So, you have two marketing systems, both containing customer data: let’s say a CRM like salesforce.com and a testing & optimization tool like Optimizely. You decide you want to exchange customer data between the two, so you work with your developers and now you have one integration. So far, so good.
Then, you start using a third marketing system – this one is for web analytics. Of course, you want to exchange customer data with that one too. So, you need two additional integrations, bringing your total – so far – to three integrations you have to create and maintain.
Of course, with the explosion of marketing tools out there, you pretty quickly buy or implement a fourth marketing system because everyone needs a social sign-on for their website nowadays! Integrating the other systems you already had with this new one means creating an additional three integrations, and you end up with six integrations in total.
Within months you have a fifth system, MailChimp, and again you want to synchronize customer data with all of them. Another four integrations are needed, so you have a need for 10(!) integrations in total now. Except, realistically you probably don’t because one person isn’t responsible for these solutions and there aren’t enough resources to make this happen within most marketing orgs.
But you see the pattern here. This pattern actually has a name: Triangular numbers. And the easy way to explain it is: how many handshakes are needed at a party if everyone needs to shake hands once with each other person?
This approach of connecting everything with everything else, which most of the time isn’t even a conscious decision by organizations, inevitably leads to issues. A spider web emerges with integrations of different depth and ability, which is impossible to maintain and for which there is no oversight at all. Different groups and organizations create their own integrations without a universal set of standards. You cannot centrally define audiences, do segmentation with various data types, or uncover actionable insights. Many of those integrations are error prone, ad-hoc, and you cannot rely on them.
But from chaos comes clarity. A growing need in the market to solve technology triangulation resulted in a new category of software called Customer Data Platforms (CDP). A CDP is a central system built for marketers that connects with all marketing systems and synchronizes customer data across all those same marketing systems. Customers that have a CDP will go from the Triangular Pattern of one-offs towards exactly one integration per marketing system: the one with your CDP.