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CDPs for Associations

March 27, 2024  |  By


The podcast episode, Customer Data Platforms: What? What? and When? originally aired on February 29, 2024.


  • CDPs (customer data platforms) are game changers for associations and should be on the radar of association leaders. They empower associations to broaden their aperture beyond just members, effectively busting information silos by unifying customer and audience data across the organization. This unified view empowers associations to prioritize the needs and interests of their audience, enabling a true customer/audience-first mindset. Armed with this knowledge, associations can create highly relevant content, programs, and benefits that drive engagement and value.
  • Traditional marketing tools like MAPs (marketing automation platforms), AMSs and CRMs struggle with today’s complex data landscape, including behavioral insights, deduplication, and evolving consent management. They often lack the real-time capabilities and flexibility required. CDPs are purposely built for this complexity, offering a perfect fit for modern marketing needs.
  • CDPs empower association marketers, putting them in control of capturing, unifying, and activating rich customer and audience data. Empowered by self-service data access, and campaign features, marketers can now create targeted and personalized experiences.
  • By implementing a strong customer data foundation, associations can unlock powerful use cases that drive community engagement, targeted outreach, and monetization opportunities (like ad/sponsorship revenue and increased readership). This data-driven approach also boots B2C conversions (like membership, author submissions, subscriptions, purchases, donations, and event registrations) and B2B use cases around lead generation and institutional sales support.
  • A core pillar in marketing transformations, CDPs automate time-consuming tasks and enable a more automated “always-on” approach, reducing the burden of manual marketing. Additionally, CDPs equip marketers with robust testing and analytics to refine their strategies and optimize marketing spend.
  • CDPs are not meant to replace existing technology like AMSs, but they often become the foundation for re-evaluating your tech stack. Before adding or replacing an AMS, CRM, MAP, or Data Warehouse (EDW), it is prudent to first consider how a CDP might fit into the mix.
  • CDPs are powerful tools, but successful implementation requires careful planning and a clear roadmap. This includes developing the right strategies, processes, structures, and skills to ensure adoption and optimization (e.g., data governance, campaign planning). A staged, and agile, approach that advances high value use cases first (often from publishing or professional development) can build momentum and demonstrate ROI quickly, avoiding the need to complete lengthy projects before any benefits are realized.
  • A MarTech capability audit is an important step before implementing a CDP. This audit assesses the association’s MarTech maturity and identifies opportunities for tool optimization, addition, or even removal. This analysis helps determine if a CDP aligns with the association’s goals and clarifies the business value. Most importantly, the audit evaluates how a CDP will integrate with their current MarTech stack and future technology roadmap and starts to address the change needed within the marketing department to bring on a CDP.
  • With over 180 CDPs in the landscape, associations benefit from a robust evaluation process that goes beyond simple vendor demos and use cases. Request for Information/Proposal (RFI/RFP) and Proof of Concepts (POCs) are crucial. Given the complexity of CDPs, partnering with an external Marketing Technology (MarTech) expert is highly recommended. This expert should possess a deep understanding of both the vendor landscape and the specific challenges and use cases faced by associations. Remember, selecting a CDP is not just about the tool itself. It is about understanding how you will leverage it, the trade-offs involved with different vendors, and the long-term impact on your organization’s roadmap. Take the time to do it well, and thoroughly.
  • CDPs positively impact change across numerous functions, including Digital, Data/Analytics, Product, Data Governance, and Membership. However, marketing experiences the most profound transformation. Savvy organizations view CDP evaluations and implementation as a springboard for broader marketing transformations.

The podcast episode, is part of Delcor’s Reboot IT Podcast where DelCor president, Dave Coriale , CAE, explores all things association and nonprofit tech. You can find the podcast on the Delcor website or your favorite podcast platform.

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Colleen Scollans

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Colleen Scollans leads Clarke & Esposito’s Marketing & Digital Transformation Practice. She is a seasoned marketing, digital strategy, and customer experience leader. Prior to consulting, Colleen was the Chief Marketing Officer for Oxford University Press’s (OUP) Academic Division. See Full Bio

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