Wednesday, May 01, 2024

CDP Success Depends on More than Marketers

The CDP Institute runs periodic roundtables where our members discuss industry issues.  We had one earlier this week on the topic of helping companies make use of an existing CDP.  We chose that topic because we frequently hear that many users don’t know what to do with a CDP after it’s built.

The initial discussion followed the more or less expected path towards solutions such as developing change champions and publicizing success stories to encourage CDP use.  Participants stressed the need for organizational change to allow applications that the CDP makes possible.  This change includes cooperation between teams that had previously not worked together, new processes, and new metrics for cross-channel marketing programs.  We heard that traditional direct marketing organizations are especially likely to struggle precisely because they have such mature single-channel techniques in place.

On the bright side, the group said that real-time capabilities were the most likely to create new opportunities that would make users excited enough to adopt new approaches.  Good to know.

The discussion then turned in an unexpected direction: the shift in CDP leadership from marketers to IT and data teams.  One participant said in the past two years, he had found that 90% of new projects were initiated by IT.  While that’s certainly a trend I’ve observed, the group added several new insights.

  • One reason for the shift is that CDP deployment requires more technical skill than most marketing teams can muster.  I have generally argued the reason for greater IT and data team involvement is the broader use of customer data beyond marketing departments.  This makes the CDP an enterprise-level project.  But it’s probably also true that CDPs used more widely throughout the organization are more technically complicated than CDPs used only in marketing.  Broader applications imply more data sources, more types of processing, and connections to more applications.  This all requires greater involvement by the company’s IT and data teams.

  • IT and data teams need new skills to succeed with a CDP.  This goes beyond the need to understand specific processes such as identity resolution, which many IT and data teams had not previously needed to support.  It includes the need for those teams to better understand how marketers actually do their jobs.  Without that fundamental understanding, IT and data teams will make poor choices in designing systems to support marketers.  Traditional project-by-project requirements gathering isn't enough.

  • More specifically, IT and data teams need to recognize that marketers have a different attitude towards data.  One participant observed (and I agree) that IT teams want to make sure everything is correct before they release any data, while marketers are willing to accept some errors in return for quicker results.  It’s an astute observation about culture that both sides should recognize and discuss so they can agree on the right balance for any particular application. 

  • A bigger role for IT and data implies a smaller role for marketing technologists.  They’re still involved in selecting martech, of course, but are less likely to lead a CDP project than they once were.  This probably applies to other marketing technology projects as well, especially if it applies to departments outside of marketing.  This isn't a death knell for martech staff.  But it does imply a shift in responsibilities, away from designing the martech stack to system administration, support, and analytics.  

Those final two points – about the different attitudes towards data quality and the changing role for martech staff – both point to a need for more CDP education aimed at IT and data teams, rather than just marketers.  That’s something we’ll consider here at CDP Institute and I suspect will be important for industry vendors, consultants, and practitioners as well.  

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