Knowing how a company goes about getting and engaging with customers is an important but often overlooked part of marketing. If you ask most marketers how their company gets their clients they will point to sales or what some in the digital space call "last click attribution" - the last point of interaction a customer has with a company that gets all the credit for a sale. I believe every sale a company makes is the combination of several variables that marketing can't always control, but if you can understand how they influence the end decision you will arm yourself with the information you need to make the right investments.
Think about any purchase of significance you make - whether it's personal or professional - and the way you went about making a buying decision. I would bet there is some research involved, some reviews read, discussions with friends or colleagues and some internal and external validation of that final decision. As you can see there's a lot to take in - even more in today's information age, which is a great thing. All these online and offline data points that are processed should be points where marketing has influence. Understanding where prospects are taking in information and making sure yours is top of mind if not front and center is critical, especially in a competitive setting. Having what potential customers need near them when they need it and knowing the paths they take to process it is when marketing is at its best.
Another key aspect of understanding your customer journey is creating buyer personas. If you know the makeup of your customers beyond what they buy - where they come from, what they do, their influences and ultimately their motivations you can gain insight about what make them tick which can add fuel to your marketing pathways. I've helped create personas for companies in previous roles and each one had found great value in defining what their customers look like - even down to manufactured pictures.
It's easy to get complacent about a customer's journey to your business when sales are up and everything is growing to plan. Taking the time in those periods to understand who your customers truly are, how they got there and their impetus to stay and buy from you again will make the down periods more actionable and insightful.