Choosing and Implementing the Right Customer Data Platform

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If you’re reading this, you have most likely made the smart decision to implement a Customer Data Platform (CDP) for your business. You already know that a CDP will lead to better customer insights and experiences, as well as improved inter-departmental communication in the long run. But now you want to know which one of the many CDP vendors out there is best for your business, and how to then implement the platform successfully.

1. Assess Your Business Needs

Do not skip this step or you will regret it dearly! Be honest in your assessment. Just because CDPs can offer a myriad of benefits doesn’t guarantee your specific needs will be met. Ask your team why they believe a CDP is necessary and what exactly they want to achieve with it.

Getting your coworkers’ input will prove immensely valuable. And getting their emotional buy-in will be just as helpful. If they are happy with the coming changes and prepared to adapt to new systems, you’re off to a great start.

2. Understand What a CDP Can’t Do for You

As CDPs are still relatively new, some misunderstandings about their capabilities do arise from time to time. To avoid any let-downs when you are looking for CDPs to provide solutions to your business needs, take note of these three limitations.

  1. A CDP does not provide its own data — it works with your company’s data.
  2. It is not the same as a Data Management Platform (DMP).
  3. Not all CDPs can resolve customer identity.

3. Do Your Research, Thoroughly!

Think about how an “ideal” CDP for your business would function and keep those specifics in mind when researching vendors. It’s crucial that you keep both long-and-short-term goals in mind. You don’t want to be choosing a new vendor every couple of years so ensure you look for a future-proof solution.

It’s a good idea to find out whether the CDP you are considering will cause drastic changes to the current systems and processes you have in place. Will its implementation be a paradigm shift for your business and/or employees? And are you fully equipped to make that transition with minimal disruption?

4. Shortlist Your Vendor Options

Next, you need to create a shortlist of vendors to choose from. To get started, I suggest checking out some review portals to get an overview of what’s out there. Take a look at the websites of the vendors you find interesting, and see if their roadmap aligns with your future goals (Exponea has a good example of a public-facing roadmap). Then request demos from the vendors that best fit your expectations.

At this stage, you should have a good idea of what you need and how exactly you plan to use a CDP. So make the most of your demos by asking vendors the right kinds of questions.

Examples of Good Questions to Ask Vendors:

      What sort of companies do you service, i.e. do you have other clients in my sector?

      How has your service added value to businesses that are similar to mine?

      Is your CDP compatible with all of the sources I’ll be using?

      Is data easily extractable?

      Does the platform perform in real-time, both for reading data and executing campaigns?

      Can customer profiles be merged dynamically?

      Can it integrate with my current systems?

      Does it contain customer segmentation, AI and native campaign execution?

      How exactly will it make my company more efficient?

Throughout this process, remember to assess whether the vendor will meet the needs you uncovered in your initial assessment. If they cannot, it might not be the right fit for your business.

Also, take into consideration the differentiating factors that each vendor brings to the table. Not all CDPs are the same. Don’t forget, most CDPs on the market originated as something else entirely. If you know their history, it may help you uncover how they can help achieve your goals.

Personally, I would look for a vendor that can be more than a client, but a partner. The vendor you select should be committed to meeting the goals you set together.

Successfully Implement Your CDP

Once you’ve made your vendor choice, you need to consider the best way to implement the CDP. I have found that the successful implementation of a new Customer Data Platform can be rigorous, but these three steps will help tremendously.

1. Start Small

There’s an old idiom that goes something like this: “You can’t eat a whole elephant all at once, but you can do it slowly, one bite at a time”. This translates to the fact that it is better to implement any big change if it happens little by little, and not all at once.

2. Create a Habit

Implementing small changes, along with a positive attitude toward the CDP, and proper training, if necessary, will prove the value of the tool to those who use it. Enthusiasm for the platform is sure to spread and team members will become “internal advocates” for the new tool.

3. Make It Loveable

Marketers should enjoy using CDP. If the needs your team brought up in your initial needs analysis are now going to be met, the implementation of the CDP should be welcomed with open and eager arms.

Reap the Rewards of Choosing the Right CDP

If you planned well, did your research diligently, kept a positive mindset throughout, and selected the right vendor for your business, there is no reason you shouldn’t be smiling right now.

It’s clear that the process of selecting a CDP, followed by successfully implementing it, may prove more cumbersome than imagined. Yet ensuring you go through this process in the best possible way is absolutely critical. It will ensure your new CDP does what it was set out to do — to help your business thrive.

Read more: Why a CDP Should be on your MarTech Shopping List

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