So you went and licensed yourself a customer data platform…now what? How can you successfully launch the newest shiny object in marketing technology? It comes down to one basic principle, preparation. Since being successful in anything requires one to be prepared, let me unpack this a bit…

Preparing for a CDP integration will require the following three concepts:

  1. Internal alignment and planning
  2. Understanding your data and how you want to use it
  3. Understanding your Digital Marketing Ecosystem

I'd hope someone would know what a CDP is before buying one, but just in case, before we explore the three ideas above, let’s start with defining what a CDP is. 

The CDP Institute defines a customer data platform as "a packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems."  

When you breakdown this definition, there are two key components that need to be addressed: a unified customer database and accessibility to other systems.  Both of these will require a fair amount of planning to get right. Unifying your data will require input from marketing, engineering and IT, as will the integrations with your 3rd party vendors whose data will be shared with.

How-to-successfully-implement-a-CDP

Internal Alignment

While the main users of the CDP will be the marketing team, this doesn't mean that IT isn't involved. A CDP is a sophisticated software platform that requires the technology team to participate in the evaluation, selection and ultimately the integration to be successful. It's important to make sure Marketing and IT are in lock-step during the early stages of the process so that once the contract is signed, you will be ready to start working with your new CDP partner. 

Assigning a Project Manager early can help smooth the transition from pre- to post-sales.

Understanding your Data

In order to bring together all of your customer data into a unified customer profile, Marketing and IT will need to first understand what data you have on your customer.  A unified profile will require 1st party data, historical purchase data will ideally include point of sale and ecomm data and engagement data.

Decisions around how to unify your newly liberated data will be an important step. Data represents the foundation of your CDP so you should have a clearly defined strategy for:

  1. Migrating historical data
  2. Merging records
  3. Survivorship rules for how to merge records
  4. ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) - Who will own transforming your data? Will you provide data in the CDPs format or will you send them your raw data for them to transform.

Having anonymized sample data, a data dictionary and an entity relationship diagram (ERD) ready to share will be beneficial to all parties involved since this will define the scope of ETL work and will help to avoid data issues during the implementation. 

Understanding what data you have is an important first step. The second step is to determine how you want to use it. Having a clear strategy on this 2nd point is crucial. Do you have the data that will drive your strategy? If you want to segment an audience by age and gender, are you collecting birthdate and gender? If you want to target customers who have made a certain purchase in specific stores, are you collecting product level detail and do you have store data available?

The Marketing Insider Group states, "Data such as a user’s browsing patterns, social media activity, online purchase behavior, and other metrics can help you focus your marketing efforts on what works. So, collect as much information about your target market as much as you can. This data will be at the core of any successful marketing strategy."

So what about that marketing strategy? How do you plan on communicating with your customers? You should share early on in the sales cycle with your CDP provider how you want to activate this data. What types of campaigns will you run? What channels will you execute them on? Do you have a mobile app?

Understanding your Digital Marketing Ecosystem

Arguably the most important step to a successful integration is to identify all the systems that need to provide data to the CDP as well as all the systems the CDP needs to share data with. Being able to share data easily is a basic pillar of the CDP definition, so having a detailed list of all the points of integration is of critical importance. Most CDPs have pre-built integrations with the more popular commerce sites and messaging platforms, but it's always smart to provide details around all the partners that will need this data. The LUMAscape of Marketing Technology is a crowded field and not every platform will have pre-built connectors.

Working with your Solutions Consultant to white board or diagram the marketing architecture is a great way to start. You can connect the dots between all the platforms by first understanding your data and marketing strategy, then define how each system will share data (real-time or batch) with input from the IT teams.

Migrating to any new marketing technology platform will take effort by both the client and the solution provider. Preparation is the real key to a successful migration. Speak to your CDP partner early in the process as they are the experts for how to onboard to their platform and will help guide the process.

The faster you can get data into the CDP, the sooner you will start to realize the immense value this platform will bring to your marketing programs and bottom line.

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