Tl;dr - CRM and marketing automation are powerful tools for manufacturers. They provide insights, efficiencies, and capabilities that are quickly improving industrial marketing and sales. This improvement in turn reveals new opportunities, and in the future, a customer data platform (CDP) will help to leverage those.
What is a Customer Data Platform
IntentData.io1 draws on the CDP Insitute for a definition of a customer data platform. At a minimum a CDP must:
- Ingest data from any source - For sales and marketing, that means the website, social media, landing pages, email, paid ads, third party contact and company data, and a wide variety of apps.
- Capture the full detail of ingested data -Not just a limited set of contact or company information - everything. And to make room for the details, the platform must be flexible and easily adaptable to all kinds of data.
- Store ingested data indefinitely (subject to privacy constraints) - So a CDP is designed to be the persistent, centralized source of data for all sales and marketing uses.
- Create unified profiles of identified individuals - This is a key difference with CRMs. Take all of the data that comes in from diverse sources, identify and combine it into a single customer profile that is consistent across all uses.
- Share data with any system that needs it - This means creating automatic two-way pathways with all of your business applications, not importing and exporting data on an ad-hoc basis.
Let's boil this down.
A customer data platform must accept data from anywhere and have the tools and customizability to do so. It has to capture and store meta-data about the data (when, from where, changelogs, etc.) It becomes a permanent single source of truth while it also unifies contact records from various sources and shares slices of data as required.
What Can a CDP Actually Do?
Unification is among the trickiest of these requirements.
In the context of industrial marketing let's look at an example that's common in capital equipment sales. Think of a global director of engineering who may:
- read your email on their phone via an EU IP address while observing an FAT in Italy
- later download a case study from your website using their desktop in the corporate office in Chicago via a fixed, corporate US IP
- at some point read a blog post on their tablet while sitting in their home office
- then watch one of your YouTube videos from their laptop which is logged into a personal Google profile and accessing the web via VPN while in the airport
- later react to a competitor's tweet using a personal Twitter handle
- With that history, which "person" will your chatbot think is chatting in when that same person engages with a chatbot on your site using their laptop from a hotel room late at night in Asia?
This is a realistic scenario that would result in several disconnected profiles in typical marketing automation and CRM systems. When convoluted contact records aren't unified, segmentation and personalization will be based on only some of the relevant activity.
Unification is very challenging technically and well beyond the capability of CRM and marketing automation systems which at best have some simple AI engine to identify possible duplicates.
Many CDPs also incorporate a decision engine. This provides additional capability; for instance continuously monitoring complex situations and then triggering actions when certain conditions are met.
Think of the complex environment created by large buying teams comprised of local and corporate members as well as contractors like Engineering/Design/Construction firms.
Different members of your team will see siloed, partial info. For instance
- The sales rep that owns a plant in Tallahassee might notice that a plant engineer at that location had downloaded a design guide.
- Their colleague who owns HQ in Seattle would receive notification that a corporate procurement person clicked a link to view a data sheet. (Indeed those may be isolated and random occurrences...but maybe not. If no one tracks them simultaneously, we'll never have the opportunity to find out!)
- Unbeknownst to both of those reps, there may also be multiple anonymous visits to your website from three different people in each location as well as several signals in third-party intent data - all within the same rolling two-week window. Observing specific job titles associated with certain stages in the buying journey, and particular website pages and content that illuminate the problem they seek to solve or outcome to achieve, and the complete view is simultaneously complex and powerful. But no single rep has that overview. Even if the same person owns all locations of the account, they won't see the rest of this and are probably too busy managing projects to do the daily analysis to pick this up anyway.
Marketing automation and CRM databases can log each activity, but they don't have the horsepower to monitor aggregate activity. Therefore these systems can't register a constellation of related signals that in aggregate indicate a project has been initiated.
A CDP can, and then more.
Upon seeing this, the CDP can for example:
- automatically trigger actions such as adding contacts to specific LinkedIn paid ads campaigns (via marketing automation)
- augment the database with additional contacts that are likely members of the buying team sourced from external data sources (via CRM)
- alert sales management (via alerts)
- create tasks for individual sales reps to launch coordinated and contextually appropriate sales cadences - or even launch them automatically on behalf of the rep (via sales acceleration)
Why Does a Manufacturer Need One?
