What is a Headless CDP

Headless CDP (Headless Customer Data Platform). Ever heard that term before?

Throw that into Google search. When I do, I get ads for CDP vendors (triggered from inclusion of term “cdp”) and ~75K non-relevant results.

This article is probably 3-5 years ahead if its time, but bear with me…

Let’s explore the history and recent evolution of the CMS (Content Management System). Many sources cite FileNet in 1985 as the first CMS. With the evolution of cloud and the proliferation of channels, CMS’s have evolved.

Most companies are now migrating towards a Headless CMS. Headless CMS is mainstream now; it has it’s own Wikipedia page and relevant Google results that go many, many pages deep on “What is a Headless CMS?”, “Why go Headless”, “Headless CMS vs. _________”.

I think this article gives a good history of CMS’s: https://www.contentstack.com/blog/all-about-headless/content-management-systems-history-and-headless-cms. In particular, I want to draw your attention to this image from the article.

The article ends with: “By allowing you to integrate with new technologies and applications as they come on the scene, a headless CMS is likely to be the longest-lasting solution in the history of content management systems”

Now replace the word “Content” with “Customer”. And replace “CMS” with “CDP”.

Another article, written in January 2017, declares 2017 as the year of the first Headless CMS: https://www.cmswire.com/digital-experience/why-2017-is-the-year-of-cloud-first-headless-cms/. Now, 2.5 years later, G2 lists 37 Headless CMS vendors (maybe more by the time you read this).

Again replace “CMS” with “CDP”.

Do you see why a Headless CDP would make a lot of sense?

So, as you look at CDP’s, think about the decision for Traditional CMS vs Headless CMS: (table taken from https://www.storyblok.com/tp/headless-cms-explained)

For Headless CDP, I would alter the table to:

Imagine not having to worry about sending your data outside of your secured environments. Imagine adding as much data as you want, from any source, at your storage costs (no premium). Imagine experimenting and building models at your cloud computing costs (no premium).

About a year ago, I wrote an article about why you should consider building your own CDP: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-you-should-build-your-cdp-kerry-hew/. The biggest draw is that you’re building a valuable asset; you want to own this, not rent this asset.

But building can be hard. And your resources are already over-burdened. And besides, there are no Headless CDP solutions!

Except, I’d argue there is one. It’s Syntasa.

They don’t call themselves a Headless CDP; after all, there’s no such thing.

But Syntasa addresses all the checks from the Headless CDP table above.

[UPDATE: January 2021]: Check out Conscia; it is a real Headless CDP

By allowing you to integrate with new technologies and applications as they come on the scene, a Headless CDP is likely to be the longest-lasting solution in the history of Customer Data Platforms.

Gartner’s 2019 Hype Cycle has CDP’s coming off the Peak of Inflated Expectations and doesn’t forecast it reaching the Plateau of Productivity for ~2-5 years …perhaps when Headless CDP’s are mainstream? Hmmm…

Headless CDP isn’t even a term, but I bet it will be soon. The evolution is easy to see.

You heard it here first!

The Instant Pot Phenomenon

We got an Instant Pot for Christmas. I’d heard of Instant Pot before. Many times. But, when I think about it, I’ve NEVER seen an ad for one. EVER!!!

No Advertising Marketing!

I decided to look up the founder’s story and found this: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/why-robert-wangs-instant-pot-is-a-bestseller-on-amazon.html

“To be honest with you, we haven’t spent much money on advertising,” Wang says. “In fact, that is not part of the business plan. We really spend money on product development and customer support.”

Robert Wang, a fellow Canadian and Techie, invented this. It’s an inspiring story, actually.

The problem: “What if there is a machine which is smart enough, which can automate the entire cooking process for us, so that we can fix dinner when we come back from work.”

While my perception of this brand (or category, which they created, or rather re-invented?) was neutral, I understood that it was this “craze”; almost a cult-like following had developed.

A non-cooking friend told me about theirs over the holidays. And since the price point is very reasonable, that put me over the top.

A relentless focus on a product development that meets a consumer’s problem. Instant Pot built it and their consumers propelled them to amazing growth.

Great business story!!!

Why you should Build your CDP

Customer Data Platform (CDP). The more I read and learn about CDPs, the more I am convinced that most, large companies should have one. The CDP hype is real. BUT (I like big BUTs and I cannot lie), I’m a huge advocate for BUILD (Vs. Buy), in this case. I would not go with a CDP SaaS vendor.

Of course, there is always exception to the rule and, as with anything in technology fitting, it depends. But I would strongly consider to build in-house, by default.

