There is much talk about customer data platforms (CDPs) amongst marketers these days. To make things more complex, the CDP category includes a lot of different types of platforms that have varying types of functionality and features.

In this article, I’m going to discuss three important criteria to consider before you buy a CDP, and there should be something of value whether you have or haven’t already made a decision to invest in a CDP.

1. Understand Your Goals and Challenges

While it may be tempting to make an assumption that it is time to jump into the market for a CDP because of all of the potential benefits you’ve become aware of, make sure you take a step back and thoroughly assess what a CDP can specifically do for your organization and your customers. To be most successful, it is important to outline both the current challenges that you want to overcome as well as an ideal set of goals that you are striving to reach.

After all, understanding your goals will also help you to understand the feature set, focus, integrations and other elements you need in your CDP. For instance, if specific data regulations apply to your business — anything from GDPR for companies operating in the EU to HIPAA for those dealing with personal health information — you need to ensure your CDP has the elements in place that will keep you in compliance.

When you understand what success looks like and where you need to aim to anticipate both customer expectations and competitive pressures, it can simplify your CDP decision process.

Related Article: Should You Unbundle Your CDP?

2. Pick a Philosophy

Your overall approach, or platform philosophy, will have large and long-term impacts on the success of your CDP implementation efforts. There are a couple components to a philosophy that are important to understand and establish before you get too far.

The first component is the decision to “build versus buy,” or vice versa. This means that you should determine how much of your CDP will be developed and maintained by your internal team instead of licensed from a third-party vendor. While there can be good reasons to build components of a CDP internally, the general trend in the industry is to take more of a “buy” approach.

The second component is to decide if you will invest in an all-in one platform such as a marketing cloud with many features and applications, or choose individual “best of breed” components to fill specific needs. In the case of CDPs, it is likely you can find a single platform that does most or all of what you need without having to integrate several solutions together. Or, you may have already invested in some components of an all-in-one marketing cloud and simply need to “turn on” the CDP component.

If you aren’t sure whether your organization wants to buy, build, or choose a hybrid model, it will make the CDP buying decision process unnecessarily complex. After all, there are many platforms that consider themselves a CDP, but not all may be a good fit for you.

Related Article: How to Filter the Right CDP Short List

Learning Opportunities

3. Prepare Your Team

Since a CDP is a software platform, it would seem that the most complicated element of implementation would be the technology component, wouldn’t it? Some of you may not be surprised, though, to hear that the people using the platform, and the processes they use, can offer more challenges than a technology integration.

Preparing your team to implement and utilize a CDP can consist of many things: discovery on the best use cases, training on a particular platform, and evaluating and updating the processes used to utilize customer data to maximize gains for the customer as well as the business.

As with the adoption of any new software or platform, the teams involved in using them, their education and the processes used to onboard and continuously improve can make the difference between success and failing to achieve optimal results.

Conclusion: Establish Clear Business, Customer Goals

Implementing a CDP is an important undertaking for any organization. Doing it well requires a clear set of business and customer goals, a solid understanding of the best technology approach for your organization and ensuring the teams that will use the CDP have a good understanding of the platform as well as the processes they will use to maximize its effectiveness.

Best of luck as you begin your CDP journey!

Learn how you can join our contributor community.