When considering a customer data platform, many people ask questions like:
- How do I pick the right one?
- Do I need a data lake along with a CDP?
- How much of my current tech stack can a CDP replace?
Those are all good questions, but there is no generic answer that will work for every company. It depends on your business model, your current tech stack, and what you want to do with your customer data. In other words, it depends on the use cases.
“But wait,” you say. “What exactly is a customer data platform?”
The CDP Institute defines a CDP as “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” In a perfect world, it creates a single customer view from all your customer data, no matter where that comes from – your email service provider, your store, your fulfillment system, customer web behavior, etc. It stores this information in a format that enables you to act upon that enriched, comprehensive, single view of the customer.
That’s the goal, anyway. In reality, you’re never going to merge all your data. It’s a question of degrees. And that’s okay.
Why do you need a CDP?
A CDP can help you do some very useful stuff.
- Find out which of your paying subscribers that frequent your website haven’t yet signed up for your email newsletter, allowing you to target them on your website to invite them to sign up.
- Personalize messages based on interests, order history, or other characteristics.
- Present better and more targeted cross- and upsell offers.
- Create new options for advertisers by creating new segments of users based on common interests.
But before you pull out the checkbook, there’s some work to be done, and this applies whether you already have a CDP or are considering one.
Why you need to write CDP use cases
You need to define how you hope this technology is going to help you and your customers. That is, you need to write up your use cases, with as much specificity as possible.
By starting with use cases, you avoid the “bright shiny object” problem and focus on genuine business requirements. Through this process, you’ll discover what functions you need a CDP to perform, and therefore whether you really need one, and you’ll be able to get a better handle on whether it’s worth the investment.
If you already have a CDP, creating a disciplined structure for use case documentation and review will smooth your operations considerably.
There are many ways to write up use cases, but I’ve summarized my recommended structure below to help you get the process started. I say “to get started” because this document is only the beginning. You’ll write up your use cases in the format I outline below as a preliminary matter, to decide if they’re worth pursuing, or to decide if the CDP can meet your requirements. If you decide to go ahead with them, you’ll have to create a much more detailed document when it comes to implementation.
Generic use case template
You should create a form using the elements I list here and ask everyone in your organization to use this form when they propose a new use case. Thinking through each of these elements will help you define exactly what you want to do and how.
Summarize it with a story. Use a very structured format, like this: As a [role], I want to [action] so [result]. For example, “As an email marketing manager, I want to display a sign-up widget for our retirement e-newsletter to everyone who has recently viewed retirement content on the website so I can increase the reach of our retirement e-newsletter.”
Make the business case. Explain why this use case is necessary now, and how it will:
- increase your revenue,
- improve customer service,
- help you discover new (possibly ancillary) product ideas,
- create better reports, etc.
Refine the summary with specific details
The devil really is in the details when it comes to CDP use cases. If you ask the salesman, “Can your CDP do ____?” the answer will almost surely be yes. It’s only when you dig into the details that you find the limitations and potential problems.
For the example in the story above, additional details might include the following.
- What constitutes “retirement content,” and how will the CDP recognize it? (E.g., is it tagged?)
- Can the CDP react immediately to a tag on the first-page view?
- What are the specs on the widget?
- How and where should it be displayed?
- What words and images should be used?
- How big is it?
- Do you want to A/B test different versions of the widget?
- What is the path for the data to get from the widget into the CDP and into your ESP? Which system is the “source of truth”?
- How will you measure results?
- How long should the campaign run?
The more details you provide, the better.
Identify relevant customer data and its source
For some use cases, all you’ll need is data from within the CDP. You might create segments of users based on favorite topics, when they visit the site, or how often. Other use cases will require data from your other systems. Explain that as carefully as you can.
- If you want to target on-screen messages to people who have marked your e-newsletter as spam (some people do that by mistake), you’ll need data from your ESP.
- If you want to target customers with high lifetime value, you may need data from your fulfillment system.
- If you want to evaluate the behavior of prospects who have recently downloaded a whitepaper, you might need an import from Salesforce.
In any case, think about the systems that house the data you need to make this use case successful, and then look carefully at how that data is stored. Will it need to be cleaned up, or transformed in some way? Can you get it in real-time, or does it have to be batched? Does the system from which you want the data have an API, or will you need to build a connection?
Can you re-purpose existing segments?
If you already have a CDP, you may have already defined the right segment of users. If so, list it here.
But be cautious! It’s crucial that you carefully document how a segment is created and what it’s designed for. It’s very easy for a segment name to be misleading. For instance, does the category “all subscribers” include both paid and free e-newsletter signups? Does it include people who have attended webinars? Does the segment “active subscribers” include people in grace, undeliverable orders, or unpaid orders?
Those are simple examples of how messy it can get. Things quickly become far more complicated than that, so make sure segment definitions are well documented.
Success criteria for the CDP
How will you know that this use case did what you wanted it to do? How will you track the actions you are seeking? What reports are required? What metrics constitute a success?
If possible, you also want to specify revenue goals – especially if you’re in the consideration phase and want to determine the potential return on investment of a CDP.
You’ll need more later
That outline is for the consideration phase. That is, do you want to pursue this use case or not, and can the CDP deliver on what you need?
Once it comes to implementation, you’ll need a more extensive template that includes other details, like specific language for an offer, design specifications, internal approvals that are required, and possible follow-on uses.
By taking a disciplined approach to use cases, you will have a much easier time evaluating CDPs, or getting the most out of the one you already have.
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Community Building for Retention, Awareness, Loyalty, Content, & Member Advocacy
A little birdy told me you want to know what this “Community” stuff is you keep hearing about. I promise it’s not scary, at least not as frightening as Data Tracking and Analytics.
No need to worry, you’re safe here, and the data can’t get you. At least, not in this particular post.
Community is a tale as old as time and is simply evolving along with humanity; perhaps it’s time you join the party!
I like curiosity so allow me to be your guide through the magical and underrated world of Community Building. By the time you finish reading, you’ll know what a Community is, why you should want one, and what a Community Builder can do for you.
What is Community, and why is it important?
If you ask the peeps at Merriam-Webster, the TL;DR version is that a community is people with common interests living in a particular area, or a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. That’s not a bad definition if you ask me, but I think we can do better in this case.
Community is not a place—not even that arcade you and your friends used to frequent—and despite the common misconception, it’s not an exchange of information over the internet. Community is about a feeling and relationships built among people. As DigitalMarketer says, it’s “a segment of people who form relationships due to shared goals, experiences, and interests”.
Community members will have built a sense of trust, belonging, and caring for each other.
That warm, fuzzy feeling of community comes from shared experiences and shared history… uncommon commonalities, you could say.
Like I said, a tale as old as time. We’ve all been a member of communities in one way or another, even if it wasn’t in a platform or forum.
How can this benefit your business?
When done right, the community can most commonly decrease costs and increase revenue through higher retention, brand awareness, brand loyalty, ticket deflection, content development, and member advocacy.
When a sense of belonging is created, a relationship is built between your members and each other. Even better, one between you and your members. We’re all partying together!
A Community can be the most potent customer feedback loop you’ve ever seen! In our largest Community, DM Engage (for our DM Lab members), I know I can always count on honest and constructive feedback from our members, and they’re not shy about asking for what they want.
The power of user-generated content? Unmatched. Imagine seeing this testimonial on a landing page.
I don’t mean to toot our horn, but you can bet that after an experience like this, Michael “Buzz” Buzinski will be a lifetime DigitalMarketer member. With the right environment, you can grab tons of screenshots like this and, even better, videos!
As a bonus, Buzz and I will be buddies for life!
What is a Community Builder?
This one is a doozy, not because it’s difficult to define, but because there can be so many definitions!
For me, it’s someone who nurtures connections and relationships on a small or large scale. It can be one to one or one to many. They’re strategic, semi-organized, unafraid to be the bad guy, and empathetic. They create a “home” for people to gather.
If you ask one of my favorite Twitter people to follow, it’s…
“A community builder can be someone who works to create a structure that will hopefully enable a community to thrive. The platform, the processes, and the important, sometimes difficult choices.” Patrick O’Keefe, Community Lead at CNN
A Community Builder is an architect of experiences and relationships, as cheesy as that may sound. Without one, you’re probably not achieving what you set out to do.
A Gatekeeper, a People Manager, a Content Moderator, a Ring Master in your circus…whatever you call them, are the ones building the house your members will live in and that your members will help decorate to their needs and tastes.
What does a Community Builder do?
A better question is ‘What don’t they do’?
Your ironing, probably. Their own ironing, maybe. (I am both of these people.)
They plan, write, structure, promote, burn out, create momentum, are really in their feelings, and don’t do anything without a reason.
No matter how silly or unnecessary something might seem, there is a reason behind the madness.
Note: Don’t talk to your Community person when they’ve got that look on their face, they’re plotting, they’re in the zone, and something amazing or horrific is about to happen. You’ll love it.
