The inter­na­tion­ally renowned spy nov­el­ist John Le Carré once said of his work, “I am still mak­ing order out of chaos by rein­ven­tion.” He takes cur­rent events and cul­tural atti­tudes and weaves them into his espi­onage thrillers, cre­at­ing nov­els that are both pop­u­lar and time­less. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, writ­ten in 1963, com­mented on the tur­moil and folly of the Cold War, skew­er­ing both East­ern and West­ern nations. Yet it rose above con­tro­versy to win that year’s Best Crime Novel award, become an adapted screen­play, and be cel­e­brated as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary work of fiction.

Why am I devot­ing a para­graph on a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing blog to a spy nov­el­ist? Because Le Carré is an excel­lent role model for dig­i­tal mar­keters. He chose not to con­form to one easy cat­e­gory, like pulp fic­tion writer or polit­i­cal essay­ist. He rein­vented the spy novel form, and made a last­ing impact. Today’s dig­i­tal mar­keters are striv­ing for this same blend of thrilling enter­tain­ment and mean­ing­ful con­tent to help them stand out and connect.

To achieve this Le Carré-like cus­tomer engage­ment, you’ll need to first gather valu­able cus­tomer data, and then orga­nize it to find mean­ing and cus­tomer insights.

Gather Intel­li­gent Cus­tomer Data

Your dig­i­tal tools and meth­ods are only as good as the cus­tomer insights they’re founded on. Begin with a broad view of your audi­ence and con­text the way Le Carré first observed the trends and shift­ing cul­tural cur­rents. The big pic­ture enables you to develop focused strate­gies that are rel­e­vant to your customers.

Start by gath­er­ing all the cus­tomer intel­li­gence you can—particularly the intel­li­gence that can be lever­aged to pro­vide greater value to those same cus­tomers down the line. Gain insider knowl­edge on what moti­vates your tar­get audi­ence. Con­sider your cus­tomers and fol­low­ers your spe­cial agents in the field, send­ing back valu­able infor­ma­tion about how civil­ians per­ceive your brand.

You can source data from the Web, mobile devices, and social plat­forms, as well as in-person inter­ac­tions and cus­tomer ser­vice calls. The more data points you access, the more three-dimensional your big pic­ture will be. And it’s not just about mul­ti­ple data sources, it’s about mul­ti­ple data types, includ­ing quan­ti­ta­tive demo­graphic details, behav­ioral and trans­ac­tional infor­ma­tion, qual­i­ta­tive cus­tomer feed­back, and geolo­ca­tion. The cumu­la­tive data can yield insights into cus­tomer behav­ior, increased cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, and increased ROI.

Make Order Out of Tech­no­log­i­cal Chaos

Order means orga­ni­za­tion, sys­tems, and clear direc­tion. It does not mean rigid and restric­tive rules or uni­lat­eral deci­sion mak­ing. It means scal­able tech­nol­ogy and a diversely tal­ented, inter­de­pen­dent team. It does not mean cum­ber­some soft­ware or orga­ni­za­tional silos.

Slate began mea­sur­ing “page views, refer­rers, mobile usage, and other met­rics to pro­vide mar­keters with action­able, real-time Web ana­lyt­ics about dig­i­tal strate­gies and mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives.” With a high vol­ume of daily con­tent being pub­lished, Slate’s goal was to reach read­ers with the most recent and rel­e­vant sto­ries as they entered the site. The online mag­a­zine was able to use customer-centric pre­dic­tive ana­lyt­ics meth­ods to derive the most use­ful insights from its vis­i­tor data. Slate ulti­mately auto­mated the process of min­ing data to unearth unique cus­tomer seg­ments, or per­sonas, and then viewed how each per­sona behaved when pre­sented with var­i­ous content.

Slate excels at gen­er­at­ing user engage­ment and inter­ac­tion, and has set up automa­tion to update arti­cles with up-to-the-minute social activ­ity, high­light shares, likes, tweets, and com­ments from across chan­nels. This level of seam­less, mul­ti­chan­nel inte­gra­tion would not be pos­si­ble with­out the tech­nol­ogy to nim­bly har­ness, ana­lyze, and amplify cus­tomer data. Slate’s Web ana­lyt­ics sys­tems ensure that it doesn’t miss impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ties for per­son­al­ized connections.

Rein­vent the Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Genre with Dig­i­tal Expe­ri­ence Management

Nat­u­rally, we want to be on the cusp of new trends and inno­va­tions. But con­stant tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment can leave behind even the most dar­ing com­pa­nies if they are unable to stay in tune with cus­tomers and build flex­i­bil­ity into their dig­i­tal processes.

As John Mel­lor, vice pres­i­dent of strat­egy and busi­ness devel­op­ment for Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing, reminded us at Adobe Sum­mit 2014, “The world is more con­nected, and con­sumers want to inter­act [on their terms].” Dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence man­age­ment is the new frame­work for all our tech­no­log­i­cal invest­ments. Cus­tomer inter­ac­tions should inform your dig­i­tal processes, enabling you “to meet or exceed cus­tomer expec­ta­tions and, thus, increase cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, loy­alty and advo­cacy.”

In mys­tery fic­tion, the writer needs to mas­ter­fully tie mul­ti­ple clues together to cre­ate an excit­ing and sat­is­fy­ing expe­ri­ence for the reader. In the evolv­ing dig­i­tal age, sus­tain­able mar­ket­ing processes need to be both adapt­able and sta­ble; pow­er­ful yet user-friendly; and able to weave a seam­less and engag­ing nar­ra­tive for the cus­tomer. To nav­i­gate the dig­i­tal chaos, make cus­tomer expe­ri­ence your yardstick.

In my next post we’ll go deeper into the dig­i­tal processes that can help you move from the big data pic­ture to indi­vid­u­al­ized cus­tomer journeys.