Three Steps to Create a Holistic View of Your Customers | Part 1

The future of marketing is digital and I think we’d all agree on that by now. While technology is moving at a furious pace, there are three fundamental marketing problems that are the same today as they were decades ago. To be successful, marketers need to transform their approach, learn how to connect disparate systems, leverage data and develop effective customer experiences. We’ll explore all three and here’s part one of the Digital Marketing Imperatives series.

The first problem facing marketers is “reach.” As a marketer, how do you effectively reach the most relevant audience at scale with a limited budget? The complexities of rising above the noise and targeting individuals at the right time have been exacerbated by the digital connectivity of consumers, the use of multiple devices and a barrage of information.

Creating a great customer experience to convert unknown prospects effectively is another age-old issue for marketers. Even if you can solve the problem of reaching your target audience, the overwhelming majority of these prospects will be unknown to you. The challenge facing marketers is not the inability to create successful conversion points, it’s the difficulty in personalizing the customer experience to increase conversions from unknown visitors.

Once you’ve done that, the next challenge is accelerating prospects through the funnel to revenue as fast as possible. Once a prospect becomes known, marketing strategies need to change to support the last mile sales process and advance the prospect through to conversion. Email is the go-to tactic used to nurture prospects, but the challenge is that less than three percent of emails are opened and clicked (Email Marketing Benchmarks | MailChimp).

Each of these fundamental challenges presents opportunities to the modern day marketer as they transform their strategies to address the digital marketing imperatives they face.


Creating a holistic view of your customer isn’t easy. However, it’s foundational to delivering a compelling customer experience and addressing the three age-old marketing problems of reaching your target, converting unknown audiences and accelerating prospects through the funnel.


Business stakeholders want to understand the full customer lifecycle journey, including all of the touchpoints, to acquire customers and retain them. Customer interactions are happening across websites and apps that you don’t own, and consumers are interacting from their desktops at work, their personal phones and then tablets, potentially while watching their smart TVs. For those touchpoints you own and measure, data is captured and strewn across disparate data repositories and applications. To develop a holistic view of your customers, you need access to the relevant data so you can analyze the journey and develop the insights necessary for you become a better marketer.


Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to solve this problem. For marketers, one glance at the Martech landscape by Scott Brinker will leave you overwhelmed and confused as to how to make all of this stuff work together so you can glean any insights at all. Fear not, there are some key steps you can take as you march towards success in developing that holistic view of your customer journey.

Step 1: Define the business questions you are trying to answer. Don’t fall into the trap of starting this process by connecting data from different systems without fully understanding why you are doing it. Every organization has its own defined KPIs, such as Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and so on. Because every report spawns dozens of questions, start by identifying the story that surrounds each KPI. Here are a few examples:

“How many marketing and brand touchpoints does it take to create qualified marketing leads for product X?”

“For my medium size businesses, what content is most effective in converting unknown visitors to known inquiries and how does this differ across industries?”

“How is our account based marketing effort increasing the velocity of these accounts through the funnel?”

“Does my customer lifetime value change for customers acquired online through unassisted sales compared to those who were sales assisted?”

“Has our new customer experience for renewals increased renewal revenue?”

These example questions should give you some idea of the “why,” and each question you come up with should contribute to the holistic view of your customers. Once you have an understanding of those questions, and have agreement with the stakeholders as to why these are important, then you can start identifying where the data resides and how to get to it.

Step 2: Identify where the relevant data resides so you can extract it, or share it to answer your previously defined questions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by data, so the key here is to focus on only the data that you need to answer each question and nothing more. Identify the key data point and where it resides for each question, and then develop your plan to acquire the data, share it or append it to the other systems. This could be as simple as passing additional data from your advertising platform through to your MRM or CRM, or identifying the unique customer ID across the disparate systems and using a data aggregation and BI visualization tool to marry the data and expose the insights.

Step 3: Prioritize, divide and conquer your way to success. The volume of data to sort through can feel staggering, as can the struggle to connect the dots to answer your questions. Data resides in multiple systems which are managed by different functional groups in your organization. Because of this, it’s important to get alignment across the business. Bring them into this process early, articulate what you are trying to accomplish and why it’s important to the business. Finally, work with each group to prioritize this initiative into their current workstream. By having a comprehensive strategy and dividing up the responsibilities across different teams — a bit of effort from multiple groups — will accelerate this initiative.


Developing a holistic view of your customer journey is a daunting task. It’s an imperative because creating an engaging customer journey experience is a competitive differentiator today. It’s important to approach this first imperative realistically and start small. Identify a few key business questions and successfully report on them, using only the data you need. As you divide and conquer each of these questions, you will also be identifying what future work needs to be done to view all of these customer insights in a unified way.


Is creating a holistic view of your customers a digital transformation problem your company faces? What do you see as the biggest obstacle? Share your thoughts using the comments.


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