Congratulations! You’ve decided to make the jump. Sitting down with your most trusted marketing managers, analysts, planners, strategists and tech consultants, you’ve collectively decided that your organisation is all grown up and ready to make the ultimate commitment. That’s right, the addressable marketing hub that is the Data Management Platform.

Aside from being one of the most annoyingly popular marketing buzzwords amongst CMO’s today, DMP’s promises that through the use of data-driven marketing you can achieve huge improvements in efficiency, campaign performance and cross channel communications. Data-driven marketing is important; according to the most recent research study by Winterberry Group and the Global DMA, an overwhelming 80% of 3,000+ worldwide panellists said data is either critically or affirmatively important to their current marketing activities. Furthermore, 73.5% of those respondents also planned for an even larger investment in data-driven marketing in 2015 than in years prior.

Now that everyone’s doing it and you’re hearing good things, how can you make sure you’re setting yourself up for data-driven success?

Here are a few tips for pre-DMP marketers:

Don’t just rush into it

Having a good data-driven marketing strategy, whilst managing customer data is not synonymous with having a DMP. DMP’s ARE EXPENSIVE. Investing in such software comes with a hefty price tag (around £100k+ minimum annually), not to mention a painstakingly slow contractual process that can last for months on end. Marketers need to consider what added value can be brought to their organisation before making the jump. Personally, I would recommend an audit of the existing marketing platforms and tools first. Many would be surprised at the insight and targeting capabilities that existing analytics tools, Demand Side Platforms (DSP’s), Ad Servers or Media Partners have baked into them already, and at no additional cost. My advice would be to develop a data strategy around these tools first, prove the concept and then think bigger.

Know your limits

Before you get too far into the contract and negotiations stages understand your limitations. Can your site properties actually support a proper DMP? What does that mean? I’m not speaking from a budgeting perspective per say, but rather from a technical one. There are far too many cases where a contract is signed only to have the client come back weeks later and say that they have a three-month code freeze and that the project cannot begin until it’s lifted. Unfortunately implementation and monthly platform fees don’t tend to wait for code freezes.

Your web developers and wider tech team are an invaluable resource during selection and set-up and should be involved in conversations from day one. Work with them to understand what data is available to collect on and off site, if and how you are currently classifying different site variables and also what tag formats will be the most cost and time effective to maximise your data. Additionally, take note of how other factors such as having multiple CMS systems, long development queues or tag management system upgrades can delay DMP implementation. I’ve seen the initial implementation process take anywhere from six weeks to 18 months.

Ask for help

Do you really think you’re going to take care of this DMP all by yourself?! Impossible. Make sure everyone, across all relevant departments knows that change is a-coming. You may need to hire or appoint someone to ensure that new data-driven initiatives or capabilities work their way up to the people actually setting strategies or creating media plans. Communicate well, and often, to esnure that everyone knows what exciting things are possible and how you’ll support each other throughout the process. The most innovative companies in data-driven marketing aren’t the ones with the fanciest or most expensive platforms, rather they’re those that have put in the time educating and training their staff. Lastly, whichever DMP you select, rely heavily on your account manager, especially within the first six months.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

Let’s take a moment to touch on scale, granularity and campaign delivery. Advanced data-driven concepts such as crm onboarding enable marketers to activate their offline customer data by targeting those same users on their site or via other channels such as display. Those strategies can be extremely powerful, but in order to be effective and have a positive ROI they are highly dependent on the size and scale of the seed data set. At this time (within the UK and Europe) you should leave CRM onboarding to truly enterprise-sized organisations.

Another common mishap for initial DMP testing requires targeting extremely granular audiences. Just because you can segment a group of red-headed moms that like fly fishing on Tuesday’s doesn’t mean you should. What if those fine ladies are too busy fly fishing to show up online to be targeted? Whether you’re trying to reach your own first party audiences or a trusted third party’s, make sure you’ve got a healthy balance between data accuracy and scale.

Don’t get too clever too soon

If your most talented people are suggesting that a DMP-related project or idea seems a bit too complex, it probably is – at least in the beginning. The more platforms or partners required for a test, the more people required, which in turn means more emails, calls, meetings, time, money, spreadsheets, project management…you get the point. Understand what your team can do today, not three quarters from now.

Try not to freak out the minute something goes wrong

Finally, did your implementation take a month longer than you anticipated? First test absolutely tank? Has it been six months since the live-date and you still haven’t used the damn thing? Don’t worry; this is all quite common in the world of DMP’s. As long as you’re flexible and willing to fail fast, the innovation and eventual return on investment will follow. Marketers may also find that their biggest success involves capabilities or functionality that they didn’t even plan on. If you’re a first time DMP-er, make sure you have a chance to review and amend the contractual terms after six or 12 months, even if the price advantages for longer-term commitments seem attractive. Test, learn, keep what works and re-negotiate what doesn’t.

Whether you’re just familiarising yourself with the term, struggling through a long RFP process or are about to launch your first campaign, challenges adopting a data management platform are inevitable. Take this opportunity to learn from some of my own mistakes and go fourth more confident and prepared with your DMP decision-making skills. Good luck!

Kristen Anderson

Kristen Anderson


Kristen Anderson, Programmatic Data Director at iProspect.