In 1860, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Milton Bradley invented his first board game, the Checkered Game of Life. The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from infancy to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. Some squares on the board help you along, with little lithographed hands pointing the way, but almost any spin from nearly every square involves a decision, a choice among as many as eight possible moves. The Checkered Game of Life requires you to make decisions — lots and lots of them — and each of those decisions leads you down a different path, requiring more decisions as you go.

Over 150 years later, the premise of the Game of Life holds as true for the decisions our customers make as it did for the personal decisions outlined in 1860.

In the post-digital world of today, empowered customers have taken control of the relationship they have with the companies they interact with. Your customers now face a maze of media, devices, conversations, and interactions as they make decisions along their path to purchase. As marketers, you must engage customers in the right way across the entirety of what Forrester calls the customer life cycle, from customers initially identifying a need to researching their options, making a purchase, and using the product.

But, marketing can't stop there. To find new ways to stand out to the right audience with the right message at the right time, you must make a connection between your customers and your brand —not just once, but throughout the entire relationship you have with the customer.

And that’s where my new report, Evaluate Marketing's Customer Life-Cycle Maturity, can help. To create, manage, and maintain ongoing customer engagement, it’s time to adopt a customer life-cycle approach to your marketing strategies. But, adopting a customer life-cycle-based approach to marketing is not simply about rephrasing what marketing teams do and for whom they do it. Instead, to win, serve and retain customers, CMOs need to ready marketing across five key areas: strategy, organization, measurement, data and analytics, and marketing technology.

Our new report offers you an assessment tool that you can use to evaluate the maturity of your customer life-cycle approach across all five of the key dimensions that comprise a customer-first marketing effort.

The changes required of you and your team based on the results of this assessment won’t have easy quick fixes. As the CMO, it’s time for you to step up and lead the journey toward customer obsession. Use the results of Forrester’s Customer Life-Cycle Maturity Assessment to identify where the imperatives for improvement lie and where you can optimize your organization’s current position.

I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about this topic. Please reach out to me via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts.