Update: The following post was written prior to today's shocking events at the Boston Marathon. All of Forrester sends out thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes to the runners, spectators, and their families affected by this senseless violence. — Cory

Today is just tax day to most of the US, but here in Boston, it's much more likely to be referred to as marathon Monday. Indeed, thousands of runners and wheelchair athletes are currently moving toward the finish line in the 117th running of one of the world's most famous and popular races: the Boston Marathon. For some, the goal is just to finish, while others are out to set personal records. And all have been training with a regimented, well-planned routine for months in anticipation of the big day. Marketers should take a page out of the marathoner's playbook when it comes to making the switch to the customer life cycle, a customer-driven marketing approach that will help your organization succeed in the age of the customer. CMOs in particular have the responsibility of transitioning marketing to a customer-first philosophy, and my latest report, "Evaluate The Completeness Of Your Marketing Effort," will help you get there (subscription required).

The report provides an assessment tool with which to evaluate where marketing is at in terms of its customer-driven approach. There are five key dimensions to consider: strategy, organization, measurement, data and analytics, as well as customer relationship management tools. The evaluation challenges you to consider your budgeting process, how you organize, the metrics you use to determine success, and the way your company uses data to improve the experience along the purchase path. Leadership across all parts of marketing — and other important partners such as IT — should take the assessment and then compare results as a group, to get all stakeholders in agreement about what you're doing well and where you need to put in some work. Like that prospective marathoner, if you don't know how fit you are at the start, it's going to be awfully difficult to pick the right training regimen to accomplish your goals without injuries or other setbacks. Once you're on the same page, pick a few priorities you can tackle in the next 12 months — the shorter races that will help get you on the right track before the more involved and arduous distances. Finally, once you've gotten those items underway, work with leadership in all areas of the organization to create a longer-term plan that sets you up for customer-obsessed success. They say that once you catch that running bug, it's hard to get rid of it, and the same is true of customer-first marketing: Once you've got the fundamentals down, there's no limit to how much more you can do.

This won't happen overnight, so accept the incremental nature of the challenge and just keep putting one step in front of the other. You'll be a customer-driven champ in no time! Read the training plan assessment, get in touch in the comments or via email if you need some added motivation or advice, and get going! Happy running!