When it comes to marketing technology, we like to challenge the concept of the ‘martech stack’. We feel the Martech Spine is a much better and coherent approach to your marketing technology strategy. We first launched the concept of the Martech Spine back in 2016 to help marketers see that not all technology is created equal, and that there are more important technologies than others for driving Marketing’s success.

In 2016 we saw this as a CMS (i.e your website) integrated to a Marketing Automation platform for intelligent marketing engagement and then in turn connected to a CRM to enable Sales and Marketing alignment and the ‘handover’ of ownership between the two functions.

That simplicity of those three technologies still provides the critical foundation, but as customer expectations around hyper-personalised experiences have progressed significantly, we recognised that this Spine probably wasn’t sufficient.  

So, over the years we have added additional technologies to the Martech Spine, but kept that core principle – prioritise the most important technologies, integrate them well and your marketing technology strategy has a solid foundation for delivering Marketing’s success.  

Business Intelligence Tools and Sales Enablement

We added Business Intelligence tools such as Tableau and Power BI to the Spine in 2018 to provide Marketing the tools to create the reports and dashboards that showcase Marketing’s value and demonstrate their contribution to the business.

In 2020 we added Sales Enablement technologies such as Seismic to the Spine as Marketing Automation and CRM integrated alone wasn’t enough to drive true Sales and Marketing alignment. Placing Sales Enablement as equal importance to CRM improves efficiencies and contributes to the wider sales process through marketing approved content and collateral, that is on brand and on message, relevant to each stage of the sales funnel. By nature it means Marketing are more involved in the Sales process and not just ‘throwing leads over the fence’ to Sales. Sales Enablement also provides a greater degree of customer insight than was previously aggregated by just the integration of Marketing Automation and CRM alone – encouraging better and more engaging customer conversations.

The Need for Customer Data Platforms

2020 and the global pandemic forced companies to think different and rapidly embrace digital. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella summed it up perfectly with his quote “we’ve seen 2 years of digital transformation in 2 months”.

But in trying to adapt to the changing customer behaviours and expectations, organisations found their existing marketing technology infrastructure had key issues. They realised that they have no single view of the customer, their customer journeys are actually very disjointed, and they have lots of customer data in siloes making personalisation and reporting very difficult.

Whilst many Marketing departments were using Marketing Automation and CRM to deliver successful marketing programs in the past, those that are looking to create seamless customer experiences that the changing buyer landscape is demanding, a technology that can address the previously mentioned issues is required. Although they’re not new, Customer Data Platforms are becoming increasingly popular to solve these challenges among both B2B and B2C enterprises.  

Customer Data Platform - The Martech Spine

So, what is a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

Customer Data Platforms brings together all of your customer data from a variety of systems, from CRM, Marketing Automation, ERP etc. to provide a single view of the customer. Whilst this buzzword has been talked about a lot in recent years and often seen as nothing more than a pipedream without bending Marketing Automation and CRM so out of shape to achieve it - the development and progression of CDPs means it’s now genuinely achievable for all marketers.

However, CDPs go beyond just a data ‘warehouse’ or data ‘lake’ – yes they collect data in much the same way – however, they have the ability to activate the customer data – i.e. push the data to other tools that do the delivery of marketing messages – email, social, SMS, paid media etc.

Why invest in a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?

With an existing Martech Spine of a Marketing Automation platform integrated to a CRM system, then you may be able to achieve the capability of a CDP – but it would be pushing the boundaries of these existing technology platforms and may be faster, and cheaper, to achieve your ambitions through a dedicated CDP instead.

The Customer Data Platform market

Customer Data Platforms are coming of age, and are very hot in the market right now because they sit at the intersection of a number of key themes Marketing are battling -

  • Data management and governance
  • Obtaining a single view of the customer
  • Customer journey orchestration
  • AI / Predictive

However, many technology vendors are positioning themselves as a Customer Data Platform even though they do very different things. A true CDP sits as the beating heart of a marketing organisation, removes point to point integrations and orchestrates the customer experience from a central location. It’s not just a bolt on tool.

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re currently evaluating Customer Data Platforms, make sure they can ingest, unify, and activate customer data – that is what makes the distinction of being a true CDP.

There will be many Customer Data Platform vendors that come and go, and the market is currently highly fractured and so future market consolidation is inevitable just like the Marketing Automation market in recent years. However, the largest martech vendors are also investing in Customer Data Platforms with Adobe announcing Adobe Experience Platform and the availability of real-time CDP at Summit in April 2021, and Salesforce also launching their Salesforce CDP platform soon after this too. We believe that either of these vendors have the longevity, resource, and focus to be your preferred Customer Data Platform of choice.

Looking to find out more about Customer Data Platforms and how they can support your Martech Spine? Come say hello and let’s get talking CDPs.