This is a shift from my norm. I’ve always been on the vendor-side of things, in favor of the business case to BUY solutions. But, I see this as so strategic and core to a company, that it’s worth the investment to build it. There are tools on the market today to make this process feasible and achievable (more on that later).

When Caesars Entertainment declared bankruptcy a few years back, “The most valuable of the individual assets being fought over by creditors is the data collected over the last 17 years through the company’s Total Rewards loyalty program”. I’m going to argue that that is their CDP. This is a good write-up about it: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2015/05/18/when-big-data-becomes-your-most-valuable-asset/#117b5a741eef

When you build a CDP, you are building an incredibly valuable asset.

Value is built through asset ownership, not renting.

Taken from this article (https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/data-management/what-is-a-customer-data-platform-and-what-are-the-benefits/), the CDP has three primary functions:

  1. They pull in customer data from the disparate data systems of your choice
  2. They match, merge and cleanse this data into a unified record for each customer
  3. They make these records visible to your other marketing tools to ensure the consistent treatment of customers

I’m going to add #4, from this Gartner blog (https://blogs.gartner.com/martin-kihn/what-is-this-thing-we-call-a-cdp/):

4. It is owned and operated by marketers

I like the way the author opened the article:

A new technology appears, seemingly from the ether, and promises to change our lives. Customer data integration, labeling and storage problems will disappear. Identities will merge. You’ll be able to find new audiences until your ribs squeak and deliver them to any execution system in the barn.

Oh, and it will scale, rarely fail and enable (yes) true one-to-one marketing.

The name of this magic machine is … CRM. It was 1998. Companies piled in, dropping $3.5 billion a year on apps and databases alone – consulting fees not included – and yet, by 2001, 50% of CRM projects “failed.”

The same thing happened, on a lesser scale, during the great marketing automation boom of the 2000s. And it’s happening again.

So, the CDP is supposed to accomplish what the CRM cannot do and what the DMP does not do. But we cannot forget Primary Function #4: It is owned and operated by Marketers.

If you thought the relationship between Sales and Marketing was challenging, it pales in comparison between the diatribe between Marketing and IT; hence, the rise of Marketing Technology teams? I wrote a post about this recently and highlighted this article by on chiefmartec by Scott Brinker, written in 2009 (the classics never die) .

Let’s be honest, these are massive projects; however, the potential value is huge. It’s no surprise that there are over 60 vendors in just a few short years, with a few of them pivoting to adopt this acronym as their primary identity. This is a project you only want to do once.

Do you want to be vendor-locked?

Many CMOs may not even live to reap the full benefits of their investment, given that the median tenure-ship of a CMO is 31 months (according to this source )

You have a CRM.

You have a DMP.

You have a Marketing Automation platform.

You have an EDW and possibly a Data Lake.

You have an enterprise BI solution.

Do you really need a CDP vendor?

(And I’ll double down on that question, if you’ve already implemented a SaaS Customer Journey solution, which most CDPs can/should be able to provide)

The one case where I’d fold quickly on the CDP vendor case is Datorama, if and only if, you’re already full stack Salesforce —negotiate hard at renewal time! 🙂

Here’s the kicker, the most expensive (and important) component of the CDP is your 1st-party behavioral data. The storage, but mainly the processing, of your digital analytics clickstream to match, merge, and cleanse this data into a unified record for each customer. That’s a lot of data! And you’re likely already storing it somewhere.

And if you’re a brand conglomerate, do you have a CDP per brand or do you aggregate or can you have both? I think you should have both, but this would be cost prohibitive (or hugely wasteful) with a SaaS vendor.

I’m going to circle back to Primary Function #4 because this a big reason folks choose a CDP vendor. …“My IT is backlogged; they can’t deliver in my required timeline; I want control”. All very likely true.

If I put my CMO hat on, I would find a consultant to architect the system. If done properly, this system would be a silo-buster and could help democratize A LOT of data throughout the org (see post on Data Silos here). Data/BI Analysts will go to town. Data Science can reap huge time savings. Many internal projects can spawn from a CDP; E.g., Marketing attribution. Endless possibilities, really.

Now, that then brings up the question of “Who’s budget?”. Ah, the joy of politics.

I will argue that the CMO should take this initiative on. They are the first and primary use-case. If I’m correct, that this will benefit multiple orgs, then that’s a big win for the CMO. That’s a CMO with enterprise-wide vision. That’s a future CEO.

In terms of time, there are many tools on the market that can be used to dramatically accelerate this project. In fact, I’ll put it out there, that with the right tools, this can be accomplished within several months.

