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March 9, 2020

How to Pick the Right Customer Data Platform (Learn from CDP Experts)

By Jordan Torpy, Exponea

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You’ve decided a Customer Data Platform is the right tool for your company. It’s a good choice: the market has matured and there are many vendors to choose from.

But that also means…there are many vendors to choose from. And of course you want to choose the right CDP for your company. It’s a tough decision, and the wrong choice can yield poor results and create an impression that CDPs are all hype.

But the right choice will create new possibilities for your company, a better experience for your customers, and improved cross-departmental collaboration.

To help us navigate this topic we talked to some of the top CDP experts and picked their brains to help you with the processes of choosing and implementing a CDP.

They’ll discuss two important things:

  1. how to purchase the right CDP for your company
  2. strategies to make sure that CDP is a success

Let’s introduce our expert panel. It’s a group with decades of combined experience in making CDP projects successful.

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Hugh Kimber – Global Sales VP

Hugh leads a global sales team and has over 18 years of experience in the digital marketing industry. He understands how a company can make new technologies successful.

Daniel Viglas – Solutions Manager

Daniel helps clients get the most out of their chosen CDP. He identifies where a CDP brings value and creates solutions that bring fast results.

Bruno Gorgulho – Head of Solutions

As the Head of Solutions at a major CDP company, Bruno leads a team that helps bridge the gap between project initialization and implementation. His experience allows him to speak with confidence about what makes a project work.

Dale Farrey – Senior Sales Manager

Dale uses his years of experience in SaaS sales to ensure that companies have a successful CDP implementation, and he’s sharing that knowledge with us here.

Step One: the Purchase

The first step in the process may seem overwhelming: choosing the right vendor. How should you proceed? What should you look for?

Below, the experts share what your first steps should be after deciding to go with a CDP.

Question #1: How would you proceed if you were the one (CEO, CMO, etc.) in charge of getting a new CDP?

Dale Farrey, Senior Sales Manager

First I’d ask my team to provide insights as to why they believe they need a CDP. I’d then turn those insights into a brief with 5-10 key deliverables for the CDP, which would form the basis of the review criteria I’d use during the selection process.

Bruno Gorgulho, Head of Solutions

I would first validate the key value proposition of a CDP and make sure it aligns with the business problem I’m solving. If I truly require a system that can centralize customer data for a B2C business, provide analytics-driven insights, and then send that intelligence to other systems to trigger campaigns, then I need a CDP.

Then I would map existing internal capabilities - which systems I have and why. Then I could see which systems I could eliminate entirely, which could be replaced, and which are critical for my business. I would have to build a system analysis independent of my existing teams, since new technology is likely to disrupt the way my teams are organized.

Once the business needs, teams, and systems have been mapped I could start talking to vendors who could also help shape the requirements.

Takeaway:

  • Be crystal clear about which issues you want to address with a CDP
  • Understand that new technology can mean a paradigm shift
  • Map internal capabilities (people and systems) – what should you eliminate, keep, and replace
  • Understand your needs before looking at vendors

Now that you know exactly how you’ll use a CDP, it’s time to find the right one. With a larger and larger pool of vendors, how do you narrow down your choices? We asked the experts to weigh in.

Question #2: How would you evaluate different CDP vendors? What are some of the indicators that tell you a vendor is right for you?

Bruno Gorgulho, Head of Solutions

I’d want an answer for the following:

  • Is the platform real-time, for both reading data and executing campaigns?
  • Can it handle data from multiple sources? Be sure you know those sources before you start your vendor search, so you can get informed answers from vendors.
  • Can it merge customer profiles in a dynamic way?
  • Does it integrate with the systems I use in a simple and reliable way, and is the data it stores easily extractable?
  • Does it have capabilities like customer segmentation, AI, and native campaign execution, or will I need another provider for those?

Hugh Kimber, Global VP Sales

I’d want to know about their customer base — do they work with companies like mine? What kind of experience do they have? I’d want to see evidence of businesses growing thanks to their technology (and not just 10% increase in conversions, but how have they helped a business over a period of 12+ months).

What’s the cost of change: how easy is the implementation? Will it make my company more efficient?

Daniel Viglas, Solutions Manager

I need to know if the company can create a single customer view. Then I need to look at my short- and long-term goals, and compare them to what the vendor offers. These are the areas you might consider when thinking about CDP relevancy:

  • Security, Stability & Scalability
  • Insights and intelligence (including AI)
  • Data-based campaign orchestration

Takeaway:

  • Make sure the vendors you’re looking at meet all of your requirements
  • Narrow your list of vendors down to those that have proven track records and are familiar with your industry

Customer data platforms are still new, and how we define a CDP continues to shift. This leads to some misunderstandings about CDPs and just what they can do for you.

What are some of these misunderstandings? Our panel outlines several below to help you with your selection process.

Question #3: What are the most common misunderstandings about CDPs out there?

Dale Farrey, Senior Sales Manager

Within the early stages of the sales process, the CDP is commonly brushed off as having the same functionality as a marketing automation platform or marketing cloud, but it’s actually much more. The customer is typically fully educated by the end of the second meeting.

