Customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing teams have access to a plethora of tools designed to help cope with the increasing complex task of cross-channel customer engagement. But the best tool is worthless if it isn’t mirrored within the organizational structure.

CDPs Break Through Data Silos ...

Customer data platforms were developed to handle the most crucial challenge facing companies seeking to build long-term customer relationships: Figuring out how to engage customers consistently across all channels, while at the same time accounting for individual customers’ needs and preferences. Catering to the needs and preferences of individuals includes personalizing approaches regarding channel preferences, timing and customized content. It also means brands must be ready and able to adopt the newest communication channels if their audience uses them.

One of the primary requirements for actively shaping individual customer journeys across channels is to have a comprehensive data set for each customer. Only if you know what customers did in the past (and how you approached them, through which channel, how they responded and what their current behavior is) will you be able to account for their individual needs. To make 360-degree customer profiles a reality, data from all touchpoints needs to be collected and unified in a centralized system. This means busting data silos by consolidating data from various sources like data warehouses, CRM systems, web-tracking systems or channel-specific marketing tools. 

In addition to centralizing data, you need to use that data in a consistent way across channels. Customer data platforms consolidate data from all sources into comprehensive customer profiles in real time while making the data accessible for nontechnical staffers — such as marketing professionals, who can use it to target customers and potential customers across channels.

Besides their strength in data handling, one of the unique characteristics of customer data platforms is their ability to integrate any best-in-class channel tool, even new CRM channels like messengers, which means they can take advantage of the power of specialized channel solutions. In contrast, the well-known marketing clouds aim to provide all-in-one solutions for a basic set of channels. The downside of the all-in-one options is they are not extendable and have data processing deficiencies. Customer data platforms can adapt to the rapid changes in the technology landscape. They integrate channel tools via interfaces like APIs or webhooks, leading to flexibility regarding their general setup and ability to take advantage of the most suitable channel tools now and in the future.

Related Article: How GDPR and AI Turned Unified Data Into a Business Imperative

... and Break Down Organizational Silos

The need to break down silos applies to organizational structure as well as data. A setup that features separate teams working on their own inhibits cross-channel approaches as much as data silos do. Historically, marketing and CRM teams focused on their respective channels only. Siloed channel teams plan, execute, test and optimize campaigns on their own while barely being aligned with other channels. So communication across teams should be centralized, just as data needs to be centralized and channel tools must be connected by a superordinate system. 

Of course, decentralized teams and communication are convenient: More content can be sent out more frequently if there are fewer interdependencies. But decentralization almost inevitably leads to a low-quality customer experience because customers are contacted too often and they receive duplicate messages via different channels instead of an efficient stream of personalized communications. 

An integrated communication approach can prevent those problems by ensuring channel alignment and accounting for the modern, nonlinear customer journey. Only if activities on all channels are considered in an overarching way can communication be aligned consistently throughout all customer touchpoints. Bottom line: Avoid silos.

Related Article: Pave the Way to Better Customer Experience by Dismantling Internal Silos

Audience Manager: Your Cross-Channel Customer Champion

When you focus on merging the data points for individual customers, you will inevitably puts customers at the center of your considerations. Think of comprehensive 360-degree customer profiles as a representation of individual customers in data. A human counterpart should be advocating for individual customers by utilizing that data. Traditionally, no one position in CRM or marketing teams is dedicated to this task.

An audience manager or (cross-channel) campaign manager can fill this role. She or he sets up audiences and respective campaigns across channels while interacting with all involved teams — from the business and product groups to the business intelligence, content creation, and channel-specific CRM and marketing teams. Thinking from a user perspective and considering the purpose and mechanics of a customer data platform requires an organizational structure in which an audience manager acts as a customer’s “travel assistant” across channels. An audience manager is responsible for all tasks that affect multiple channels.

Related Article: Customer Data Platforms: A Contrarian's View

Learning Opportunities

Creating Your Cross-Channel Team

Taking all of the above into account, two main dimensions can act as guidelines for an appropriate team structure. One is the customer lifecycle and the other is the campaign workflow.

Different steps within the customer lifecycle call for different campaigns. Acquiring new customers requires approaches beyond onboarding or retaining and reactivating existing ones. So, if resources allow, having a dedicated audience manager focusing on each phase of the customer lifecycle can be very beneficial.

campaign workflow

The campaign workflow can be organized into three phases or layers: input and ideas, management, and execution. Various teams provide input to form the basis for strategic orientation and corresponding campaign ideas. The audience manager sets up audiences and campaigns across channels based on the input and requirements from involved teams, including business, product, sales or business intelligence. 

In the second layer, the audience manager decides which campaigns to run and which audience to target in which way. Schedule a campaign briefing to bring people together to discuss the campaign’s objective, its target audience, channels and other matters as guidelines for the channel, content creation and design teams. Design resources are shared across all channel teams to provide content from a single source and thereby guarantee visual brand consistency. 

Content creation, in general, can be distributed in the following way: While the foundation of copy and visual assets are created centrally, the content is further adapted within the channel teams to account for any channel-specific peculiarities. Besides planning, cross-channel campaign management also includes analyzing and optimizing campaigns based on data derived from individual channels.

Once campaigns are planned, it’s time to roll them out, leading to the last layer: execution. Since an audience manager should already account for channel preferences and timing, channel teams can completely focus on their CRM channel and tool. In practice, this means getting content right and staying on top of all channel-specific tasks. They use the input of the audience managers to select the optimal targeting for their channel, adapt messages, images and video material to the given format, and then start the campaign with a certain budget to achieve the desired goal. 

The success of the campaign is then monitored and, if necessary, adjusted and optimized — a process that also includes testing different approaches and different types of content. This is where dedicated channel experts are needed, because the tools used in each channel evolve swiftly and are frequently updated with new ad formats and features.

Related Article: How to Structure Your Digital Team: 15 Critical Roles

Big Picture Vision, With a Focus on Details

The above framework is a broad overview of what cross-channel orchestration can look like. Phases and processes within the customer lifecycle and campaign workflow need to be elaborated at an appropriate level of detail, accounting for all involved teams and depicting generic processes. But the main takeaway is this: All tasks affecting more than one channel should reside in the audience manager’s hands, and they should take precedence over individual channel activities. All channel-specific tasks remain in the hands of the respective channel teams.

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