Knowing when and how to upgrade the martech stack can be a perennial challenge, especially when millions of potentially life-saving donor dollars are on the line. Just ask Toby Beal, Sr. Director of Digital Marketing Technology at World Vision, an early-stage BlueConic customer and global Christian humanitarian organization (learn more about their mission here).
Toby recently sat down with BlueConic account manager, Gina Eygenson, to talk about their decision to pursue a customer data platform (CDP), along with their approach to onboarding, configuring, and socializing BlueConic across their organization.
We’ve captured some of the highlights below, and you can check out their full conversation here.
Gina: What made you realize you needed a CDP?
Toby: It’s a funny question. I don't think anybody wakes up and thinks, “Oh, I need a CDP or a customer data platform.” Yet the world is changing around us:
Privacy legislation is driving Apple and Google to redefine how we experience the Internet.
There’s so much disruption happening in digital. Just look what TikTok has done to Facebook.
Paid advertising is becoming less effective and more expensive.
The way the Internet has been monetized and the way marketing fundamentally works are being upended. Compound that with the fact that none of the enterprise tools your organization was thinking about 10 years ago were built to be truly omnichannel or privacy focused.
You need to keep growing in a changed, perpetually changing environment. You need to collect your own first-party data and privacy compliantly activate against it. You need a CDP.
Gina: As a software professional, why do you think a CDP is essential for marketers in particular?
Toby: There are a lot of challenges facing marketers right now. They’re under a lot of pressure. They’ve been given a budget and been told, “You get this much money, you need to deliver this much result.” They may be uncomfortable taking risks or making changes. Yet marketers know they need to think differently about marketing. They know they need new and different tactics.
Gina: Which marketers are ready for CDP, and which ones aren’t?
Toby: I’d also say if a CDP represents one more thing a marketer needs to do, and it’s going to compete with their day job, then they're just not going to make room for it. You need marketers who are interested and curious about new things they can achieve, rather than being focused on turning the crank on standard marketing activities.
Gina: How did you make the case for exploring a CDP?
Toby: As you’ve noted, my core job is software development. I pride myself on being able to find the right software products. In this case, customer data platforms were somewhat new to me. I'd been studying them for a couple of years and discovered there are dozens of products claiming to be a customer data platform, which is really challenging.
As I learned more, I began advocating for them to our CIO. Ultimately, our CIO had a conversation with our CEO about how marketing is fundamentally changing, and how we needed to start collecting and organizing our own first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. That’s what secured approval at the top to move forward to explore a CDP.
Gina: Did you lead the CDP selection process?
Toby: In this case, I knew we needed to bring in a partner to help us interview key stakeholders within our organization, determine the most important requirements and features, and conduct a thoughtful process. That's a lot of work, and I have a day job that doesn’t always afford me the time to do that. So, we hired the professional services arm of our agency, Merkle, to help lead our CDP selection process.
We couldn’t articulate our core CDP requirements, so we really leaned on them to help us understand what we didn't know. For instance, they helped us define our requirements and write our RFP. Those requirements included:
Integration of offline and online data.
Great data ingestion capabilities and out-of-the-box plugins.
The power to create multi-channel experiences and do journey pathing and analysis.
A tool to help us become more donor centric.
The ability to understand behaviors, segment people based on behaviors, and deliver personalized experiences.
Then Merkle provided us with a list of recommended CDPs based on their experience. They explained why they chose certain providers and how they were different, and they facilitated the demos. All in all, the process took us about four months.
Gina: Based on your goals and needs, which types of CDPs did your agency recommend?
Toby: Our agency brought us three types of CDPs to consider:
Data-first platforms like Tealium
Full-blown marketing platform like Adobe (we were an Adobe customer)
Purpose-built customer data platforms like Lytics and BlueConic
Just about every marketing platform out there has shifted the way they position themselves to talk about creating the journey and bringing all the data together. This makes it very confusing to pick the right product.
Gina: Why did you decide to go with BlueConic?
Toby: It quickly became clear the purpose-built customer data platforms were the right solution for us. Both Lytics and BlueConic had rich turnkey features that immediately allowed us to light up our marketing use cases. Ultimately BlueConic won out over Lytics for two reasons:
It has a more discoverable user experience. It's a more intuitive interface for marketers.
BlueConic is a more mature company in this space. We knew you had a deeper bench of professionals to work with.
It was interesting to see how our journey led us to BlueConic, and we've been happy with that decision.
Gina: As a leader primarily responsible for deploying BlueConic, tell me about your approach to assembling your core onboarding and configuration team.
Toby: We approached this as a technology team deploying technology. For instance:
I have a technical program manager that helps me drive the implementation from a project management perspective.
I have an architect that helps with detailed assessments of which way to lean when we're trying to do an integration or build something out.