The big thing here is that everything in Community is about intention. It’s in how your members choose to show up and interact, and how your Community Builder architects the conversations, events, and overall experience. They’re like mad scientists, only they’re not angry, just lots of heart and not enough caffeine yet.
In Community, some things happen by chance… or do they? If you intended to start a conversation that ended up being a meaningful moment of connection between your members… is it really just luck? This is what I call ✨ vibing ✨ together.
This is where the magic happens; your Community person sets the stage for the right conversations. How? Well, with a sprinkle of inviting copy, a dash of one-on-one chats, a pinch of puppy posts (because puppy posts always get the job done), and a whole bunch of strategic content that guides your members to complete the actions you intend them to…
…Just call me Community Witch because that’s a potion that will provide.
What skills or traits does a Community Builder need?
If you’d like to replicate yourself a Michelle, it’s about: 40% irreverence, 40% hard work, 10% wanting to show the haters they’re wrong, and another 10% of hard work (just not on Friday afternoons).
What you’re looking for is a people person who enjoys the freedom of creativity, has a curious streak, and knows how to get shi*t done. Imagine a customer service professional with project management and content skills. Sounds cool, right? That’s because it is.
Let’s talk about skills.
This may sound like an oxymoron, but it takes strong soft skills to make a great Community Professional. Let’s start with some of the more obvious ones.
- Organized. Community can be messy. You’re in twenty different tabs, three different platforms, with multiple conversations running, and Slack pinging all at once. You’ve got to be organized enough to know what is going on at any moment. Sure it can be exhausting, but boy, oh boy, is it fun!
- Communication. How can you build relationships with someone if you can’t communicate? I’m sure it’s possible, but imagine the difficulty! Excellent written and verbal communication is essential when you’re the mouthpiece for the brand. Let’s not accidentally promise 3k worth of bonuses when it was actually 1k.
- Empathetic. It’s similar to Customer Service; you’re not always hearing from people on their best day. You must be able to take in what the other person is saying, listen, and understand their point of view. That way, you can provide them with honest response to their issue. Often in Community, the bond and relationship become so strong you deal with things you wouldn’t expect. You’re an advocate for members and an advocate for the brand. It’s a balancing act; the base is your ability to empathize and communicate.
- Leadership. As a Community Professional, you’re building paths for your members to take, and you’re leading by example. Members look to you to calm the chaos, enforce the Guidelines, and to learn how to interact in the beginning.
- Boundary Setting. Because Community roles are so heavy on emotion, we also need to be fully aware and able to set boundaries with not just members but also our coworkers and ourselves. It’s okay to be the bad guy once in a while if you’re protecting what has been built. While the community is for the members, it’s your house, and they’re just living in it. Your Community Professional should know when to advocate for the community and when to advocate for the brand.
- Creativity. You’ve got all this feedback, so now what? Time to get creative and put that feedback to work! There is no one-size-fits-all solution to Community, and they should be able to whip up some short-form copy and think up new opportunities when needed.
- Curiosity. One of our old core values here at DigitalMarketer was to “know the why,” and I think that applies to Community. Adaptability is the game’s name, so when you see something wonky with the Community, your KPIs, or member interaction, you have to figure it out ASAP. Not only that, but the world of Community is developing at a break-neck pace. You have to be able to keep up with the progress and roll with it.
- Storytelling. You may not be able to tell from this post, but I can spin up a mean story here and there. You want someone who can paint a picture, set the stage, and control the narrative. You want all the things that require wordsmithing so they can tell a story that brings forth action. The other important part of storytelling is how your Community person will bring stories from the community that leadership and stakeholders care about. Testimonials, feedback, content ideas, etc..… You know, all the good stuff.
Where can I find one?
While this one might have found her forever home, many Community Professionals are available to be
- Remote Digital Jobs
If you’re remote-friendly, I highly recommend this one. It’s not Community specific, but the Group is, as they say, fire. Quality candidates, quality group, and a world of opportunity!
The company responsible for my Community spark has a few options. There is a job board, a Slapp grupp, and a Facebook Group; all are free job postings!
- Community Club
Another company offering the trifecta, job board, Slak group, and a gemenskap!
- The Community Roundtable
A staple in the Community world, and they have their job board!
- We Support NYC
Let me just preface this with; I am obsessed with their newsletter. Sign up for that while you’re emailing them your job listing.
While I’m sure there are more, these are some of my favorites! Now go out there and find yourself a perfect match for your brand and your members.
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