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Marketers, Have a CRM And Think You Don’t Need a Customer Data Platform? Think Again

You already have a CRM, so you might think you’ve got all your bases covered. But together, CDPs and CRMs form an unbeatable one-two punch.

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This post is part of our Moment Makers series, which dives into how marketers use technology to build data-driven customer experiences that feel natural, relevant, and right on time. 

A chief marketing officer (CMO) recently asked what I thought was the single most useful thing a customer data platform (CDP) could do. Having just written a book on the subject with my colleague Chris O’Hara, I was ready with the answer: segmentation.

The CDP is one of the hottest marketing technology categories to come along in years. Salesforce recently launched its enterprise-grade CDP called Customer 360 Audiences.

But as Chris and I point out in the book, the CDP itself isn’t really new. It’s the latest stage in the natural evolution of CRM for marketers and others who want to organize, and put to use, all their customer data. Above all, it promises to provide a single source of truth for marketing and other functions. (Helpful note: CDPs do not cure baldness.)

Who Benefits from a Single Source of Truth?

It has many names — this “single source of truth.” Some users call it a “unified profile,” “360-degree view,” “customer master,” or a “golden record.” Whatever it’s called, marketers agree it should unify and harmonize data from various sources, mapping them to a common data model. Done right, the process yields an accurate, near real-time source of customer data (the “CD” in the name “CDP,” after all).

That’s the reason Salesforce built Customer 360 Truth, a suite of solutions that helps the entire enterprise map customer and account IDs together, harmonize data, and manage consent. Customer 360 Audiences is a key component of Customer 360 Truth, providing the reliable and accessible customer profile so coveted by marketers.

One marketer who knows the challenge of customer data management firsthand is Kumar Subramanyam, Global Head of Marketing Data Sciences at Hewlett-Packard (HP). In his work across the B2C and B2B sides of HP’s business, he’s constantly trying  to pull insights from disparate data sources around the world. His challenges echoed many others who wrangle customer and account data for a living.

Nobody but a farmer wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I’m going to build a silo.’

“In my role as a marketer,” he told me, “my main challenge is consistency of data collection. Our data universe is many different assets and technology solutions put together to connect a customer journey.”

Nobody but a farmer wakes up in the morning saying, “I’m going to build a silo.” It’s those many silos of customer data — built up over the years — that the CDP is designed to unify into a single source of truth.

The #1 thing a CDP can do for you

Salesforce regularly fields third-party surveys to better understand the needs and challenges facing global marketers, the results of which are summarized in our State of Marketing reports. When asked about advanced use cases for customer data, their top answers are segmentation, insights, and predictive modeling.

Given that “insights” is a general term, and predictive modeling uses segmentation, the top use case for customer data is pretty clear: segmentation. It surprised me that something as unglamorous as dividing customers into groups turns out to be the number one thing a CDP can do for your business.

But it makes a lot of sense. Consider Reckitt Benckiser (RB), a global consumer products company whose brands include Lysol, Air Wick, and Clearasil. RB Senior Product Owner Sebastian Baltruszewicz told me, “A lot of the time we do have a detailed view of the customer, but it’s only for a single brand. Across different brands, the view could be different.”

If RB were to unify the customer view across brands, with the customer’s appropriate consent, they could uncover new segments and opportunities for useful cross-sell and relevant personalization. For example, families using Enfamil infant formula may be more likely to be in a Lysol-friendly segment. You could remind them of Lysol’s germ-removing superpowers at a moment when they’re hyper-focused on household hygiene.

Data is only as good as its goals

Customer 360 Audiences provides all the basic capabilities you’d expect from a CDP:

  • It pulls data from sources commonly used by marketers, including Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud 
  • It formats the data so that it’s easier to understand and use
  • It links different IDs so the system knows they refer to the same customer
  • It sends out customer lists and instructions to other marketing systems, including email and social advertising

The common thread running through data input, harmonization and activation is, again, segmentation. At the heart of Customer 360 Audiences is a simple, user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface for building segments. It’s this emphasis on ease-of-use for day-to-day marketing that makes the CDP a powerful complement to your existing CRM.

For example, do you want to know how many of your high-value customers live in Ohio and have a Bernese mountain dog named Jordan? If you’ve collected that data (with consent), you can build customer profiles targeting that very specific segment. If it’s a big enough group, it might be a perfect opportunity to promote your new line of Buckeye-themed squeaky toys.

Even the best single view of the customer is still just bits and bytes until you do something with it. I’ve seen customers who go all-in on unifying customer data, but they don’t take the next step because they’re not sure how. In most cases, taking that next crucial step means segmenting customers. 

After all, segmentation is the foundation of all great marketing.

Learn how one Customer 360 Audiences pilot customer, the convenience store chain Casey’s, experienced a 16% lift in conversion rates on pizza after connecting data from online orders, in-store transactions, and emails via Marketing Cloud. 

Check out our CDP digital guide to see how a customer data platform can help you segment and pinpoint customers.

Marketing Cloud offers solutions for digital marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, customer journey mapping, marketing analytics, marketing automation, and B2B marketing to help you personalize customer communications across every digital touchpoint — from anywhere.

In a former life, he was a research vice president at Gartner, where he wrote and spoke widely about marketing technology, and advised numerous Fortune 500 clients on marketing strategy. He’s also authored four books, including “House of Lies,” which was adapted for TV by Showtime, and “Customer Data Platforms: Use People Data to Transform Marketing Engagement,” co-written with Chris O'Hara. Fun fact: Kihn was head writer for the MTV series Pop-Up Video from 1997-1999.

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