I want you to imagine yourself having an eye exam for a pair of new glasses. In order to ensure the right prescription, you are repeatedly asked to evaluate one lens over another – clearer, clearer now?

Now imagine the same process of evaluating how clearly you see your customers? For those of you with a marketing database, you are accustomed to the customer behavior lens – traditional transactional data, survey data, etc. We’ve had decades to improve the clarity of our vision of customer behavior data, to gather valuable customer knowledge and apply insights to successful customer-centric marketing initiatives.

But you will certainly agree that Big Data offers you many new lenses to get a clearer view of customers and a more comprehensive understanding of your customers. Many businesses are conducting social media monitoring, but are you adding that emotional or sentiment data to your database? The real question is: do you have a total view of your customers? Are you really seeing the whole picture required to successfully engage customers in today’s challenging marketplace?

In a recent webinar that Forrester Research and I conducted for SourceLink, we emphasized that to achieve customer-centric marketing, it is critically important to see your customers across both behavioral and emotional data. It’s not simply about the data, but rather about customer context.

Let me illustrate customer context by sharing an experience on a recent visit to Rome. As we looked across the landscape of Rome, our guide said that to understand the Romans required us to see the whole of Rome – to see the context of the ruins of antiquity next to twentieth century buildings – to observe the juxtapositions of time and events from greatness to ruins.

If we only think about customer data in bits and bytes or simply the context of traditional behavior such as last transaction, etc., do we really see the “whole cloth” of our customers? Do we see the context of customer transactional behavior relative to a customer’s emotional brand advocacy in product reviews or their sentiments on a less than stellar service?

Perhaps we should see our customers as a tapestry of behavioral and emotional context.

Customer context is about seeing patterns of transactions and other customer-facing interactions, of noticing the emotional stains of discontent, and more. How do these customer behavioral and emotional patterns align with your marketing strategy?

Discerning the patterns – the insights – is essential to successful customer-centric marketing. As emphasized in a recent webinar, “Customer Obsession in the Age of the Customer,” customer-centric marketing rests on the shoulders of Customer Intelligence to provide the required insights to be relevant and engaging. In turn, customer intelligence requires a single source of the truth. In order to see your customers more clearly – to see the whole of the tapestry of behavioral and emotional data – it is absolutely critical in this Age of the Customer to integrate both traditional (behavioral) data and big data (including emotional data) in a marketing database.

It all sounds so simple: a marketing database as the single source of the truth is the basis for Customer Intelligence to provide the customer knowledge that enables your organization as a whole to be obsessed about your customers, to set yourselves apart from the competition, and win more market share! The reality is that it’s not easy – it’s really hard work, but well worth it in the end!