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How B2B marketers can activate first-party data in their CDP

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Customer data platforms (CDPs) centralize data from customer touchpoints. In B2B buying decision-making is often spread out over many individuals within an organization, marketers can use CDPs used to guide purchasers through the sales funnel.

“A CDP joins disparate systems and improves operational efficiency, providing a centralized location to collect, clean and control customer data,” said Cecilie Burleson, manager at consultancy EY, at The MarTech Conference.

Valuable first-party data in the CDP

First-party data comes to marketers by way of the information customers share and the behaviors they engage in through an organization’s digital touchpoints. All the data gets centralized in the CDP. This includes customer attributes and preferences, their behaviors, as well as other digital activities and events.

Without a CDP, the data is split across various data warehouses, data lakes, a CRM, or in separate departments like sales, marketing or legal.

“While first-party data is more limited in volume, it’s going to be of increasing value over time as regulations continue to get more strict and third-party cookies go away,” said Joel Wright, EY’s senior manager, technology consulting – digital, analytics and marketing technology.

Read next: What is a customer data platform?

Zeroing in on customer preferences from unified first-party data

When the data is unified in customer profiles, a better picture emerges. Marketers can act on this data by making engagement more personalized and efficient. It also provides a better alternative to the costly and tedious process of stitching together data from outside third-party sources.

“Knowing explicitly what a customer wants to see based on their preferences and interests really leaves the guessing or reliance on inefficient third-party stitching behind,” said Burleson.

Consolidating sales data into the unified CDP helps marketing teams see what actions drive those sales.

“This will help you to optimize to see what drives more leads and then also how leads really can contribute. Having that seamless cross-channel activation and optimization truly [helps marketing teams understand] how you can orchestrate the customer journey,” Burleson said.

“Having more confidence in what campaigns are working, and more visibility into that data, can build more efficiency in marketing budgeting and minimizing waste,” said Wright.

Connecting B2B buying teams in the CDP

The centralizing muscle power of CDPs also brings order to complicated B2B buying.

“From a B2B standpoint, how do the individuals in an organization play a unique role?” asked Burleson. “Not just one person is likely going to be key to the interactions within an organization. It’s often a collection of different team members and each team member from that organization that you’re targeting.”

“Different team members in different parts of the organization will be going to your website to research very specific offerings that matter most to them individually,” said Wright. “One person could be researching the benefits of an offering. Another might be doing a price comparison. And another person might be looking into integrations and features.”

Looking at each of these interactions in isolation only gives the marketer a partial look at a larger picture.

“When you place all the profiles together at an account level, you start to get a clearer view of the various individuals, but also how the company itself is engaging,” Wright explained.

Knowing how individuals fit within the organization at the account level helps marketers choose the most efficient way to move customers through the funnel.

Gathering more first-party data through B2B engagement

Further engagement creates more data and intelligence to help move B2B prospects through your funnel. That data can also be analyzed for insights on the next best action to take. It can also help segment customers to make marketing campaigns more efficient.

But why would customers hand over that information? There has to be a value exchange.

“Think about what would entice you to provide your contact information to a company,” said Wright.

A cash giveaway or contest might seem too gimmicky in a B2B context, he suggested. Instead, the foundation of a long term business relationship is built with relevant, helpful communication. A prospect might sign up for tips about their industry, for instance.

Relevance establishes trust with the customer because it shows that you, as the marketer, are aware of business challenges that they face.

Read next: 3 challenges to building customer trust

Often when customers encounter forms to fill out, they will abandon the exercise if they’re giving out too much info. Therefore, it’s best to establish the minimum amount of data your organization needs in order to act intelligently on the data you gather.

“Considering that you likely won’t need much else to continue the dialogue, maybe you only need the name and the email address,” said Wright. “And you should still limit the number of data fields to get the essentials and increase conversion on the form completion.”

Building more first-party data through testing

There’s often a risk in alienating customers by asking for more first-party data. In addition to keeping the ask to a minimum, marketers should also test and optimize their collecting practices.

“It shouldn’t just be throwing something up there and leaving it,” said Burleson. “You want to have a framework in place to collect data and continuously improve.”

First, assess the data that you have available already. Then, brainstorm more ideas about what new methods could be tested.

Instead of filling out forms, maybe there are business-specific offers that could entice customers to share more data.

“As you’re testing, what are the success criteria that you’re testing against?” Burleson asked.

Also make sure to leave time to evaluate the test, and then keep testing to further improve your process of engaging customers and becoming more intelligent in your messages to them.

“You’re always refining, and things are always going to change along the way,” said Burleson.


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About The Author

datafuelX launches predictive analytics solutions to improve linear TV and
Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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