Gamification and interactive advertising have come a long way since ChannelNet launched the first digital marketing product in 1987. Back then consumers were willing to pay $6.95 for a driving simulator game that was, in reality, an interactive advertising program for Ford Motor Company. Today, consumers demand and get content and games for free. Pay for an ad? That is crazy.

Back then, digital marketing was considered foolish. In his book, Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, management guru Tom Peters credits ChannelNet’s CEO and founder, Paula Tompkins, with dragging blue-chip clients such as General Motors, Chase and Ford into the 21st century.

Earlier this year, our customers came together to toast the crazy times and our 30th anniversary.

“When we started talking to potential clients about using a PC to improve the marketing and sales process, they outright called me crazy,” explains Tompkins. “The Internet, appropriate hardware with graphics capabilities and processing power didn’t really exist.”

Today if a company isn’t leveraging technology and digital marketing, they are considered crazy. Digital now accounts for 25 percent of the corporate marketing budget, and the spending is expected to grow another 8 percent this year.

Tompkins stresses, “For clients today, customer experience is the top priority. It is critical that customer needs be at the center of a company’s strategic plans.”

A study by Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company, reveals that customer experience is more important than product innovation. The experience is more important than the product? More crazy talk!

Below are Tompkins’ top 3 crazy ideas for companies that want to revolutionize their business today.

1) Organize around the customer, not department functions or strategic partnerships.
Tompkins: I think the adoption of customer lifecycle management (CLM) requires wholesale process changes — from the first contact through consideration, purchase, ownership and retention. Consumers do not think in terms of offline, online or customer service. Tablets, PCs and mobile devices are how they choose to engage a brand. They do not think in terms of sales and marketing, or dealers vs. OEMs. Cloud solutions just cannot fix the fractured ownership that frustrates many customers. Companies must collaborate and destroy the silos.

2) Stop the mailings.
Tompkins: I do not understand why direct mail invitations still ask people to return paper applications. There is definitely a need for print advertising, but why do companies waste money and precious resources asking people to respond through the mail? A fast response is everything. As soon as you have an interested lead, you need to give the person the information they need. For example, include a link to a personal URL in the direct mail piece. Get the person while they are interested and save a bunch of money in the process.

3) Challenge the lawyers.
Tompkins: Regulators have a good definition of what constitutes Personally Identifiable Information (PII). However, many legal and risk decision-makers really don’t understand the importance of balancing the spirit of the law with today’s technology. Sure, it is always safer to do absolutely nothing. But if you think the worst that can happen is that you will draw the attention of regulators, you are wrong. If your customer experience lags behind and fails to provide customers with the relevant information they want and know you have, your business will soon end. Business leaders need to challenge the risk-adverse lawyers and ask: Where does the law prohibit sharing X?

I mean, personal customer microsites, or personal URLs, have been around and successfully used for years. Yet, some compliance experts think using a person’s name as part of the URL is a violation. Now that’s crazy talk.