Last updated: How to implement and use Customer Data Platforms: CDP 101

How to implement and use Customer Data Platforms: CDP 101


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It’s time to take a closer look at customer data platforms, not just what they do, but what you need to know about implementing a CDP.

Not every trend needs to be adopted, but beware the professional who fails to recognize the legitimacy of emerging tools to move their business forward like customer data platforms can. And, meet the complex expectations of customers.

CDPs are a part of a sea change in the relationship between marketing and consumers. Because marketing is so tied to technology, it’s an industry that changes quickly – just as quickly as the technology itself.

The last decade has seen the rise of social media giants, which propelled an entirely new career: the social media marketer. That role in particular has some suggesting they are our future CMOs.

Of course, social media marketing as a role on a marketing team is actually older than an entirely different new role: the growth marketer. This role is so new in fact, that despite it being the most in-demand marketing role, few companies or hiring managers can agree on what it even is.

Privacy-first web and customer data platforms

A shift in access to data is coming and with it, an entirely new approach to transparency, CX, and marketing will spring. Preparing for the change opens an opportunity to be more deliberate in how we market, how we target, and, most importantly, how we respect data.

  1. Third-party data going away leaves a gap
  2. Begging forgiveness has never been better than asking permission
  3. Savviness of consumers carries increasing expectations
  4. You can’t learn from what you don’t know
  5. Starting today will pay dividends in trust, insight, and fluency in the new frontier of privacy-first web

The rising dominance of a privacy-first web, marketers are needing to change once again.

For the last decade, third-party data has been the go-to source of information on prospects and customers, allowing marketers to collect, target, and message to large cohorts of people who never gave them permission to do so.

But the internet is changing, and third-party data is all but disappearing. In its place are data privacy and ethical data collection, forcing a renewed interest in first-party data. This is where CDP, or customer data platforms, comes in handy. As with all major shifts in technology, though, determining you need a CDP, choosing the right one for your business, and then implementing it isn’t as easily done as said.

To help squash any “is it just us?” concerns, following is everything you can expect when implementing a CDP.

Hint: It’s not just you. Most marketers (and their data teams) will go through this process and come out better for it.

Shock Wave 1: When third-party data retires

The date may be a bit of a moving target, the sunsetting of third-party data is imminent. Marketers and strategists need to prepare for two reasons—first, the way it’s always been done isn’t going to work. And, second, customers will demand it and the law will enforce it. Customer data platforms position companies for CX, growth, and solid legal ground.

Whether you are already worried about the new 7-day attribution window on Facebook and other advertising platforms, already concerned about the lack of visibility into organic search traffic from the iOS app, or just waiting until you lose most of your attribution data –– the first shock wave will be realizing that marketing will never be the same.

That isn’t to say that marketing didn’t used to be like this. The age of attribution –– or the last decade or so –– has been a unique moment in marketing.

The ability to assign performance metrics and revenue to individual channels in real-time meant that the channels that performed the best in the short term earned the biggest budgets. In other words, paid digital channels like paid social and paid search saw budgets skyrocket, and owned channels that worked on overall brand marketing saw their budgets dip.

It’s likely that trend will be reversed in the privacy-first era, getting us all back to a better-balanced marketing budget. Our reliance on data isn’t going to just disappear. Instead, marketers will look to customer data platforms to help connect the dots on the data they can collect: first-party data.

Shock Wave 2: Which CDP you choose matters

The value of customer data platforms is the ability to choreograph the types of data, segmenting, and subsets, in ways that satisfy your specific needs. The right CDP for your company will replace what was once superfluous or underutilized data with data that feeds your marketing strategy across every department, platform, and use.

All marketing teams will need to adopt a CDP, but they won’t all choose the same ones. Budgets, existing marketing technology stacks, and individual team and company org charts will all play a part in which CDP a company chooses.

Direct-to-consumer companies may be drawn to cloud CDP providers since they are easier to use, have a great interface, and offer several clear and actionable next steps for putting the data to use.

Start-up technology organizations, on the other hand, will likely choose independent CDPs that can be set up, organized, and run by their tech and development teams. These CDPs collect data and then use APIs to send that data wherever makes the most sense for the team. This way, marketing teams can visualize data in the way they need, and the tech and development teams can do the same.

Larger, more established organizations will likely go with customer data platforms offered by their existing and preferred technology partners. And there’s a good reason for that. With all their data already running through a single system, why wouldn’t they just hook up a CDP and turn the data they already have into actionable insights?

If none of these examples fit your situation, worry not. There are incredible resources for getting started at the bottom of this post.

Shock Wave 3: The how (and the who) of customer data platform set up

It’s done! Your team has determined which CDP is right for them. Now, it needs to be set up. That means you need to figure out which teams in your organization will do that setup, get it on their project management roadmap (i.e. in their sprint), and then test out the data to make sure it is accurate and helpful.

Most marketing teams won’t be able to set a CDP up on their own. You’ll want to work at the very least with a marketing operations team. In companies that have tech or data teams, those teams should take on the responsibility of setup. But, how do you get cross-departmental support for the initiative, and get it properly prioritized?

Internal communication will be key and will determine the speed of implementation.

Shock Wave 4: Your CDP is live! What next?

When the CDP is live, collecting data, and spitting out actionable personalization insights, marketing teams will need to put those insights into action. The actions inspired by CDPs will be from ethically collected data with cross-company support and should be easy to slot in as priorities for campaigns, product updates, and more.

You’ve already done all the work, felt each of the shock waves. Now it is time to get the value out of your new tool –– and start improving the customer experience while you’re at it.

Turns out, each shock wave builds a better mountain for your company and your customers to stand on.

Data privacy + security issues are keeping execs awake at night.
We’ve got the solutions HERE.

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