In my time with BlueConic, I’ve completed an eye-crossing number of requests for proposal (RFPs)to meet the array of customer data needs from marketers across all industries.
Early on, most of these RFPs took one of two forms:
- Repurposed from a campaign management solution or email service provider requisition project (ill-fitting for a customer data platform-oriented RFP, to say the least)
- The popular (if misguided) “throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks” approach: submitting hundreds of questions that spanned every possible data need for the business (not ideal)
During 2016-17, there was a notable shift away from RFPs that tried to equate a customer data platform with channel-activation solutions and into formats that were sort of like this:
- Data warehouse + analytics + reporting + personalization (if you’ve got it) = CDP
These RFPs got the job done — but they still demonstrated the market lacked a clear, shared understanding of what was unique about a customer data platform.
Gartner did everyone a favor by firmly explaining why a CDP is similar to other solution, but fundamentally different from them, concluding:
- “Rather than a new technology, CDPs can be understood as a repackaging of features that already exist — but are inconveniently distributed and thus untapped — across various alternatives. What is new and novel is the productization of these features and acknowledgment that marketers are still struggling to get value out of their huge investment in both customer data and technology.”
Indeed, 2018 and 2019 represented a sea-change in the RFPs marketers are submitting (in addition to a surge in volume). Four themes stand out to me in these documents.
1. CDP-specificity finally here
Not only do these CDP RFPs reflect a sophisticated grasp of the platform’s capabilities, they reveal how well marketers have recognized a CDP as a solution to pain points they’ve long lived with and perhaps given up on finding a solution for.
The vast majority have a version of this two-part question:
- How does your solution manage a single view of the customer?
- What identifiers or attributes can we use to create a single customer view?
This long-awaited aspiration is an explicit ask with practical considerations.
We also see a lot of verbatim repeat questions, indicating marketers are sharing examples, consulting with industry experts, and/or utilizing the resources available from groups like the CDP Institute.
2. Powerful segmentation paramount for brands
Often the longest section of the RFP is about segment building. Inquiries include:
- What is the process for creating a segment?
- Are there some out-of-the-box segments or intuitive tools to accomplish this?
- How much staff time will need to be dedicated to these efforts?
3. Marketers prioritize automation, ease of use
Marketing technology buyers are a realistic bunch and know that the value of technology is only as good as the human user. That’s why we see questions like:
- Who are the typical users of your platform (i.e., developers, line of business staff)?
- How easy is it for non-technical users to use?
- How do you recommend we staff this initiative for success?
This relates also to what functionality comes out-of-the-box and ties directly to the last theme …
4. Machine learning, data science differentiate
Every customer data platform RFP has at least one question about the CDP’s functionality as it pertains to predictive analytics and modeling as well as AI and machine learning.
As you might have guessed from the way I just lumped them together, there isn’t a tremendous amount of precision in the criteria. Examples of questions asked include:
- How does your solution incorporate machine learning?
- How and to what extent can we integrate our own data segmentation and modeling work (external ingestion of data models and out-of-the-box capabilities)?
Nonetheless, though the requirements are broad, they are deal-breakers for many buyers who know even if they aren’t sure exactly what role this will play for their business, it most certainly will be critical at some point in the future.