man with a magnifying glass
PHOTO: Ali Hajian

Customer data platforms (CDPs) have gathered steam in the last few years. These unique solutions essentially provide a single, unified version of the truth as it pertains to your customer data, incorporating both first- and third-party data from every possible source. CDPs help marketers become more effective and businesses become more successful, and the B2B world is now acknowledging their value. 

So, what if you don’t get on board with a CDP? Well, it’s simple. Without it, you’ll still have data. But you’ll end up with a closed system that doesn't allow you to extract that data or view it holistically. This can lead to missed opportunities with customers, decreased agility, failure to provide powerful customer experiences, asynchronous marketing and sales efforts and more. 

In other words, it’s imperative your customer data is accurate — and unified in one place. If you can’t tell, I’m not-so-subtly strongly recommending you get a CDP. Here’s how to start. 

1. Understand the Types of CDPs

A CDP is different from other central databases for customer information because they’re owned and operated by the marketing and/or revenue departments, ultimately in place to serve marketing’s purposes. There are also different types of CDPs: standalone and embedded. A standalone system is a single platform that integrates data from multiple sources and functions only as a CDP. 

An embedded CDP, on the flip side, is part of a different platform. For example, you might get a business solution (like account-based marketing software), and the CDP is already embedded into it. The advantage of an embedded CDP is that it allows you to work in various intermediate modes. It’s great for delivering initial use cases and getting value quickly for B2B marketers. It also ensures your architecture is already set up for maximum data optimization and for more of the hub-and-spoke data model that is sure to define marketing tech stacks in the future. 

Related Article: Customer Data Platforms: The Truth Behind the Hype

2. Review Vendors (and Know What You’re Looking For)

As with any system, you should start by identifying potential CDP providers and comparing them to one another. First, make sure to have a checklist of must-have features the CDP must fulfill to make sure the solution you select works for you.

In particular, make sure any potential CDPs you consider bring in data from multiple sources, create unified profiles and segments, and share the data with other systems. Other aspects to look for when finding the right CDP for B2B businesses specifically include being able to map leads to accounts and integrate with sales. 

CDPs in the B2C world require different functionality. For example, instead of connecting sources like CRM, marketing automation and email service providers, B2C CDPs connect to transactional data sources like ecommerce systems. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the industry you’re in, and your particular goals will shape what you need in a CDP. 

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

3. Ensure You’ll Meet Privacy Laws

With all the tools available today that capture customer information, consumers and their representatives are becoming even more careful about the nuances of data and privacy. Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are in full swing, and we can expect to see similar regulations expand and multiply. When you’re looking for a CDP, make sure the vendor you choose has invested into making sure its systems meet existing privacy laws and consumer standards. 

First, this will keep you in compliance, from a legal perspective. Second, it will make your life much easier. For example, GDPR requires that companies give a consumer all the data they have on the person if they request it. If you’re using a CDP that abides by such privacy laws, it will all be in one place, easy to gather and provide. Similarly, if you need to erase someone’s data, using a compliant CDP makes doing so extremely simple. If you don’t use a CDP, this process will be much more laborious and even likely ineffective, which can put you in a compromised position both legally and in terms of credibility. 

Related Article: Developing CDP Use Cases: A Guide for Marketers

4. Map Out Ownership and Workflows

Before you utter the word “implementation,” make sure you and your team are clear about how the CDP will be managed. Generally, CDPs should be owned and managed by marketing operations (or revenue operations, if you have this department). But, IT still needs to be involved. Even if a marketer is the one making the purchase, working closely with IT ensures you get access to the right integration and resources to get it up and running successfully. 

Furthermore, consider how having a CDP will alter your team’s processes. If it will require drastic changes, you may need to think about employing formal change management protocols. If it will be a smaller scale transition, it’s still important to make sure your teams understand when it’s getting implemented, who is responsible for what and how they can work with the CDP to align around common goals and KPIs. 

CDPs can offer B2B marketers the rich, detailed customer pictures at the individual and account levels that you’ve wanted for so long, along with comprehensive data insights. But you have to make sure you put in your due diligence and understand the nuances of these important systems, rather than just diving in. Follow these steps to get started on the right track, and find the right CDP for your business.

Related Article: Is That New CDP Truly a Customer Data Platform?