Why you should Build your CDP

Customer Data Platform (CDP). The more I read and learn about CDPs, the more I am convinced that most, large companies should have one. The CDP hype is real. BUT (I like big BUTs and I cannot lie), I’m a huge advocate for BUILD (Vs. Buy), in this case. I would not go with a CDP SaaS vendor.

Of course, there is always exception to the rule and, as with anything in technology fitting, it depends. But I would strongly consider to build in-house, by default.

This is a shift from my norm. I’ve always been on the vendor-side of things, in favor of the business case to BUY solutions. But, I see this as so strategic and core to a company, that it’s worth the investment to build it. There are tools on the market today to make this process feasible and achievable (more on that later).

When Caesars Entertainment declared bankruptcy a few years back, “The most valuable of the individual assets being fought over by creditors is the data collected over the last 17 years through the company’s Total Rewards loyalty program”. I’m going to argue that that is their CDP. This is a good write-up about it: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/05/18/when-big-data-becomes-your-most-valuable-asset/#117b5a741eef

When you build a CDP, you are building an incredibly valuable asset.

Value is built through asset ownership, not renting.

Taken from this article (https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/data-management/what-is-a-customer-data-platform-and-what-are-the-benefits/), the CDP has three primary functions:

  1. They pull in customer data from the disparate data systems of your choice
  2. They match, merge and cleanse this data into a unified record for each customer
  3. They make these records visible to your other marketing tools to ensure the consistent treatment of customers

I’m going to add #4, from this Gartner blog (https://blogs.gartner.com/martin-kihn/what-is-this-thing-we-call-a-cdp/):

4. It is owned and operated by marketers

I like the way the author opened the article:

A new technology appears, seemingly from the ether, and promises to change our lives. Customer data integration, labeling and storage problems will disappear. Identities will merge. You’ll be able to find new audiences until your ribs squeak and deliver them to any execution system in the barn.

Oh, and it will scale, rarely fail and enable (yes) true one-to-one marketing.

The name of this magic machine is … CRM. It was 1998. Companies piled in, dropping $3.5 billion a year on apps and databases alone – consulting fees not included – and yet, by 2001, 50% of CRM projects “failed.”

The same thing happened, on a lesser scale, during the great marketing automation boom of the 2000s. And it’s happening again.

So, the CDP is supposed to accomplish what the CRM cannot do and what the DMP does not do. But we cannot forget Primary Function #4: It is owned and operated by Marketers.

If you thought the relationship between Sales and Marketing was challenging, it pales in comparison between the diatribe between Marketing and IT; hence, the rise of Marketing Technology teams? I wrote a post about this recently and highlighted this article by on chiefmartec by Scott Brinker, written in 2009 (the classics never die) .

Let’s be honest, these are massive projects; however, the potential value is huge. It’s no surprise that there are over 60 vendors in just a few short years, with a few of them pivoting to adopt this acronym as their primary identity. This is a project you only want to do once.

Do you want to be vendor-locked?

Many CMOs may not even live to reap the full benefits of their investment, given that the median tenure-ship of a CMO is 31 months (according to this source )

You have a CRM.

You have a DMP.

You have a Marketing Automation platform.

You have an EDW and possibly a Data Lake.

You have an enterprise BI solution.

Do you really need a CDP vendor?

(And I’ll double down on that question, if you’ve already implemented a SaaS Customer Journey solution, which most CDPs can/should be able to provide)

The one case where I’d fold quickly on the CDP vendor case is Datorama, if and only if, you’re already full stack Salesforce —negotiate hard at renewal time! 🙂

Here’s the kicker, the most expensive (and important) component of the CDP is your 1st-party behavioral data. The storage, but mainly the processing, of your digital analytics clickstream to match, merge, and cleanse this data into a unified record for each customer. That’s a lot of data! And you’re likely already storing it somewhere.

And if you’re a brand conglomerate, do you have a CDP per brand or do you aggregate or can you have both? I think you should have both, but this would be cost prohibitive (or hugely wasteful) with a SaaS vendor.

I’m going to circle back to Primary Function #4 because this a big reason folks choose a CDP vendor. …“My IT is backlogged; they can’t deliver in my required timeline; I want control”. All very likely true.

If I put my CMO hat on, I would find a consultant to architect the system. If done properly, this system would be a silo-buster and could help democratize A LOT of data throughout the org (see post on Data Silos here). Data/BI Analysts will go to town. Data Science can reap huge time savings. Many internal projects can spawn from a CDP; E.g., Marketing attribution. Endless possibilities, really.

Now, that then brings up the question of “Who’s budget?”. Ah, the joy of politics.

I will argue that the CMO should take this initiative on. They are the first and primary use-case. If I’m correct, that this will benefit multiple orgs, then that’s a big win for the CMO. That’s a CMO with enterprise-wide vision. That’s a future CEO.

In terms of time, there are many tools on the market that can be used to dramatically accelerate this project. In fact, I’ll put it out there, that with the right tools, this can be accomplished within several months.

If IT can’t handle it, I would consider starting with a consulting firm that can operate as a managed service, knowing that I can bring the resources in-house later, if that makes sense. This would be hosted in a virtual private cloud (and hopefully a solution would be flexible enough to not lock me into any one cloud vendor, either).

To conclude, if you don’t have a CDP project going, you’d be remiss if you didn’t get one going as soon as possible. But look inward first.

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