You’ve heard this before.

Your brand is the sum of customers’ complete experiences with you across all touchpoints. Click To Tweet

Your brand isn’t your company. It isn’t your marketing message. It isn’t even your product. It is an experience! A holistic experience a customer has with your product, with your content, with your employees. It is the reason to choose a relationship with you over the relationship with your competitor.

Relationship capital is arguably the most important goal any business has. After all, there is no such thing as a self-made man. We all depend on others in our success. Businesses depend on partners, investors, vendors, and employees. But most important relationship a business has is with its customers.

Relationship capital is arguably the most important goal any business has. Click To Tweet

Oh, that “relationship” used to be easy. Several key channels (print, TV, radio, phone), one-way broadcasting, millions of impressions as a goal. Things didn’t change much over decades.

Then the digital revolution came and, with it, brought new channels and new challenges. Web and email started to take over. And just when we thought we got those mastered, the pace of change became unsustainable. Dozens of social channels, as well as the rise of the citizen journalism around the world, brought blogging, newsjacking, podcsting, social posting, and, with that, the need for listening, real-time engagement, managing digital crisis, and more. The pace at which social network features, rules, and capabilities change is staggering. The number of niche tools supporting various functions of creation, publishing, distribution, management, and reporting grew to hundreds.

For those business that recognized the seismic shift in the marketplace, managing consumer experiences through the rise of social tsunami became not only a challenge, but a priority.   But as they started to implement strategies, solutions, and tools across the organization, one critical gap became widely apparent. No matter how much you try to serve your customers, if the organization is internally siloed in mentality, processes, and technology, no amount of delight will ever deliver a truly holistic experience that your customer deserves.

Sales funnel doesn’t exist anymore. We now have a sales zig zag. Every day, our customers are consuming information from 5+ devices through 50+ channels and engaging with you through thousands of touchpoints. They are educated, globally connected, impatient, and have a high BS radar. They expect that you are listening – on every channel! – and demand real-time response. They trust their friends over advertisements and brand messages. They buy brands they have relationship with.

Successful business isn’t about impressions any more. It is about building relationship capital through smart experience management. And the only way to achieve that is for all parts of the organization to work together, to become a connected company!

What is desperately needed is a set of critical capabilities that would work across a lot of channels, to be implemented across a variety of teams, a number of product lines, in every market. What is needed is a complete solution for your digital needs that’s architected to work in tandem with your existing infrastructure that has been in place for many years.

What’s needed is an integrated business nerve center.

But the reality is a bit grim. 2014 study by Signal states that organizational and technological integration is a key problem for businesses. While respondents recognize a range of benefits to a fully integrated marketing stack, around half of respondents said their marketing data and technology are either managed separately (10%) or that only some tools are integrated (41%). Just 4% reported having a completely integrated stack.

And according to a 2014 Forbes Insights and Sitecore survey, companies average 36 different data-gathering systems and vendors for marketing efforts, with some using hundreds. So while 53% prioritize developing a single view of each customer (a high priority for marketers around the world, according to MarketingCharts), they’re faced with technological challenges such as multiple/duplicate records (41%), too many systems/difficulty keeping track of where data is housed (38%), and siloed data (37%). As a result, 59% of respondents felt that it was a priority to have a single system to deliver customer experiences across all potential digital channels.

Consumers experience our brand through different life’s moments and in a variety of places: at the store, on our website, through social conversations. This is a remarkable opportunity for brands to connect with them. Most importantly, an opportunity to track, manage, and align these moments to drive brand love, advocacy, and loyalty.

Bringing the voice of your customer into the right business context, at the right time, is the first step in that transformation. To do that, organizations need to build an integrated business nerve center that sits at the core of the enterprise and connects all of the people, processes, and systems within it. This is the only way we will enable innovative, positive social interactions that build long-lasting relationships with people who matter.

Companies need an integrated business nerve center that connects all people, processes, and systems. Click To Tweet

Originally appeared in Entrepreneur in 2015. Reposted by popular demand. As I work with executives across industries and geographies, this article seems to be the one they continue to refer back to when discussing digital transformation.

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