How to Run a Successful Customer Data Platform RFP: The 50 Essential Questions
For marketers and technology decision-makers, the Request for Proposal (RFP) process can be one of the most daunting and time-consuming tasks their job demands. With good reason too. Critical, long-term technology investments can make or break the success of a business. And because the technology landscape is always changing, both seasoned RFP pros and professionals beginning their first RFPs can get overwhelmed by the process. To further complicate matters, when technology markets are new (like the CDP industry) there is often little, or conflicting, advice and guidance on how to proceed.
Blueshift has aided countless companies, of all sizes and verticals, in understanding their business needs in a Customer Data Platform (CDP) partner and which specific capabilities matter most during the evaluation. We’re here to separate noise from need, fact from fiction when it comes to investing in a CDP — we’ve compiled our expertise from CDP experts and marketers who have been in your shoes before, to ensure you have a fantastic RFP experience and select the right CDP. We’ll break down what exactly goes into an RFP, what being a true CDP requires, and our free CDP RFP Template with the 50 essential questions you need to select the ideal CDP for your business.
Martech RFP Basics
Techopedia defines an RFP (Request for Proposal) as “a document issued by a business or an organization to request vendor bids for products, solutions, and services. The RFP provides a procurement framework to streamline the initial stages of contractor solicitation.” Businesses use RFPs to conduct a more structured, goal-oriented exploratory process for evaluating new tech or services.
While it is extremely common for individual employees or teams to reach out to vendors for more information and demonstrations, the RFP process is here to make the technology selection process much more streamlined and effective — but it’s not a process that’s started casually. It requires that key decision-makers and leaders are on board, your needs and use cases are ironed out.
Generally, RFPs follow this progression:
Phase 1: Narrow down any specific goals, metrics, and projects that would benefit from a CDP. Also, take this time to align and set 3 primary use cases that your CDP vendor should be able to solve. Then, assemble a list of CDPs that make sense to evaluate (exclude incomplete solutions or industry-specific solutions that aren’t relevant to your business).
Phase 2: Gather a team of stakeholders that will run the RFP process and present their findings to decision-makers (or make the decision internally). It’s important to include employees from across the organization to bring different perspectives — ensure no stone is left unturned during the evaluation process. This “essential” team should include any team members that have some impact on the customer experience, whether it’s marketing, martech teams, IT, and developers. This team can further narrow down what capabilities are essential for your business, nice to have, or unimportant.
Phase 3: Now it’s time to write up your RFP. Download our free template, with questions about the 50 top CDP requirements for you to choose from and with space for vendors to complete their answers. (Hint: You can find Blueshift’s answers on the second tab)
Phase 4: Lastly, down select your top CDP vendors based on their RFP responses and continue the evaluation process with each vendor: demo the platforms, meet with their sales, technical, and customer success teams, get executive input, and so on.
It’s always helpful to keep in mind that this process can be customized to your business needs, and although the structure an RFP provides is extremely useful, your experience with each vendor may vary (and may give hints as to how they’ll perform as a partner down the road).
The State of the CDP Market
The past several years have seen incredible growth and adoption for Customer Data Platforms, with technology players large and small unveiling their own iteration of a Customer Data Platform. The CDP industry added 22 vendors and is estimated to reach $1.3 billion in revenue in 2020 alone — but this growth has also led to mixed perceptions of what a CDP is and what it provides. Many different companies were quick to add the label of CDP to disparate solutions with a wide array of capabilities, with each new “CDP” approaching the issue of disconnected data and experiences differently.
This has led to a ton of confusion and questions: What is a CDP really? Who needs one? And most importantly, which companies can rightfully claim the title of CDP for their own products. Our RFP Template was created to help answer the most critical questions surrounding the CDP, and what you’ll need in a CDP vendor to set your organization up for success.
Key Customer Data Platform Requirements to Include In an RFP
The Customer Data Platform Institute defines the CDP as a “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” But for a CDP to help marketers not only centralize their data but to also use it to deliver relevant, personalized customer experiences across every interaction it needs a specific set of capabilities. Our Customer Data Platform RFP template was specially designed for B2C companies looking to accelerate their business through customer-centric experiences. The questions in the template are suitable for any industry, vertical, and company size — and will point you to the best vendor for your needs.
The core requirements on which to evaluate the CDPs on your list, fall into 5 categories:
Data Management: This is the bread and butter of most CDPs, and is at the core of everything they do. Within Data Management you should evaluate vendors on their Data Ingestion, Profile Unification, and Data Access capabilities. A solid CDP should be able to ingest data in real-time from any offline or online source, centralize the data and resolve identities into a Single Customer View, and make unified data immediately accessible and actionable across your enterprise and your channels — all without the need for dedicated IT/engineering involvement.
Analytics and Intelligence: The ability to apply AI and intelligent analytics to your data will set apart simple data management solutions from marketer-centric CDPs. A solid CDP will include robust Segmentation, AI/Predictive Intelligence, Recommendations, and Analytics & Reporting capabilities that are accessible and customizable by marketers themselves in an intuitive, visual interfaces.
Omnichannel Orchestration: For a CDP to impact the full customer experience, it needs to be a hub that orchestrates channels and applications around customer data, insights, and behaviors. Key capabilities to evaluate include Omnichannel Journey Orchestration, Personalization, Triggered Workflows, and Integrations. Look for a platform that’s dynamic, adaptive, and can truly connect the full customer experience.
Privacy, Security, and Compliance: Because CDPs handle first-party customer data, they must meet stringent privacy and security requirements. This will only become more important as data and privacy expectations (and regulations) grow. Evaluate how the CDPs on your list support data privacy preferences and adherence to privacy compliance regulations. Understand how they manage PII in accordance with regional privacy and security regulations. And ensure they have the appropriate controls and audits in place.
Platform and Services: Lastly, look for a solution that meets not only today’s needs but that can grow with your business A great CDP will be flexible, reliable, scalable, and extensible. Also, ensure that the CDP provides the appropriate level of support to help you realize fast time to value and ongoing success, including dedicated onboarding and customer success resources.
DOWNLOAD THE CDP RFP TEMPLATE
Quickly get started on your Customer Data Platform RFP with this complete template: The 50 Essential Questions you need answered when considering CDP Vendors.
Beyond just ticking capabilities off a checklist, you should also invest time into truly getting to know your vendors — platforms are only as strong as the people who make them. It’s important to look for a true technology partner that’s flexible, transparent, and always on call to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and advise.
If you’d like to learn more about Blueshift’s offering, the SmartHub CDP, and how it stacks up against the competition, reach out to one of our experts for a 1 on 1 demo, today and download our complete CDP RFP Template.