The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu is often credited for saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That’s a beautiful quote. It emphasizes the singular importance of the first step…the directional heading…ambition…impetus…the seminal starting point.

However, a better translation from the original Chinese text is this: “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” That’s just as beautiful as the first version, but the emphasis is on a completely different part of the journey.

In the second version of the quote, the attention isn’t on the first step at all – it’s on the moment immediately before the first step, that moment of decision when you know something needs to happen. The journey truly begins “beneath one’s feet,” when you’re compelled to get up, to go, to launch, to begin the journey, to make that proverbial single step.

Therefore, I could argue that a journey of a thousand miles is actually made up of a series of these moments. There has to be motivation to take not only the first step, but each subsequent step after that.

Have you ever gone on a family vacation? Oh the best laid plans… I can’t think of any journey I’ve ever made with my family that didn’t require a “reassessment” of our itinerary, destination, dining options, entertainment plans, survival skills, parenting skills or general sanity somewhere along the way.

Looking back, many of those journeys could have easily ended with me turning the car around and going back home (as I unconvincingly threatened to do multiple times).

But they didn’t. The journeys continued and ultimately, became a series of critical journey moments. Those are the moments where we stand, right now, at this second, comprised of all that’s happened to us thus far – and all we hope for as the journey continues.

So, the second of four essential marketing truths is about recognizing the journey for what it is and trying to guide it when and where you can. The second truth is:

If you’re not managing the journey your customer is on, someone else is.

Marketers always hear about customer experience management, and it’s very important. But, even more important is to remember that you don’t have to control the first step in order to dictate the path. Just as Lao-tzu implied, the power to influence, empower and affect the customer journey lies beneath your feet…where you stand, right now.

It doesn’t matter who started the customer journey. What matters is who engages in real time marketing to manage the customer journey. If you are not engaging in the customer journey already, it’s time to get started. You need the analytics tools to be able to recognize the individual customers you’re interacting with and determine which journey they are on. Why? Because if you’re not managing the journey your customer is on, someone else is.