I have a front-end engineer who will help when we have something specific, such as the way a Dialogue box is experienced or how that data is mapped.
Lastly, quality assurance is involved as well, because we want to make sure we’re lighting up the experience for the right folks at the right times.
Gina: Once you had technically configured BlueConic, how did you introduce it to the teams who would drive marketing use cases and become your hands-on users?
Toby: One of the key value propositions of a customer data platform is data velocity and empowering marketers to activate multi-channel campaigns.
When marketers have to rely on enterprise teams to do that, it just slows down the process. One of the key value props of the CDP is the ability for marketers to segment their audiences themselves and plan out the journeys they want to create. Other teams are involved in nuanced ways, but marketers should be able to independently drive a lot of that activity.
Gina: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Something we talk about with our customers is how CDP ROI has two dimensions. BlueConic helps you grow and achieve your revenue goals, and then there are also all the efficiencies that come from the folks who are able to use the platform to build those segments and activate them on their own. It takes self-reflection on the part of you and your organization. We can be your CDP experts. You are the World Vision experts.
Toby: 100%. In terms of introducing the CDP to the business teams, we began a series of internal showcases and fireside chats to demo the CDP to different groups across the organization. Then we ran a workshop that involved immersing hands-on users in the BlueConic Academy, Blue-U. We encouraged these team members to think about things like, “How would you use this capability to change the way you market today?” Then we mapped the different opportunities they saw. This process even informed new opportunities for our company roadmap, in terms of the ways we've proceeded to iteratively develop our CDP use cases.
From there, we designed high-level use cases that helped seed the CDP with some initial data. This helped us transition from the mode of showing people a presentation about how BlueConic works to showing them the tool itself.
To gain traction engaging across the organization, you have to show the CDP in action. You're only going to get so far with a PowerPoint presentation. You're only going to get so far with a vendor’s video. You have to build out some use cases and show the CDP in action.
This process, this investment of time, thinking, and energy, has taken our team from executive sponsorship to vendor selection to technical onboarding and configuration – the initial plumbing of the system – to sharing the capabilities with our end users and dreaming together what’s possible. This process took us into pilot mode. Now our team is excited to be moving from pilot to scale.
Gina: Tell me about your core initial use cases.
Toby: One is around an Assistant Shopper. We're using the BlueConic funnel report to trigger personalized content for people based on how they're interacting with our website.
Another is around a Content Recommender. We’re using BlueConic to go through our content and create a growing library of content within BlueConic. Then we’re using natural language processing and other consumer behaviors on the website to make more intelligent recommendations about what content to show a person based on their behaviors.
The third is around the Impact of Email on Recurring Gifts. Previously, we would pull a segment of people, send an email, and measure the revenue generated from that email. In conjunction with our goal of becoming more donor-centric, we can build a Lifecycle inside of BlueConic and see how email recipients are progressing from first-time guests to second-time or recurring guests, or whether they are dropping out based on an email. This has provided a great way to generate actionable insights within BlueConic.
Each of these use cases is a little bit different. Each one touches different World Vision systems and seeds the BlueConic CDP with different types of data.
We intentionally chose these use cases so we could highlight key CDP features while also connecting everything so that as our business moves forward, we can continue to build and iterate on these foundational cases.
Gina: As you look back on this first year with CDP, what’s been most rewarding?
Toby: Many things. What’s been especially great is that we have been able to get something to market with the CDP within a few weeks, set it up in a way that we can measure its success, see the wins, and affirm our assumptions about the value of BlueConic. That has been very rewarding, I think, in and of itself.
Gina: What has surprised you most about BlueConic?
Toby: I'm continually surprised by the extent of the features in BlueConic. When you do demos, you can’t possibly cover every feature. If you did, your brain would just turn to mush at a certain point, or maybe it doesn't stick, how great a certain feature is.
I'm surprised all the time, as we go to do something, to learn about new, relevant features. The content scrapers and how they’re used in AI and in recommendations. The natural language processing that's built on top of that. It’s great to see how AI is becoming more turnkey and useful, in general.
There are a lot of gems in BlueConic. That's probably what has surprised me the most.
Gina: What are your tips for peers who are at an earlier point in their journey?
Toby: I have three thoughts on this:
I think you have to inspire and educate both the leaders and the influencers on what's possible. A lot of people still don't know what a customer data platform is. You'd be shocked.
Focus on showing the CDP in action.
Align the CDP to your roadmap. Look at what you already have on your roadmap and identify where it makes sense to dovetail a CDP.
Also, as you’re getting started and even along your journey, BlueConic has a great online academy, and a lot of information is discoverable in the Knowledge Base. If you're the kind of learner that can go consume, there's a lot you can understand just from the Knowledge Base alone.
To hear more of Toby’s conversation with Gina, including what he would have done differently and what World Vision is planning next, download our on-demand webinar today.