If IT can’t handle it, I would consider starting with a consulting firm that can operate as a managed service, knowing that I can bring the resources in-house later, if that makes sense. This would be hosted in a virtual private cloud (and hopefully a solution would be flexible enough to not lock me into any one cloud vendor, either).

To conclude, if you don’t have a CDP project going, you’d be remiss if you didn’t get one going as soon as possible. But look inward first.

An Example of Poor Email Marketing

[LinkedIn Post]

Dear Email Marketers,

How about using a bit more creativity (or even effort) in engaging with your audience?

Let me provide some suggestions and I’d love to hear more from others in comments.

First, I’m sorry to call out The Venetian® I The Palazzo®, Resort Hotel & Casino I Las Vegas Sands Corp.; I really like the property and it is the premier large conference center (maybe in all of the US). But it’s a good example.

I stayed at The Venetian for a couple days during the Adobe Summit conference. For starters, they should know this and my purpose (i.e., persona = business traveler).

Ever since that stay, I get an email once every 2-5 days with an “Up to 25% rates” offer and “Book Now” CTA. Different image. Sometimes a highlight of a restaurant or other amenity.

I can probably unsubscribe and consider my “research” done.  I know what they’re going to send; it’s predictable and just clutter.

Consider that not every email needs to have an offer. Vegas has so much to do; why not highlight other things to do that may catch my attention?

Maybe give a voice to employees and expose the personalities. What does “Concierge Joe” recommend? It would be a better experience if I read about his recommendations and then later engaged with him upon my visit.

It goes without saying, Machine Learning can help tremendously with relevancy for email marketing. Connect to share ideas on this and more.

Ideas from others?

Why IT and Marketing are Diametrically Opposed [commentary]

[LinkedIn Post]

When Business and IT clash, it’s the customer who loses. Everyday you stagnate, you put your customers at risk. When you keep your data siloed, it’s your customer’s experience that suffers.

Amazon has over 500K employees and they are foster a culture with  “Day 1” mentality; a mantra meant to convey that the company will never stop being a start-up.

Has any company in history disrupted as many individual companies and distinct industries as Amazon?

I’ve been on the vendor side for over 12 years now, selling technology into various businesses. Business wants to be nimble and move fast. IT is often opposed and it’s not their fault, necessarily.

It’s a classic scenario.

This old article by Scott Brinker absolutely nails it on the head.

I believe these opposing goals has helped fuel the rise of SaaS, as businesses could by-pass IT. But with Data being such a huge asset (and security risk), the pendulum is swinging back a bit. Business must work with IT.

“We’re a big company, we move slowly”

Okay, but who suffers? YOUR CUSTOMER.


Last I checked Amazon is a big company too.

They put their customer first.

It’s always Day 1 at Amazon.

Brand Affinity is Created by Great Customer Experiences

[LinkedIn Post]

Apple’s greatest asset is one that you cannot see, feel, or touch. That is, its Brand Affinity. Buffet is not a technology investor, but he bought APPL because he saw “an extraordinary consumer franchise”. Apple customers are “very, very, very locked in, at least psychologically and mentally, to the product you are using. [The iPhone] is a very sticky”.

I noticed one of my connections wrote a lot about Toyota. I asked him: “What’s your affinity with Toyota”. He told me about a story when he was younger, how he was in a pretty bad car accident with his family, but luckily nobody got hurt and he attributed that to the safety of the Toyota vehicle. He is a Toyota customer for life.

My kids play a lot of Fortnite. It’s a free game, but players buy V-Bucks for new skins, etc. [Aside: As a parent, Fortnite is the most expensive free game there is!]. I bet if Redbull or Monster or equiv, purchased the ability to brand the Chug Jug or Shield Potion, they would create a positive brand affinity to millions of youth, for life.

Brand affinity is created by great customer experiences. I believe that the more bland or generic the product is, the greater effort you need to put on your customer service/marketing/engagement experiences.

[More to come at a later date]

5 Ideas for Chorus.ai

I have no affiliation with Chorus.ai. I read about their Series A funding in February and upon learning about their solution, I was intrigued enough to request a demo.

Again, I only had a single brief demo, so I’m no expert. But, essentially, what Chorus.ai does is record and automatically transcribe meetings so that they can be used for review and coaching/training purposes. It also syncs to SalesForce; which is awesome, assuming that what syncs are the meeting notes or a summary of the transcription (full transcription could be too much).

