Customer Data Platforms have been generating a lot of buzz. It’s understandable that you’d want to move quickly to get in on this latest technology. But as with most big decisions in life, it’s important to do your research on CDPs before leaping in headfirst.
There are a number of factors to consider when implementing any major change in your organization. Introducing CDPs is no exception to this rule. Here we’ll look at the five moves that can make the implementation process either a seamless integration or a total nightmare for you and your team.
Before we dive in, I’d like to set an important expectation: don’t expect CDP implementation to be an overnight success. Think of it as a project to tackle over a 12 month time horizon. The first step is a small one, listening to the right data. From there, you can analyze the data you’ve been listening to, and then, finally, take action on those insights.
1. Build the Business Case
As I wrote about in Chapter 9 of A Member Is Worth a Thousand Visitors, a sure way to be disappointed in your technology decisions is to make them without a business plan in hand.
I’ve seen it happen before. Someone gets excited about the latest technology and spends a lot of money on purchasing and deploying the tool. Only then do they realize they don’t have a plan to actually use it. In the end, this results in wasted time, money, and energy, and oftentimes the new tool sits there collecting dust.
Before you invest in a CDP, you must know why you’re purchasing the platform, what you’ll use it for, and how it will drive sales. If you don’t have specific answers (with actual numbers to back them up) for each of these questions, then you haven’t built the business case for the new tech.
Set your goals for implementing a CDP. For example, if we implement a CDP, we would aim to see a 20 percent increase in traffic, 30 percent increase in new business, and 15 percent increase in retention rates. Do the math to calculate the economic benefit of these results, and compare to the cost of deploying a CDP. If you’re not happy with the ROI, either keep brainstorming to find new ways to drive revenue, or wait until you see a clearer path to ROI before making the investment. For inspiration, refer back to this other article we published that explains how companies make money with CDPs.
2. Take Stock of Data Sources and Quality
A Customer Data Platform can only be effective if you collect data for it to analyze. You can’t create a full picture of your customer base without user information from more than one source.
The whole beauty of a CDP is that it allows you to track data from across channels. So, you’ll want to begin by cataloging all of the sources you have: on site behavior, email marketing engagement, product fulfillment, etc.
Next, evaluate the quality of each data source. Remember the old saying “garbage in, garbage out”? If you have a source with poor data quality, you’ll set yourself up for failure when you connect it with the CDP. This means you must decide to either clean the data or leave it on the sidelines for now.
Finally, determine how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Think about the “so what” of adding a data source to the single view of a customer. If you know both email engagement and on site behavior of a user, you can see what types of offers are more appealing and make them consistently across channels. If you understand how the same set of users are interacting with your company on the mobile app versus desktop website, you can see which channel is more effective in driving conversions.
3. Get Buy-In Across the Organization
Any time you implement a big change in your business, you’ll encounter some skepticism. Some employees may feel like the current system is working just fine, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
However, it’s critical that you have your entire team on board. CDPs rely on collecting data from many channels. That means you’ll need to have everyone—from your website developers and social media gurus to your customer service reps and content creators—all ready to be a part of the process.
It’s important for leaders to take ownership of generating this buy-in. People will naturally be wary of change. It’s your job to explain why you’re implementing this new technology and how it will help grow your business and support the work your teams already do.
You also owe your team the training and education that will make the transition as seamless as possible. When you communicate change properly, it’s possible to get even the most doubtful employee to give something new a try.
4. Create Proper Bandwidth
Implementing your CDP system will require a lot from the people in your organization. They need to learn how to use the new platform, spend time inputting data, assess and analyze the results of the information they’re receiving, make recommendations to leadership on how to change the business’s approach based on analytics received from the CDP, and then enact those changes.
To complicate matters, the skills needed for a successful implementation evolve over time.
At first, you’re going to need a more technical person who is comfortable with data mapping. This resource will need to pull all the data sources together and “train” the CDP on the various fields. You’ll also need help from your development department to place code on your sites. If your CDP customizes the user experience, it would also be useful to have your designer involved in creating the various variable components of your website.
Then, you’re going to need someone who is good at deriving insights from data. This is more of a marketing strategy skill set—someone who can religiously review the results and recommend practical action steps. This person should manage the learning agenda for the company, that is, what hypotheses need to be tested, and when it is time to take action based on results from experiments.
A lucrative CDP implementation takes a lot of time, effort, and thought from your teams, and you’ll need the bandwidth to take on this sizeable new task. This means getting rid of old systems and processes that are not useful and are eating up their time, hiring new faces to take on added tasks and responsibilities, and/or finding outside consultants and agencies who can do some of the heavy lifting for you.
The key here is to have these resources in place before you sign the contract with your CDP vendor. And don’t forget to show appreciation for your team’s hard work as they help you build a stronger future for your company.
5. Now—Finally—Select the Correct Platform
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s finally time to select the technology.
The CDP landscape is growing rapidly. Gartner noted that the number of companies that identify themselves as CDP providers has doubled in the past year, and industry revenue is expected almost to double again in 2019. This means that you have a lot of provider options, and there are more popping up each day.
The first step to successful implementation is identifying the type of CDP that is most valuable to your business. What kind of data do you already collect? What kind of analytics are you hoping to generate? Do you have systems in place already to act on what you learn? Or do you need a CDP that can help you with marketing execution?
The Customer Data Platform Institute provides a number of evaluation guides that give you a thorough breakdown of the types of CDPs out there and can help you select the one that makes the most sense for your business.
It’s easy to get excited about the latest technology and put the horse before the cart in the implementation process. However, taking the time to assess your options properly, engage and educate your team, and input the necessary data will ensure that your CDP serves you well for many, many years to come.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of Sterling Woods, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. Ristagno holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method for Making More Money Online. He regularly speaks at key media conferences, including at Niche Media events, Specialized Information Publishers Association meetings, and the Business Information and Media Summit.