It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that marketers love buzzwords. After all, we invent them.

But there’s a reason googling ‘buzzword fatigue’ turns up pages and pages of hits. Particularly once a new term takes off and everyone jumps on the #bandwagon, buzzwords can very quickly lose all meaning.

It doesn’t help that marketers are under constant pressure to be new and exciting. Combined with the tendency for buzzwordy ideas to quickly get diluted, you often end up with a “revolutionary new system” that everyone simply must implement, that in practice is just new words for the same thing you were doing last year. Cue the buzzword backlash, the contrarian think pieces, the inevitable cycle on to ANOTHER buzzword to replace the first.

Which brings us to customer experience (CX). If we were to place a dot for CX on the Gartner Hype Cycle, we’d probably put it beginning its slide down to the Trough of Disillusionment. It’s been all over marketing industry events, think pieces, and blogs (oh hi), and it’s probably almost time for the next big thing. And that’s too bad, because if you cut through all the hype around CX, you’ll actually find some pretty good stuff.

So first off, what is CX, under all the hype?

Noah Brier touches on this in his book The 5 Tensions of Marketing Orchestration: the reality is that it’s probably going to be a little different for everyone. That might sound like a cop-out, but stick with us.

It’s going to be a little different for everyone, but there are two fundamentals that are essentially universal: orientation around customer journeys, and utilization of all available channels. Let’s unpack this a little.

Orientation around customer journeys. Wait, marketing has ALWAYS been about journeys. Isn’t this just new words for what you’re already doing?

Not quite. In the past (and often the present), marketers have been focused more on funnels, with a neatly linear progression from awareness to consideration to purchase. While easy to fit on a slide, funnels are very much focused on the marketer’s perspective of the customer. CX is about looking at the process from the customer’s perspective.

Nobody just wakes up one day and decides to embark on The Customer Journey. Instead, they have a goal they want to accomplish, or a task to complete, or a consequence they want to avoid. At every point in the journey, the customer is trying to do something, and we guarantee you it’s not “become aware of, consider, purchase.”

CX is about getting better, as marketers, of recognizing where our customer is on the journey as they perceive it, what it is they’re trying to do at that stage, and how we can help them do it. Ultimately, this helps us get better at creating content that the customer will find compelling. In turn, that makes us more effective – which means a nice step towards those revenue targets.

Utilization of all available channels. This grows naturally out of orienting around the customer’s actual journey. When you’re thinking through how to help your prospect accomplish their goal at each step, the next question is where best to reach them.

Modern marketers have a lot of channels at their disposal. A LOT. (And if you’re curious about when and how that came to be, Noah covers that too in The Content Bottleneck). CX is about figuring out ways to use all of your channels to bring your customers relevant messages at the right place and time – and to keep those messages consistent.

This will then give you a blueprint for not just what to create content about, but what type of content you’ll want to focus on for each area of the journey. We get a benefit of creating content that’s more effective in the first place, and of thoughtful delivery making sure it doesn’t go to waste.

Those two principles will be central to pretty much every org’s CX strategy, but here’s where things vary.

Your company will probably have one or more other definitions of CX, unique to you, your product or your market. And that’s fine! The important part here is, everyone has to agree. You can’t successfully execute a plan if everyone’s not on the same page about what the plan is.

Don’t let the buzzword fool you – whether you call it CX today or something new and trending tomorrow, the customer-centered marketing approach has a lot to offer, particularly for marketers with revenue goals that vastly outpace their budget (and that’s, like, all of us, right?). At its heart, CX is just an evolutionary improvement on what we’ve always done – understanding the customer, offering a solution to their problem, and reaching them when and where the time is right.