“If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.” — Alfred Bernhard Nobel

In any case, I’m sure they have plenty of ideas to spend the newly minted $16M raised capital. Here are my 5 ideas for Chorus.ai:

  1. Give a Free (or very cheap) Single License to Very Early Start-ups. When it is early and there is no sales team, the early conversations with customers/prospects can be the foundation of training for the first sales hire. It’s hugely valuable for a new rep to hear the real pitch in action, the reception by the prospects, the objections and the overall context of how these conversations go. Founders can also get outside coaching from Advisors. And lastly, as the company grows and builds out its sales force, Chorus.ai is already part of the fabric of the company, up-selling to regular seat licenses (or whatever the model) should be easy.
  2. Offer a Self-Serve Single Seat License. Perhaps a company isn’t ready to bite on a company-wide licensing deal. However, individual reps could be interested. As a rep, I would be interested if there was a self service sign-up (and individual plan advertised on the website); no demo. It would save me LOADS of time putting notes into Salesforce. This should easily pay for itself in saved hours and pain of data entry. Then Chorus.ai can shift to account based marketing and level up within the org to managers/VPs.
  3. Target Inside Sales Teams. For the enterprise deals, target the inside sales teams first. These folks are typically more junior and need more coaching and are more open to adoption new solutions. Also, if I were an outside rep being passed a lead, I would certainly invest the time to listen to the call that qualified the lead. At that point, you’re also seasoning the outside team with the value of Chorus.ai. Lastly, if my company was using an out-sourced business development team, I would definitely want a solution like Chorus.ai in place as an oversight mechanism. This is not saying to ignore the rest of the sales org, but targeting inside sales and inside sales managers on a smaller deal could lead to accelerated deals and then easier up-sells.
  4. Market to Marketing Too. Have Marketing contribute to the budget (or at least get them into the groundswell. Marketing campaigns can be expensive. Therefore, Marketers usually A/B test things before they scale campaigns. Chorus.ai enables Marketing to work with a sales rep or two to test different messaging on a smaller, but still effective, scale. Also, by searching for trigger words like “competition”, they could get early indicators of new market threats and understand when it’s time to craft a campaign to combat them.
  5. Invest in SEO. I like the Chorus.ai tag line “Conversation Intelligence” as a branding tag line, but I doubt that anyone searches for that term. But I bet that people are searching for “sales call recording software” or “sales coaching solution” and derivatives of those. Writing blog posts and PR with long-tail terms around those core themes could help attract leads more cost effectively.

What do you think about these ideas? I enjoy these kind of brain exercises. If you’re interested in getting any kind of ideas for your company or job or other, simply drop me a private message and ask. I’d be happy to turn on the Thinkolator for you. 🙂


[Quora] Why should a startup hire a sales consultant?

Originally seen at: https://www.quora.com/Why-should-a-startup-hire-a-sales-consultant

Startups should hire consultants to complement areas where the team is weak. If the founding team doesn’t have sales experience, it would be wise to leverage a sales consultant or find a strategic advisor with a sales background (preferably someone who’s sold a similar solution). This could save a lot of time and heartache instead of learning by trial and error.

Growth is driven by:

  1. Increasing leads (marketing)
  2. Increasing customers (sales … conversion of leads)
  3. Increasing margin
  4. Increasing frequency of sales (product and/or account management)

My guess is that your current challenge is #1 or #2. Which one or both? If you have had even a few leads, but have failed to convert them, then it is a sales problem. Yes, consider finding a consultant if you’re even pondering. Talk to folks in your network, get advice; it may not even be necessary to hire a consultant. Sometimes a professional that will provide you with proper attention can be worth it, though.

[Quora] What Does it Take to be a Good Sales Engineer?

Originally see here: https://www.quora.com/What-does-it-take-to-be-a-good-sales-engineer

Don’t settle for good; strive for greatness.

A great SE will have a strong mix of technical prowess, business acumen, salesmanship, communication skills (written and verbal), and (what I’ll call a) likeability factor.

While most SE’s do come from a technical background, I’ve seen great SE’s without this. It depends on the maturity of the product/solution and who the buyers are. Typically, if it is a more mature solution and the buyer is on the business side, then the SE is more of a solution expert and doesn’t need to be “technical” by nature. For earlier-stage solutions or solutions being sold to Technical buyers, then the SE will need the technical skills (coding/scripting) to configure or customize the POC or demo for the target buyer.

A great SE will ask a lot of questions a be a great listener to uncover the business issues and technical challenges that the prospect has. He/she will then translate that and demonstrate (or explain) how the technical features/capabilities of the solution directly address this issues/challenges.

The great SE’s help the prospect visualize themselves using the solution. The SE will convince the buyer that the solution benefits will far outweigh any perceived risk. This is performed by gaining trust, through spending time with prospects and delivery of customized demos/presentations.