What is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

4 minute read

Over the last year I’ve had countless conversations with people about the problems DailyStory is solving. Several people commented, “is this a Customer Data Platform?”

So naturally, I am reading and researching about what a Customer Data Platform is.

What is a Customer Data Platform

What is a Customer Data Platform?

A Customer Data Platform provides a single, marketing-owned view of the customer across all systems that manage customer data.

That’s my abbreviated description, see a more complete definition on Wikipedia or this article on MarTech.

The concept of the Customer Data Platform was conceived by David Raab. David also founded the Customer Data Platform Institute (CDP Institute). The CDP Institute is another resource for learning more about CDPs.

But, if you’re like me, you’re first reaction is to say, “isn’t this the purpose of a CRM?”

One significant differentiator is that a CDP is owned by marketing whereas a CRM is typically owned by sales.

Let’s unpack this further.

Why do I need a Customer Data Platform?

The concept and purpose of a CDP is pretty simple: marketers tend to own many different applications and systems to manage customers.

Here are a few:

  • Customer Relationship Management Platforms
  • Marketing Automation Platforms
  • Marketing Attribution Platforms
  • Web Analytics Platforms
  • Ecommerce Platforms
  • Online communities
  • Social media tools
  • Paid Search / Advertising

You get the idea.

Lot’s of customer interaction points and in turn lots of customer data. Much of this customer data is only available in the application it was created with.

Many Customer Touch Points

Here’s the problem:

Each of these marketing systems tends to provide a view of the customer as it relates to the activities of that system.

Let’s look at several examples to illustrate this:

  • Want to know when a customer was added to the sales pipeline? The value of the opportunity? And so on? — Look to your CRM.
  • Want to know what type of support problems a customer is experiencing? Look to your online community.
  • Want to know what content is most popular on your website? Look to your web analytics tools.

This isn’t how a business or marketing leader wants to view the customer.

Plus, it can be really challenging to connect data together when some data, like website traffic, is anonymous.

What business leaders want to know

Business leaders ask questions like:

  • What did this customer do before showing up in our sales funnel?
  • What content did this customer view before converting? And what about after converting?
  • How long was the customer active before converting?
  • How are my digital campaigns influencing purchases?
  • What is the customer journey across my channels?
  • What website content is highly correlated with new customers?

At my last startup I lived this.

Here is one example:

We were running a campaign on LinkedIn for a white paper that drove leads. Looking only at the metrics from the LinkedIn campaign, we were very successful: solid click-throughs and a good conversion rate.

We held this up as a success story and wanted to double the investment in the campaign. But first we did the “marketing forensics” to see how many of those leads showed up in either our sales funnel or as new customers.

After 2-3 weeks of research it was determined that zero leads became customers or showed up in our pipeline.

That’s a great example of how you can easily data can mislead you when you don’t have a complete view.

The importance of a complete view

Or the danger of an incomplete customer view!

I believe connecting this customer data together is a problem that a Customer Data Platform attempts to solve.

In conclusion

Much of what I’ve read about Customer Data Platforms is oriented towards large enterprises and business-to-consumer data.

Today large, enterprise organizations can make the investment into the teams and technologies to build custom solutions or invest in early CDP solutions.

But what I find most interesting is the opportunity for small-and-medium businesses. Specifically B2Bs.

The type of insight and the problems, e.g. long sales cycles, multi-channel campaigns, multiple customer datasets, all lend themselves well to a Customer Data Platform.

And this is the very problem we’re solving at DailyStory.

Are we a Customer Data Platform? Maybe. Today we’re just helping one business at a time figure out how their customer data tells a story. And purposefully trying to ignore marketing buzzwords.

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