Thinking About Onboarding a Customer Data Platform? Make This Hire First


You already know that you need to break down organizational silos to change the way teams work together. Knowing this, you may be thinking about investing in the hot new technology of a Customer Data Platform (CDP).

These marketer-managed data repositories allow you to create a single customer profile that can then be used by other systems. This gives you the power to enhance your (re)engagement activities across media. CDPs can be a smart way to collect data once and make it work for you, again and again, breaking through silos to create a more cohesive process for your team. Instead of having different team members each independently working on a piece of the puzzle, you can use this technology to bring them together.

You’ve probably already started hearing vendor pitches for a CDP (and if not, just wait. They’re going to be all the rage for 2019). Before you make a decision about a purchase, though, my advice is to take a step back and make sure that you have the talent in place to take full advantage of what a CDP has to offer.

You Need a Customer Engagement Manager (CEM)

New technology is only as good as the people you have in place to make it work. A Customer Engagement Manager (CEM) is a role you should add to your marketing organization. This person will take a holistic view of how you are using your data to engage with your current and prospect customer, to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. What are the engagement touchpoints? How are you delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time? Are you maximizing your customer lifetime value?

This role may sound similar to a Customer Success Manager or a Customer Experience Manager, but the distinction is more than just semantics. The CEM is not focused on customer satisfaction (CSAT or NPS). Instead, this role is specifically designed to maximize the customer lifetime value (CLTV). Of course, having a maximized CLTV will lead to higher satisfaction rates. These roles complement one another, but if you have them separated into distinct positions, you can ensure that your marketing teams are fully aligned with the individual team members who are needed most for each task.

Making the connection – Photo by John Carlisle

Choose Your Customer Engagement Manager Wisely

Before you start thinking, “Sure! I’ll put Mike or Jamie on this. S/he’s smart and works well with everyone,” pause for a moment. The CEM lead is not a generalist. You are not simply hiring a glorified project manager with a fancy title. You are finding someone to optimize your technology purchase, so this person should be a technologist with a natural inclination for data-driven insights. Find someone who is obsessed with operationalizing successful, hypothesis-driven tests through technology and marketing automation. You are looking for a data wonk who is going to be excited about how to understand and influence customer behavior.

The Customer Engagement Manager is going to be responsible for pushing people out of their existing strategies and to think about things in a new way. Breaking down organizational silos is no small feat. Take the time to find someone with the right background, level of seniority, and leadership support.

Set Your Customer Engagement Manager Up for Success

Once you’ve chosen a Customer Engagement Manager, there is another step you need to take before calling it a day. Give your new CEM what they need to succeed by aligning targets with other members of your business. The best place to start is with a shared CLTV target for both your growth and retention team. Even better, give them a joint CLTV/CAC target.

If your growth teams understand how the customers they acquire connect to the work done by the retention team, they will be motivated to find and acquire high-quality customers. Likewise, the retention team can use their understanding of new audiences acquired by the growth team to make sure they are adapting their strategies.

When teams have a shared incentive, they will figure out ways to work better together. They’ll be more motivated to share insights, develop joint plans, and work hard as they recognize the importance of their work to their mutual success. Provide the environment for synergies by giving team members a shared language when they discuss their goals.

[note: I don’t actually use CLTV/CAC in my organization but CLTV/CARC = cost of acquiring and retaining customers; I’ll write a post to explain this important difference and link it here]

Planning together – Photo by Daniele Riggi

Once you’ve used your Customer Engagement Manager to make this link between growth and retention, consider even further possibilities for synergy and collaboration. The Customer Engagement Manager should act as the unifying glue between branding, acquisition, retention, marketing automation, and even customer support.

Think about it this way: your customers don’t see a difference between your teams when they form an opinion on your business. Their experience (good or bad) is applied universally to your company as a whole. The Customer Engagement Manager uses the perspective (and data-driven knowledge) of the customer to bridge divides and create a unified purpose.

Plan Your New Tools Well

The past few months have been abuzz with talk about these magical Customer Data Platforms. We’re being promised a new way of looking at customer data, the chance to do things that weren’t possible before. The pitches for these products, though, rarely come with recommendations on how to adjust your organizational structure to make the best use of them. The vendors selling these new platforms probably don’t want to make it sound like too much work to implement.

As I mentioned in a previous post, your technology is only as good as the people in your team that make it work. You must have the processes and support in place to actually use the data and insights these new tools bring you to make them a worthwhile investment.

If you are even considering onboarding a CDP, take the time to think through a restructure first to make sure you can put this technology to work.

Author: Paolo

Economist by education, marketer by profession, coffee roaster by hobby.