The Gist

  • CDPs aren’t one size fits all. Different companies have different needs, and all CDPs have holes, so it’s crucial to choose the CDP that’s the best fit for your business.
  • Implementation isn’t everything. Successful vendor selection and CDP implementation doesn't necessarily translate into success.
  • Ensure future success. Understand the gap between current and best practices, design CDP solutions and put them in a digital transformation road map to close the gap. 

This is Part 2 of a two-part series. You can check out Part 1, Navigating the Martech Maze: How CDPs Optimize Customer Engagement & Simplify the Complex, on our site.

As a wise person once said, “Pick the hat to fit the head.”

Each year I talk to hundreds of companies considering implementing customer data platforms (CDPs), working with roughly 60 leading CDP vendors. The question I hear most is “What is the best CDP?” The answer (which everyone else hates, including myself) is “It depends.”

Avoiding Debt and Unrealized Technology Value: Choosing the Right CDPs

Within a minute, I can determine if the CDP user is a B2B and/or B2C company, what industry they’re in and what kind of budget they can afford. This information reduces the CDP considerations set from over 60 vendors to anywhere between five and 15 CDP solutions. However, the important questions for martech users are what they’re going to do with the CDP and how fast they want/need to grow their capabilities.

Thoughtfully answering these questions and matching them to a CDP feature function set is straightforward. Even when a company has aggressive plans to horizontally integrate and standardize across the entire martech stack and optimize vertically across all stages of the buyer-lifecycle, CDPs can support those best practices. Choosing the right one to fit a company’s needs and culture may take some effort, but is not difficult.

But that’s only half the battle; successful selection does not ensure successful adoption. 

Related Article: Quest for Unified Customer Data: How CDPs Enter Mix

The Patient Died but The Operation Was Successful!

In its 2022 user survey, the Customer Data Platform Institute reported that 61% of respondents said their CDP delivered significant value, with the other 39% percent reporting little to none. This high failure rate cannot be attributed to CDP functionality. With over 120 CDP vendors worldwide, the institute has vetted over 65 vendors found on its website. Thirty-five of those CDPs have gone through a rigorous review process to become RealCDP Certified. This is proof that CDP technology works, so why the high failure rate? 

Selecting, implementing, adopting and using a CDP are four different processes. Even when a CDP is “successfully” implemented, martech users may try to expedite the installation and figure out the details later. This can be detrimental in the long run, and the system requirements and use cases will be generic. User acceptance testing must be approved before users can fully understand that not only has the system not been configured to enable best practices, but it doesn’t support current practices, either. Users must navigate the system in order to do their jobs. It’s not uncommon for a CDP implementation to be a do-over. 

Related Article: CDP vs. DMP: What's the Difference & Which Is Best for Your Business?

Learning Opportunities

Prepare For CX/EX Success: Leverage the CDP That’s Right for You

CDP user organizations need to do two things to ensure future success:

1. Conduct an audit to determine the gap between current and best practices.

Identify “ideal” practices and design detailed requirements with robust use cases to close the gap. With this approach, a user organization is not just implementing a CDP system, but is also implementing an ideal solution that delivers value to the customer, employee and the company on day one. A road map of detailed use cases that enable “ideal” next generation campaign designs has the best results.

2. Prepare for digital transformation with new strategies, tactics, processes, expertise and organizational structures.

Migrating from siloed multichannel campaigns to integrated cross-channel versions requires significant organizational and process redesign. Questions about who will manage the new CDP and where new skill sets reside result in big changes. Many successful CDP implementations coincide with the creation of a new marketing operations team, new roles and responsibilities and sometimes new organizational structures. When planning for change, consider whether a company has all its channels up and working or if it has the right key performance indicators (KPIs) or reporting in place; those shortcomings aren’t magically solved unless they are included in the CDP requirements.

Final Thoughts on CDPs

Ultimately, CDP vendors have terrific client success stories to complement their capabilities. All leading marketing organizations have a CDP or are in the process of implementing a CDP, some for the second time. For companies looking to eliminate technology debt and maximize CX & EX, I recommend that you don’t rush it. Engage with your CDP vendor as you design new and better ways to engage your customers. Cheers!