How can a Customer Data Platform (CDP) help my B2B business?

Delivering personalized targeted B2B marketing campaigns requires accessible, good quality data – how can a CDP support this?   

Customer data platforms (CDPs) are becoming more and more popular and many B2B organizations are investing in packaged applications or are building their own as part of their martech stack. But what are the core capabilities of a CDP and how can a CDP specifically support a B2B organization? If you’re thinking of adding a CDP to your marketing technology stack, here’s a guide to what CDPs can do and the specific role they can play in the B2B arena.  

Why are more B2B companies looking at CDPs?  

In its Landscape Report, New Tech: B2B Customer Data Platforms Forrester points out that CDPs are becoming more important to B2B businesses. This is because of the unequivocal benefits of consolidating data and the increasing importance of data management as artificial intelligence continues to grow and as B2B companies look to deliver customer experiences that stand out. CDPs support the kind of data management capabilities needed to progress, the report says: “By integrating and unifying first- and third-party data to create unified profiles, B2B CDPs are enabling users to improve the quality of their data, upgrade their targeting, and create more timely, personalized experiences.” 

 Another reason for the surge of interest in CDPs is omnichannel marketing and the ongoing challenge of delivering consistent interactions for customers across channels, as well as for marketers to retrieve and stitch siloed data together to target accounts and create insightful reporting. Only 12% of B2B marketers are confident of the quality of their data and 84% report data management as their key weakness [Forrester]. Enter stage right, the customer data platform, which can be leveraged to unify and centralize data to deliver targeted messaging and go some way to align sales and marketing teams.  

How does a CDP work?

According to the CDP Institute, “A Customer Data Platform is packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” 

A customer data platform connects, segments and activates every data point you have on individual customers and prospects to create a unified view. It collects this data from sales and marketing systems, such as marketing automation programs and your Customer Relationship Management (CRM), enterprise systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), transactions, support calls and chatbots, as well as third-party data sources – think firmographic and demographic data, web activity and ad impressions. Then it uses identity resolution to cleverly match leads to accounts, rather than at the individual level that happens in B2C. It takes this data and organizes it in one place, generates segments and activates omnichannel one-on-one campaigns.  

The core benefits of a CDP for B2B  

When we look at a CDP through a B2B lens, there are several key advantages that this technology brings with it: 

(1) Eliminating organizational data silos  

Integrating customer and prospect data housed in various platforms that don’t communicate with each other (marketing automation software, data warehouses and CRMs for example) is the single biggest reason why CDPs are considered. With a CDP, sales, marketing and customer representative teams can all access the same unified data. Teams sharing high-quality data and working from the same, accurate database is a stepping-stone towards sales and marketing alignment as each team can see what the other is working on and prioritizing, and each team can better understand the other’s tactics and KPIs.  

(2) Identity resolution

As the B2B buyer journey becomes ever more complex and non-linear, identity resolution is crucial. CDPs can combine all the data you collect into one B2B customer profile through identity resolution (accurately and consistently matching and merging customer data such as email addresses, login data, and IP numbers from multiple sources). This enables a single view of each customer for marketing, sales and other areas of the business to use, creating the opportunity for shared insights.  

(3) Management & security

With the death of third-party cookies in 2023 and as marketers learn to navigate delivering personalized experiences in a privacy-first world, CDPs can be useful because they can manage, collect and store user data, while staying compliant with data protection regulations.  

(4) Behavioral data collection

“Organizations that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth and more than 25% in gross margin”, says McKinsey & Company. Behavioral data comprises the granular interactions of prospects and customers with your business and it can be collected from social media, marketing automation systems, websites, mobile apps, CRM systems, call centers and emails. While your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can collate customer-facing interactions, it won’t collect and analyze behavioral data from various sources in the way a CDP does, allowing you to build a holistic view of customer behavior, understand churn and improve customer retention.

Behavioral data is the richest possible fuel to power advanced analytics, AI models, and applications. It describes the behavior of people (such as customers, partners, and team members), the actions and decisions they make, and the context of those actions and decisions — second-by-second, in granular detail.”  

(5) Audience building  

CDPs are extremely useful at creating segments for account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns – the better you can segment, the better you can target and build an audience. Using personality traits and audience behavior, a CDP can react in near real-time to a prospect’s intent signals on a website or other platform and identify customers who have a high propensity to buy but who haven’t yet engaged with your marketing or sales team. The ability to create audiences by slicing and dicing your data is marketing gold.  

(6) Personalization

B2B customers who see content tailored to their interests are five times more likely to engage [Salesforce]. The data from your CDP can be segmented in endless ways to provide this personalized experience. For example, you could quickly create an audience from those who visited a specific product page, or from those who engaged with your live chat feature.  

The data a CDP can consolidate is also invaluable when building an ABM program (marketers target ideal accounts by addressing their specific pain points, building relationships and sending them targeted, tailored messaging). The nature of ABM means that to work the approach needs lots and lots of data to understand customer or prospect needs, the best channel to reach them, past deals, the information available to them and how they interact with your company. A CDP can capture on and offline data, unify it, segment and then help you target prospects by tech stack, industry or company size, allowing you to develop a personalized strategy for each.  

(7) Activation

A CDP has the capability to publish user and account level audiences to other tools in the martech stack including your email and digital ad platforms to orchestrate real-time, bespoke messaging. 

(8) A Single view of the customer

A CDP’s ability to provide a 360-degree view of the customer gives each department valuable data: B2B executives, for example, have more accurate data to make decisions, marketers to deliver more profitable campaigns, and customer support agents to solve issues faster. Acquia’s Customer Experience Trends Report found that 93% of marketers believe gathering first-party data to understand their audience is more important now than two years ago. By gathering first-, second- and third-party data from multiple sources, a CDP can be instrumental in providing a single view of your B2B customer, unifying, matching and cleansing data into a single source to enable predictions on your customer’s next move, integration with other marketing platforms, and in turn, better informed marketing campaigns. 

 CDPs can do amazing things, but they are not for every business

CDPs, if implemented correctly, are a great solution for B2B marketers to join up all relevant data, eradicate data silos and gain deep customer insight. With full visibility of all your prospect and customer data you can transform your marketing campaigns, even your product or offering, and every single customer interaction.  However, a Customer Data Platform is also a costly and complex piece of technology, requiring investment from a financial and resource point of view, and quite a few of the benefits a CDP brings can be delivered in simpler, alternative ways. Before going full in on what could end up being a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’, it is always worth spending the time to create a detailed plan to understand your exact requirements and the potential solutions available to bring them to life.