive the growth of journey marketing in an upcoming dispatch.

All In For the Journey

Another journey marketing challenge commonly mentioned by round table participants? Organizational responsibility and commitment. Who in the business will own journey marketing? Who decides the lead scoring model? Would that be sales? Or is it marketing? Over and above, is there buy-in to the journey strategy from all essential stakeholders? It’s complicated. But what we heard is this: to be most effective, journey marketing must coincide with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the efforts. And the level of company-wide commitment has definitive impact on momentum and success. Those round table participants who have vigorous executive support for the journey framework reported seeing advancement rapidly, while those whose organizations relegate journey to the mid-level marketing function or short-term, grassroots undertaking reported noticeably mediocre or lagging progress.


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It’s Personal

Executives attending the round tables keyed in on a big advantage that a journey focus brings — personalization of customer experience. All agreed that journey marketing is interdependent with brand strategy basics like segmentation, defining personas and positioning. However, journey marketing adds the means of executing brand strategy in a way that many marketers are seeing as fundamental to success today — highly personalized and data-driven, illuminating customer behavior and orchestrating brand experiences that anticipate customer needs, often in real time. What’s more, journey marketing’s command and intelligent use of data means customer journeys can be precisely assessed and continually optimized to make brand experiences better and stronger as they go.

What we heard is that high personalization is the ideal, but how do you reach that level? How do you build a library of creative that’s needed for such individualization? How can you manage all that creative versioning? How do you identify the data signals that lead to personalization? Important pain points were shared, with many challenges still to be addressed. In a future piece, we’ll discuss some of the practices and tool sets that are making the drive to personalization a more pragmatic proposition.

Big Thought: Start Small

The shift from “batch-and-blast” to journey marketing is transformational for any organization. So what’s the best approach to launching any journey program? Our round table colleagues, in all stages of journey marketing evolution, had some sage advice: Start small. And make it manageable. 

One participant’s organization was moving from basic, automated email campaigns to engage a more comprehensive journey strategy. Another was well down the road in delivering a journey experience, but is now working to better harness data for future campaigns. Yet another reported being stuck in their data, with the objective of reaching across silos to unleash an automated journey experience. In each case, the importance of an organization not taking on more than it could handle was communicated as the secret to success. The smaller playing field also makes managing a journey project in-market and learning as you go viable, a data-centric plan of action all preferred over lab-built strategies with no real-world testing and evaluation.

With agreement that the simpler, step-by-step approach makes instituting new journey programs more likely to succeed, there’s an additional dividend. As positive results start coming in, credibility for the program is built throughout the entire organization. One last word of advice from our round table execs? Patience. Journey programs tend not to be linear, so planning for refinements and improvements along the way is an essential component of the journey marketing experience.

Round Tables Wrap Up

What’s the principal takeaway from our round table discussions? If there were just one, it would have to be that the journey approach is transformational and fundamentally shifting the way marketers do marketing, giving them the ability to engage customers with their brands on a level that, until now, hasn’t been part of the conversation. It’s a highly personal and, ultimately, more human level that lets them meet customers where they are in a given moment, satisfy their needs individually and build relationships as never before, not to mention utilize resources most efficiently. For the marketers we heard from, it seems that’s a journey well worth taking.

We’re thankful for the enthusiastic participation and spirited discussions at our recent Executive Round Table Series. We look forward to sharing more insights throughout 2019 as journey’s influence continues to dramatically transform the marketing we’ve known and shape the marketing that will be. If you would like to join us at one of our upcoming Round Table discussions, please reach out and let us know!


At its core, journey marketing is a transformational shift in how marketers do marketing, in how marketers reach their customers and the information they provide them.

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