Journey Marketing 101


You’ve probably heard the term ‘journey marketing’ along with some of (okay, lots of) the buzz that surrounds it. So what’s behind the growing interest in journey marketing?

By Rich Herbst


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. In practice, it’s a move away from more conventional, broadly based (some might say scattershot) communications in favor of highly targeted messages that are personalized for a particular customer’s or prospect’s unique stage in their lifecycle journey with a brand, from awareness and interest through engagement, experience and expansion. There are many ways the journey approach is transforming traditional marketing practice, here are a few of its key advantages:

⊲  Its customer-centric focus means marketers have the ability to listen and react to customers and prospects on an individual basis and in real time. In effect, the customer actually creates and shapes the experience, directing the actions of marketers responding to individual behaviors.

 Journey strategy allows for continuous engagement with customers at the personal level throughout their relationship with a brand.

  Customer engagements with a brand are continually optimized to deliver better experiences that meet their changing needs.

Far beyond automated marketing systems and tactics, true journey strategy elegantly orchestrates the evolving relationship between the customer and a brand, allowing marketers to engage with customers on a highly personal level as well as respond virtually in the moment, making each experience better and more relevant than ever. And just as transformations happen a step at a time, a journey marketing strategy can be implemented on a small scale to prove success before being expanded across the greater organization.

Understand • Capture • Create

The journey approach is a way of marketing that helps marketers:

⊲  Understand how each person interacts with their brand at each point in their lifecycle.

Capture the flow of those interactions for analysis.

Create the most relevant message for that particular customer.

Not surprisingly, advanced data tools play a big part here. In addition to making the essential Understand•Capture•Create paradigm possible, the technology that powers journey marketing makes the customer experience better and more relevant through its ability to continuously update customer interaction data, so adapting to an individual’s behavior can be done in real or near-real time. It’s dynamic, conversation-like customer engagement, and that’s marketing at its most powerful.

Journey marketing creates better, more relevant customer experiences. And better, more relevant customer experiences produce faster revenue, profit and ROI growth, plus greater lifetime value for brands. Journey marketing helps solve some of the most essential business challenges faced by marketers today, including customer acquisition, onboarding, retention (upsell and cross-sell), win-back strategies and churn reduction. Its customer-centric focus provides a pivotal advantage in a crowded, competitive marketplace.


Individual journeys are immensely different. For example, are we talking about prospects or existing customers? At the awareness, consideration or buying stage? Customer lifecycles and engagements are typically nonlinear, meaning that in real life people don’t always take a pre-determined path but instead jump back and forth, change their minds and stray from the norm. By tracking these non-linear behaviors, journey marketing “keeps up” with each customer’s lifecycle to continuously engage with the most relevant messaging.

But let’s try to simplify.

Our first goal is to understand deeply how customers interact with a brand, what they’re experiencing, how they’re responding, what they’re expecting. Customer activity can be tracked across multiple channels: websites, email, social media and even offline channels, such as call centers and direct mail.

The data gathered from these engagements helps us discern critical patterns of behavior to clearly understand lifecycle experiences with a brand from a customer perspective, which in turn informs design of the dynamic journey experience at the individual level.

Leveraging the knowledge gained, journey marketing methodology is then used to guide the design and execution of optimal customer engagements across all channels and touchpoints, based on ever-expanding data specific to each customer and his or her experiences with the brand. Orchestration of the journey is now on a highly personalized level to produce a better (way better), more relevant customer experience.

What drives the more relevant customer experience? A big player (along with timing, frequency and channel) is the content of the engagement, which includes elements such as the creative, the product offer and the messaging. This content isn’t a simple, cookie-cutter proposition either, as dynamic versions for each customer and channel may be created. Advanced data tools extract value from the behavioral data to generate personalized versions of the content for each customer.

Even the best journey experience can be made better, and quickly. The technology tools employed allow data about each customer to be continuously updated (sometimes on a daily basis), so that a journey can be adjusted in real or near-real time to optimize the experience. This includes testing of content and other journey variables on a constant basis to ensure the evolution of the experience aligns with brand and organizational objectives.

How might a journey experience work in simple terms? Let’s use your website as an example. If a known visitor, Meredith, abandons a conversion page on your site, the activity is noted and an email is sent to her immediately with a pertinent offer. Or a display ad with an offer Meredith values can ‘follow’ her to appear on another web page she may visit. If data indicates Meredith engages on Facebook, she may be added to an existing, custom audience for that social channel. At some point in her customer lifecycle, she may choose to reach out to your call center, whereupon her customer data and recommendations for next-best actions can be accessed immediately, giving your rep on the line a full view of customer Meredith and the best chance at providing optimal offers.

For unknown visitors to your website, journey experiences can take shape as soon as they choose to let you know who they are. Third-party data can be combined immediately with their registration information, setting in motion the dynamic targeting process and launching new, personalized journey experiences right away.

If a marketer’s goal is to build a brand, and brands are being built today by engaging customers with experiences that are meaningful to them on a highly individual basis – wherever they are or choose to go – then the buzz around journey marketing will only grow stronger. Its data-driven approach and powerful personalization advantages give it the ability to deliver much better, more relevant customer experiences and extraordinary business value. And its ability to be applied initially on smaller scale projects to prove performance in market quickly make its introduction attractive to many organizations.

We hope this discussion of some of the fundamental principles of journey marketing and its impact on marketing practice today is of interest in your own endeavors. Use it as a jumping off point for further exploration in our journey marketing archives, or contact Ascend if you’d like to learn how journey strategy can give your brand the advantage to get to the next level.


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