Intent Signals cartoon

One of the mythical holy grails of marketing is to be able to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.  Easier said than done.

Despite all the focus on customer journeys, we’re still operating in the dark on what customers are actually looking for, much of the time.  

Even the latest marketing tech stack tools and constantly more robust customer data can give us false confidence that we know what people want when they want it.

Some of the disconnect relates to marketing myopia and what I think of as “marketing funnel vision” — treating buyers as if they’re always on a linear transactional path to purchase.  The reality is that potential customers are complex humans who don’t think about brands nearly as much as marketers think they do.

Marketers try to read the tea leaves by collecting and analyzing a dizzying variety of “intent signals” — ranging from overt cues (like filling out a lead generation form to download a white paper) to subtle guesswork, like how long someone lingers on a product page.  

“Work is more fun with framed marketoons on your wall”

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Marketing myopia can skew intent signals like a funhouse mirror.  Not all intent signals are created equally.  Many decay quickly (giving an email address one day doesn’t mean you’re in the market a week from now).  And they can be easily misinterpreted when analyzed in a vacuum.  Much of the traditional marketing funnel is a dark funnel and we can’t track most of the customer journey.  There’s a lot marketers won’t be able to see.

AI promises to turbocharge all of this.  But we have to be careful the false confidence that already exists doesn’t get turbocharged as well.  With the same marketing myopia, an AI-powered customer journey may only result in annoying customers more efficiently.

I think we have to approach marketing with humility.  Bad personalization is worse than no personalization.

Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: