What CIOs should know about the buyer journey

You’re stuck in a conference room with a bunch of sales and marketing types discussing how they’re looking to use their new marketing technology toys to drive incremental revenue and keep the promises they made to you about ROI.

You want to contribute to the conversation but then it turns to the “customer/buyer journey,” and having not spent an overabundance of time selling face-to-face in the field, you’re starting to feel a little outside your comfort zone. In reality this is the perfect time to increase your value to the business by raising important questions and offering insights that even the marketing people may be ignoring.

The important thing is that you can apply your own professional customer journey to whatever industry segment you’re working in. Needless to say, if you’re at a technology company, you have a distinct buyer journey advantage because you’ve probably actually been on one!

From a historical perspective, customer journeys have always been around in some form or another. If you Google the term, you’ll find dozens of definitions dating back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Fast forward to the digital age and there is an incredible number of business and emotional elements that are involved in even the most basic online purchases. Every stage of every journey is wrapped around a complex web of content engagements in virtually every medium or channel that can reach a prospective buyer.

At the most rudimentary, stripped-down level, many sellers consider the journey to be the following:

  • Awareness – Understanding the market landscape and the products available to solve a problem
  • Consideration – Determining the difference between competitive products and the economics of how they fit a potential use case
  • Purchase – Coming to an informed purchase decision and signing the deal 

However, no self-respecting marketing or sales person would settle for something so basic, as it oversimplifies our jobs and pay grade. For this reason, there are galleries of buyer journeys of all shapes, sizes and stages.

Plus, and perhaps the most important, this “lite” model ignores the fact that the buyer journey does not end at the purchase. The fact is that the most important stages begin at the purchase, which most of us view to be in the middle of the journey.

Powerful stages post-purchase

So the fact that you would ask the question about “missing stages” gives you immediate credibility about understanding the way products are purchased (and socialized) in the digital era.

For example, despite still being somewhat sparse, the full 360-degree view of the business units’ sales and marketing efforts would include the following:

Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy 

For those in IT who wax poetic about digital transformation, these two new stages in the journey may be the most familiar to do. I just ran a focus group of CIOs in the healthcare sector where we discussed their own customer journeys. With all the sales and thought leadership content available to make an informed decision about healthcare technology products, it was unanimous that their number one source for reliable advice on purchasing or renewing a product was from other CIOs.

Peer advocacy

If we transfer that thinking to how all kinds of purchase influences in other industries decide on new product initiatives, it becomes obvious that sales and marketing must create easy access to that peer insight throughout the advocacy stage.

Business-driven IT leaders must proactively explore how those community connections can be made for the units they service. This is why having embedded social networks talent within enterprise IT can be an extremely valuable investment for building a trusted partner relationship with the businesses.

IT organizations that understand that sales does not end at the purchase, and can offer solutions for the increasingly critical retention and advocacy stages, can avoid the disintermediation and irrelevance that has run rampant in their relationship with sales and marketing leaders.


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