Bruno Gorgulho, Head of Solutions

A common mistake is when people expect the CDP to provide some of its own data (which is usually the scope of a DMP or similar platform – a CDP works with a company’s data). Also, some companies expect the CDP to be able to resolve customer identity, but their existing processes to contact the customer are completely unstructured - remember that the CDP will only read the real-life events between your company and your customer.

Takeaway:

  • A CDP can provide value for your company, but don’t expect a DMP

Question #4: What would your advice be to anyone buying a new CDP?

Daniel Viglas, Solutions Manager

Think about what you want to achieve with a CDP, short-term and long-term. Maybe in the short-term I want to improve my emailing with behavioral data, and that may give me an answer about which CDP can satisfy that. Maybe my long-term play is something else, and that narrows down my options even more.

Hugh Kimber, Global VP Sales

Make sure the CDP you are choosing is future-proofed. A single customer view is an immediate requirement, but you need a CDP that can act on the data or integrate with existing suppliers you wish to keep.

Takeaway:

  • Remember to weigh your long-term goals. This will help you find the right CDP.

Question #5: What else can help companies choose the right CDP?

Daniel Viglas, Solutions Manager

I would ask myself how a CDP could benefit my company from these perspectives:

  • use cases (what can I do practically?)
  • time (will it improve efficiency?)
  • security & clarity (will I avoid risk?)
  • strategy (will it activate future goals?)

Dale Farrey, Senior Sales Manager

Take into account the history of the provider. Some companies positioning themselves as a CDP are built on a flat file database because 95% of their customers use them for email only...they were built that way historically. Consider a =more modern CDP approach built in the era of the CDP SCV (Single Customer View).

Hugh Kimber, Global VP Sales

Clearer differences between CDPs; some push “AI everything!”, some push execution. Look for a deeper explanation of different CDPs and what they are good for. Who is a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ and who is a specialist and why?

Takeaway:

  • Most CDPs on the market were originally something else. Understand their history and you’ll know whether they can help you achieve your goals.

Step two: After the Purchase

The post-purchase phase is crucial to making a CDP work successfully for your company. While every company is different, most successful CDP implementations follow a similar pattern. We spoke with two more experts to find out what that pattern is.

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Expert 1: Adam Lebeda – Global Head of Partnerships

Adam currently works to help find valuable opportunities for businesses looking for advanced marketing platforms. Previously, Adam was the Senior Manager of Digital Services at T-Mobile Czech Republic, where he successfully implemented a modern CDP.

According to Adam, there are three key points that lead to a successful implementation of a customer data platform:

  • Start small
  • Create a habit
  • Use a tool people love to use

Start small

It’s unrealistic to think you can buy a platform and immediately change all the processes of your business, especially with a larger company or stakeholders involved. An effective strategy is to start small with quick time-to-value use cases. This proves the value of the tool to the people who work with it and leads to buy-in throughout the company.

Create a habit

When the people who work with it become internal advocates for the platform, their enthusiasm catches on and helps to make the new CDP a habit. Then it’s much easier to onboard the rest of the organization.

Use a tool people love to use

For all of this to fall into place, the CDP must be a tool marketers really enjoy using. A good CDP gives marketers the ability to execute their own ideas, without needing to overly rely on the assistance of more technical employees. This is what led to a successful implementation at T-Mobile, for example.

Expert 2: Peter Solnicka – Client Success Manager Lead

Peter leads a team of CDP Client Success Managers. His experience implementing CDPs at multiple companies has given him great insights into what leads to the success of a project. He tells us what he believes are the most crucial aspects of the implementation process:

  • First steps
  • Mindset and attitude
  • A good vendor

First steps

Know who the key stakeholders of the project will be, both internally and on the side of the vendor. Implementing a CDP requires buy-in from multiple roles: IT people, data analysts, CRM owners, digital and campaign teams, project managers, and more.

All these internal stakeholders need to have a clear counterpart on the vendor’s side. For the project to succeed, alignment across all of these teams is a must.

Mindset and attitude

Implementing a CDP will require your team members to embrace changes. Processes will look different and routines will be upended; don’t expect things to stay static. This will be a time to discover new capabilities that weren’t possible with your previous solution. This might require a mindset and attitude shift in your organization.

A good vendor

A good vendor will not blindly agree to everything you request. They should be willing to challenge you in a beneficial way, out of respect and a desire for your growth. They will be more a partner, focused on reaching mutually set goals and delivering value.

Finally, be sure that your vendor is future proof. Study their product roadmap and ask, will they accommodate my needs in the future? You don’t want to get locked in to a contract with an outdated solution.

If you can establish good starting logistics, have the right mindset, and work with a good vendor, your odds of success are significantly higher.

In Summary

The processes of choosing and implementing a CDP can both be daunting, but there are things you can do to make them easier and give yourself a higher chance of success. Interviews with the above experts pointed to several similar steps:

  • Be clear about what you expect from a CDP, before you look at vendors
  • Think about the short-term and long-term to find a future-proof solution
  • Understand your options and look into vendor history (do they have the modern CDP capabilities you need?)
  • Success can hinge on the right mindset and attitude

Taking on a CDP project is big. But with the right preparation, success is much more likely. Set yourself up for a positive experience from the very beginning, and take advantage of all the capabilities a modern CDP has to offer.

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