The great mys­tery or spy nov­el­ist cre­ates a pleas­antly thrilling expe­ri­ence for the reader; one where they can’t pre­dict the next twist in the story, yet feel secure in the skilled hands of the writer, trust­ing that all the pieces will add up to a sat­is­fy­ing con­clu­sion. Dig­i­tal mar­keters strive for this same blend of trust-building con­sis­tency across touch­points with delight­fully sur­pris­ing con­tent that keeps cus­tomers hooked.

It is not easy to author cus­tomer expe­ri­ences that are simul­ta­ne­ously thrilling, use­ful, and mean­ing­ful. This kind of mas­tery can only be achieved with a store­house of pow­er­ful, rel­e­vant data to fuel customer-centric ana­lyt­ics and respon­sive dig­i­tal per­son­al­iza­tion. Just as the mys­tery nov­el­ist starts with the con­clu­sion and works back­ward drop­ping well-timed clues, mar­keters must place data in the big pic­ture con­text of cus­tomer behav­ior and desires. From the big pic­ture you can design a strat­egy and processes to meet the indi­vid­ual where he or she is, one touch­point at a time.

In my pre­vi­ous post, I talked about gath­er­ing and orga­niz­ing the data so you can see the big pic­ture. The move from big pic­ture to indi­vid­u­al­ized cus­tomer jour­neys requires two things: vis­i­ble, inte­grated data, and flex­i­ble, customer-centric dig­i­tal processes.

Put a Stop to Subterfuge

When your data is dis­con­nected or siloed, con­fu­sion results. Make your data vis­i­ble to every­one involved in your mar­ket­ing efforts, from cre­ative to IT. Your cus­tomer data is only as valu­able as your team’s abil­ity to inter­face with it. The more vis­i­ble your data and trans­par­ent your meth­ods, the greater (and more accu­rate) your insights will be. This shared vis­i­bil­ity is built on strong tech­nolo­gies and processes that can stretch across orga­ni­za­tions and mean­ing­fully con­nect departments.

Many orga­ni­za­tions today have no short­age of data. A com­plex sup­ply chain, global dig­i­tal reach, and mul­ti­chan­nel pres­ence con­tribute to a poten­tially over­whelm­ing pool of busi­ness and cus­tomer data, all of which is impor­tant to mon­i­tor. Get­ting a clear pic­ture of your data means get­ting the big pic­ture of your data. No sin­gle depart­ment can make a sound deci­sion with­out know­ing what’s hap­pen­ing through­out the cus­tomer experience—from start to finish—and under­stand­ing how other depart­ments are con­tribut­ing to that expe­ri­ence. Clar­ify and com­mu­ni­cate the big pic­ture of your data to your entire orga­ni­za­tion to pre­vent teams from work­ing at cross purposes.

Nov­el­ists some­times throw in a “red her­ring” (an inten­tion­ally mis­lead­ing clue) to keep read­ers from solv­ing the mys­tery too quickly. This is one way mar­keters do not want to mimic the thriller. Don’t let out-of-context data lead you to the wrong con­clu­sions about your cus­tomers. Be sure to study the big pic­ture of your cus­tomer data. As a whole it will guide you toward valu­able and authen­tic insights.

Build More Flex­i­ble (and Resilient) Dig­i­tal Processes

How many busi­ness processes does your exist­ing tech­nol­ogy sup­port? How inte­grated, auto­mated, aligned, and respon­sive is it? Invest­ment in robust tech­nolo­gies that can sup­port com­plex, people-friendly processes is crit­i­cal. In fact, a company’s dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing matu­rity can be mea­sured by its level of invest­ment in “peo­ple, process, and prod­uct.

Your dig­i­tal processes form the back­bone of your cus­tomer acqui­si­tion and engage­ment efforts. The more automa­tion in place, the more team mem­bers (and col­leagues across depart­ments) can access and inter­act with your data, mak­ing it eas­ier to quickly deliver cre­ative and tar­geted cus­tomer expe­ri­ences. Unfor­tu­nately, many dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies were not designed for change; they were designed for “cost effi­ciency and stan­dard­iza­tion,” and serve as lit­tle more than stop­gap solu­tions for grow­ing brands.

We can’t keep our data siloed and expect to give cus­tomers fluid inter­ac­tions across mul­ti­ple con­texts. To con­nect one cus­tomer inter­ac­tion to another—one touch­point to the next—you have to inte­grate the data around cus­tomer per­sonas, not orga­ni­za­tional depart­ments. When our data is dis­jointed, it’s like try­ing to solve an espi­onage mys­tery that’s had pages torn out and rearranged. When it’s inte­grated, it allows the cus­tomer jour­ney to unfold both log­i­cally and organically.

Let the Cus­tomer Choose the Adventure

Mobile, social, cloud, and big data have col­lec­tively trans­formed the rela­tion­ship between brand and con­sumer. Like nav­i­gat­ing the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, our audi­ences are becom­ing increas­ingly inte­grated in busi­ness and mar­ket­ing strate­gies and oper­a­tions. Cus­tomers want access, par­tic­i­pa­tion, and a guid­ing role in com­pany processes, from how and where trans­ac­tions take place, to social inter­ac­tion with user com­mu­ni­ties and indus­try experts. AirBnB, Uber, Kick­starter, and oth­ers all tap into this desire for a direct con­nec­tion to and own­er­ship of com­pany processes and products.

Make thrilling cus­tomer expe­ri­ences your goal, and robust and flex­i­ble tech­nolo­gies your means. Armed with the right tools and processes, you have the power to let indi­vid­u­als choose their own adven­ture through­out the cus­tomer life cycle.