CDPs were originally designed as a B2C solution and most vendors still focus on that lucrative market. Publishers were early adopters as their businesses evolved from renewing print subscribers to tracking digital information consumption and monetizing those insights. CDPs were developed to deliver the complex capabilities that publishers required.
Marketing and sales in industrial companies used to seem simpler and more linear - a rep could manage the full lifecycle. That's changed. The buying team scenario above helps illustrate where a CDP can plug in to help an industrial manufacturer. It's at least time to begin planning for one.
Procurement is becoming increasingly complex. Team selling - top-to-top and middle-to-middle - is necessary to gain access to the capital approval function. Buying teams of >10 people including plant and corporate representatives from engineering, procurement, supply chain, and finance along with local maintenance, safety and operations folks are really hard to wrangle even when you know there's a project underway and you have a champion and guide.
Detecting it as it's getting ramped up and before a competitor has influenced the process is really, really hard.
The ability to manage massive volumes of complex and disparate signals is gradually becoming critical to being involved early.
This illustrates the importance of integrated marketing and sales via ORE™. A traditional program that bifurcates industrial digital marketing and traditional sales misses the important activity where buyers navigate their own sales process that doesn't map to vendors' legacy org structure.
Because neither CRM nor marketing automation have the horsepower to do this, manufacturers will increasingly recognize the importance of a customer data platform to bridge these gaps.
How a CDP Supports Industrial Marketing
Think of the customer data platform as a controlling and coordinating data set - sort of Uber Data. Today you might:
- track orders and issue invoices from an ERP
- source contact data via LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LeadIQ
- rely on Outreach.io for sales acceleration
- use HubSpot for marketing automation
- have Salesforce.com CRM
These tools often have some built-in connectors to sync information. Syncing is just an exchange. There's no analysis and often no rules engine to drive proactive activities.
Further, most sales and martech are built around contacts as the primary object of activity. Of course, you have company (account) views, but the engines of automation are largely focused on contacts.
So the typical configuration provides lots of tools that exchange information, but none of which can consistently monitor aggregate account activity, observe noteworthy constellations of activity and contacts, infer the likelihood of nascent projects, and initiate proactive marketing and sales actions on the platforms in the tech stack.
That's the promise of a CDP.
What's the Best CDP for Industrial Marketing?
The B2B customer data platform market is changing quickly and the honest answer is there isn't a clear leader for industrial marketing requirements.
High-profile vendors include Segment (acquired by Twilio), Evergage (acquired by Salesforce.com), Emarsys (acquired by SAP), Optimove, Treasure Data, Tealium, Zaius, Openprise, Hull, Microsoft Customer Insights, and Adobe Experience Platform.
The space is changing quickly and capabilities are evolving. Many vendors are adding B2B capabilities (company capability atop contact) but it's not part of the core architecture. Large platforms that are acquiring CDPs (like Salesforce.com bolting on Evergage) may skin the UX to be similar and built native connectors, but you end up with a data and code jumble rather than a well-crafted purpose-built system
The inherent complexity of the CDP's task also means that it's a real project to compare, select, configure internally and connect externally; and it's often more expensive than other elements of the tech stack.
It seems likely given HubSpot's deliberate expansion of its core platform that it will likely introduce a purpose-built CDP atop its own core database. According to experience their early iteration will delight investors with the story and disappoint practitioners with a rather crude product, but they'll improve it over a couple of years to the point that it's quite good. Becuase HubSpot is so powerful for industrial marketing and capital equipment sales, it's a great place to start. Because of HubSpot's innovation, the likelihood of a complimentary CDP is high. I'm banking on this.
In the end, this post isn't intended to spur you to launch a CDP project today, but rather to create awareness of the tech stack gap. A strong digital marketing strategy for the manufacturing industry should recognize this gap, adapt with current tools in the meantime, and add customer data platform capability to the roadmap.