Silhouette woman rising hands on mountain in morning
PHOTO: Shutterstock

According to the CDP Institutes June 2018 Industry Update, the customer data platform (CDP) market is exploding with a 76% increase in employment in 2017 and $114 million of new investment in the first half of 2018 - for a total investment of $1.47 billion. With the CDP market estimated to grow to $1 billion in revenue in 2019, your organization needs to be not only thinking about CDPs and whether they should be added to your martech stack, but recognizing them as an imperative component to enable your customer-centric marketing strategies.

After you have done your research, found out about the benefits of CDPs, how they differ from other customer data management platforms, and found the right CDP for your use-cases, it's time to get prepared to actually bring one in house and get it set up, running and supported. If you want a successful implementation showing value and ROI back to the business, we have some advice from key luminaries in the field on things you need to think about when implementing a CDP system.

We talked to Tony Byrne, martech analyst and Founder of Real Story Group, and David Raab, Founder and CEO of the CDP Institute, the organization who coined the term CDP, to find out what the top tips are to get prepared for a successful CDP implementation.

Related Download: Customer Data Platforms Buyer’s Guide

1. Focus on Data Integration and Aggregation - A CDP is only as good as the data that is imported into it. A CDP implementation can quickly expose poor data quality and a lack of cleanliness of the underlying data set. Data can be messy, and there needs to be a lot of scrubbing and cleaning done to it before integration can be done. Make sure you budget the time and resources needed to get your data clean and ready for import into a CDP.

2. Map Your Data to Specific Fields - While CDPs are designed to make integration easier, it is not an automatic, hands-off process. Before implementing a CDP, make sure ingested data is mapped to specific fields, and define validation rules and categorize your data for future analysis. In order to make this much easier, look for a CDP that has API's built in so data can be exchanged with other systems more efficiently.

3. Consider a Hybrid Data Solution if Necessary - While the end-goal of a CDP installation is to get all your customer data, from all sources, into the CDP to help build a unified customer profile, this may not be a realistic scenario for some organizations. Perhaps there is an external business unit or partner that doesn't want to fully give up all their data to the CDP. In these situations, siloed data may remain, and you may want to consider a hybrid solution. Think about virtualizing your data or having a virtual pointer to the CDP so that siloed data can still be used by the CDP even if it is not local.

4. Define your Primary Use Cases - One of the benefits of CDPs is how flexible they are for lots of different use cases, typically broader in application that CRM or DMP systems. With such flexibility, you may have a dozen use cases that you are looking for the CDP to help with. But the reality is no single vendor excels at all use cases, so you want to model your tools and vendor selection against you primary 2-3 use cases. Narrowing it down to the top few applications will help you know which features matter the most, and which vendor specializes in what you most need to accomplish.

5. Model for Outbound Marketing as a Baseline - For most companies, the primary use case for a CDP implementation is outbound marketing programs. You will probably be integrating the CDP with certain martech applications like SMS, direct mail and email; with digital advertising platforms like Facebook, Instagram, DMPs and retargeting systems; and with customer experience tools like call center software and web personalization tools. Outbound marketing systems are low-hanging fruit for a CDP implementation, and should be the primary use case you model against.

6. Build Collaboration and Support - While marketers will be the ones to get the most benefit from a CDP, and will be who manages and runs it on a daily basis, they will still be reliant on other internal and external teams to support them during installation and for ongoing support. As an example you will need IT support to implement tagging schemes in the CDP. And since a CDP is infrastructure and foundational to your martech stack, infrastructure projects have a way of getting deprioritized by the business when other priorities rear their heads. Building support from senior management to ensure the CDP stays as a top business priority, and developing good cross-team alignment are critical to keeping a CDP implementation on track.

7. Don't Bite off More than You Can Chew - Implementing a CDP is a big job that requires a lot of coordination and collaboration with different groups, along with plenty of preparation and planning on your part. It is easy to get overwhelmed, to try and model against too many use cases, and have the project get bogged down in complexity and overlapping priorities. Don't try and do everything at once. Make sure marketing is setting and driving the agenda, they will be the ones using this not the IT department. And do not treat the CDP like a data lake, dumping tons of dirty data into it hoping to clean it up and make sense later. That data needs to be cleaned and mapped before it is brought into the CDP so it can be moved to other platforms.

Conclusion

If you are planning to engage in customer-centric strategies, a CDP is an important component and addition to your martech stack. A CDP will allow you to hoover up customer data from multiple sources, integrate it together, and deliver out formatted data to applications allowing for a unified customer experience across all touchpoints. Making a CDP implementation successful involves good best practices and having the appropriate resources in place to ensure you have clean data mapped to the right fields going into and out of your CDP. Modeling the implementation around your core use cases will help you target the right vendor and solution for your most pressing needs. Finally, CDPs don't happen in a vacuum; build the right relationships and executive support internally to ensure your project doesn't get deprioritized before it is finished.