Why marketing must own the CDP transformation
A primer on the power of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) and marketing’s role in their use.
A primer on the power of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) and marketing’s role in their use.
The utopia of end to end buyer engagement and experience personalization is powerful as it is out of reach for most organizations who are still struggling with departmental systems integration, much less full organizational data synergy. Meanwhile, the Customer Data Platform (CDP) is emerging as a strong new trend focused on fulfilling this utopian dream, as well as tackling other high priority challenges like data privacy and security.
At this point every major Enterprise Platform Provider (Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle) has either announced their offering or brought one to market, along with a myriad of specialized providers (Segment, Tealium, Blueshift) looking to upend the ‘branded’ approach.
If this feels like the age-old ‘technology rides in on a white horse to save the day’ pipedream, I get it. And yet, something about this trend seems better rooted than some of the shaky trends in the recent past.
Primarily because it’s not uncommon to find CDP already at play in many of today’s leading consumer driven organizations – and the experiences they are creating as a result are both very real and highly unique when compared to the normal hum drum that often passes for marketing and customer service.
As a result, buyers have started to demand this type of cohesive understanding of their needs and the hyper-personalization it enables.
Combine that new standard in buyer experience with the new privacy and data stewardship regulations that are cropping up seemingly every day and suddenly what could be looked at as innovation starts to come into focus as a fundamental requirement.
As such, a very fair question looms; with all the technology currently in use within today’s digitally transformed organizations, is this the solution to drive them all?
In short, the emergence of a true platform.
The fact is, most organizations don’t have a true CDP yet. We have nearly endless, highly siloed systems that serve their own singular purpose for a particular set of needs.
Marketing and advertising have DMP, sales has CRM, finance and ops have ERP, customer service has its own systems – and so on.
This siloed world in which each department is responsible for its own tech stack has created redundancy, integration holes and most detrimental, a choppy customer experience.
Enter CDP, the single source of truth for all customer data. Even though a CDP will serve the business at-large, in our opinion, marketing is the headspace that must own this critical transformation, as well as the reinforcement of the customer experience that depends on it.
In order for hyper-personalization to be more than a buzzword, customer data needs to be centralized and organized. A true CDP houses a customers’ information, their entire digital footprint, their usage information and all points of contact that are relevant. By doing so, an organization can reference all pertinent information and form a process or next steps accordingly.
The problem with this to date is that all this information is not centralized. A buyer may unsubscribe from a marketing email, but still end up getting emails from other people in the same company. They end up losing trust and getting aggravated, and it becomes a larger customer experience issue.
Marketing is the one department that informs more areas of the buyer journey than any other department. They are the ones who already have a lot of knowledge around their customers, they know leads and sales cycles.
So, it only makes sense that they would be the ones to move the possibilities of a CDP forward, use it to amplify hyper-personalization and ensure that all departments are using it to create the maximum business impact.
Ten years ago, it would have been laughable to think of marketing running technology, much less owning it. They didn’t have the tech chops.
But now? Marketing has become a critical operations layer within organizations, often creating the architecture, process and resulting automation across multiple business units. Marketers know how to integrate data in a manner that will serve the buyer.
No longer content to simply manage third-party agencies; they create strategies, journeys, processes and use technology and data to achieve those business goals. They also provide the final layer of polish on all external communication, whether empowering someone else to interface with the buyer, or doing so themselves. This again means that a CDP should be under the masterful eye of the marketing team.
Marketing also understands that adopting a CDP is a buyer-driven exercise. To accomplish a seamless, empowered, comprehensive, customer-first approach, marketing will consider how each piece of the buyer journey looks from the buyer’s standpoint. This is the only way that using a CDP will translate into real business results.
Privacy and security were perceived by-products technology, but they’re non-negotiable now.
GDPR in Europe and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in the U.S. have paved the way for more state and state, federal and international mandates about how companies steward and secure your information. Consumers (and the law) will simply not allow their sensitive data to sit unsecured within a marketing database anymore.
Marketing is most often the curator of customer information and preferences, so it’s only natural that they are the best fit for managing this aspect of the CDP as well.
They’ll find out what information customers are willing to share, what they will provide but that don’t want used from a marketing standpoint, the types of messaging and outreach they want to receive, etc.
The permutations are many as well as complex and the buyer’s expectation is that they are obeyed with rigor. Therefore, marketing must be the customer’s advocate within the organization from a security, privacy, and ultimately a trust standpoint – CDP enables this.
Okay, so you can see now why marketing needs to take the reins of the CDP movement. But where do we go from here? Here are a few recommendations:
One of the biggest issues right now is that many predictive and B2B analytics vendors are claiming to be CDPs because they had to aggregate customer data to do their jobs in the first place. But that doesn’t make them a CDP, and instead spreads a lot of misinformation.
In order to be a CDP, a system has to be able to support unstructured data, be highly flexible, a true integration hub, not proprietary in nature and real-time from an access standpoint, among other things.
CDPs should have open APIs that anyone can write to and can provide access to any customer systems. To be a true customer data platform, all these boxes must be checked (which isn’t the case for almost all vendors currently trying to call themselves a CDP).
Here’s a helpful chart from Gartner, that gives a solid overview of how a CDP compares to other martech solutions.
One more note: the requirements and functionality of CDP in B2B is going to be more challenging than one through a B2C lens. B2C data is highly portable and resides at the individual level.
A consumer is the same consumer, no matter what company they happen to patronize. But in the B2B world, a buyer may change organizations and often.
So how do you centralize the information when an individual may hop in and out of different companies where their context within that organization actually impacts who they are and how they function?
When implementing CDP, we have to architect our client’s data structure to allow for the understanding of individual data as well as data collected as part of that individual’s membership within an organization.
This way, architecturally, we can detach them from a company when they leave a job and form a new relationship to another when they join. This way we can retain critical information about the individual but also allow for the understanding of how they function in the context of their job.
Their preferences may be different across those two scenarios – think about an organization such as Prezi who services both the individual in their personal life as well as the employee in a business context.
Understanding that, and architecting for it, allows us to create a deep level of understanding regarding ‘who’ the consumer is, and as a result, message to them in a highly effective manner.
These nuances complicate a CDP implementation and require a deep understanding of the buyer (yet another reason why marketing must own this technology).
It’s easy to tack on siloed software that accomplishes a niche business need but leads to a wobbly tech stack, there’s a lot of risk in that. Your reputation with your buyer and the health of the organizations bottom-line are at stake here.
The cliché adage of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ is more relevant than ever as marketers begin to be charged with data stewardship and customer privacy. But make no mistake, the responsibility is already in place.
Right now, your customer is already relying on you to do the right thing, secure their information and to engage them like they are the only customer on the planet. How you respond to that responsibility is what’s in question.
We’ll continue to provide learnings and best practices as we tackle more of these critical initiatives. In the meantime, I encourage you to keep reading and learning about CDPs. It’s a space evolving quickly, albeit one we feel is here to stay. This trend has legs, so be thinking actively and urgently about it – your relationship with your buyer depends on it.
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue performance consultancy, having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. He has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture.