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How can businesses benefit from a CDP vs. a CRM?

Think about all the different ways and places you’re interacting with your customers today. They’re visiting your website, interacting with your social channels, seeing your ads, engaging with your sales people, receiving emails from you, participating in loyalty programs, the list goes on. It takes a diverse lineup of tools and platforms to make all those interactions happen, each leveraging different data sets to drive and inform their operations and each creating and collecting data as those interactions happen. 

Data is the lifeblood of modern digital marketing ecosystems. But with the ever-growing data deluge, managing and leveraging it effectively can feel like you’re dealing with a data tsunami. Enter two essential tools: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). While CRMs have been a mainstay for sales teams for years, CDPs can be game-changers for marketers. Let’s break down their distinct roles and how they can work together to supercharge your marketing efforts.

CRMs: The building blocks for customer relationships

Not only is it true that not all CRMs are created equal, they aren’t all designed to fulfill the exact same roles. In fact, there are 3 main types of CRMs, all of which are designed to enable businesses in different ways:

  • Collaborative CRMs: These are designed to combine and integrate marketing, sales, and customer service data to support a more effectively orchestrated customer journey. They’re used for interaction and channel management to illuminate the customer journey from initial touchpoint to conversion.
  • Analytical CRMs: These are designed to gather and analyze customer data to uncover customer insights. They’re used for data warehousing, mining, and online analytical processing (OLAP) tools to deliver actionable customer insights.
  • Operational CRMs: These are designed to simplify and streamline sales and marketing processes to enable and accelerate the path to conversion. They’re used for automation of marketing and sales activity, CX improvement, and driving to and tracking high-value actions.

More often than not, our clients are using operational CRMs to help sales and marketing teams manage customer interactions and relationships and track, assign, and manage action on leads, opportunities, and accounts. They enable sales teams to nurture and maintain long-term client relationships and maintain a clear view of the sales pipeline. However, it’s important to understand the limitations of CRMs when it comes to marketing:

  • Data silos: CRM data often exists in isolation, offering a snapshot of sales interactions but lacking the broader picture of customer behavior across different channels.
  • Limited personalization: While CRMs might support basic segmentation based on demographics or purchase history, they generally lack the sophisticated data analysis capabilities needed for truly personalized marketing campaigns.
  • Limited activation capabilities: While CRMs can be effective for enabling activation against customer data in channels like email and social, they often don’t offer sufficient capabilities to activate on all the channels marketing campaigns need to enter to meet customers where they are.

CDPs: Helping solve the customer journey Rubik’s Cube for digital marketing success

Remember all those channels and touchpoints where your customers could be engaging with you and all the data being leveraged and created through those interactions? That data is hard to take advantage of when pieces of it live in different places. A CRM might address some of them, but the complete picture, encompassing the full spectrum of customer behavior, remains elusive. This is where a CDP shines. 

For marketing teams, a customer data platform provides a solution for achieving a persistent, unified customer database. CDPs ingest vast amounts of online and offline data from many sources then match and merge this information into a single customer view. This includes:

  • Online and offline channels: Website interactions, purchase history, email clicks, social media engagement, CDPs gather it all, painting a holistic picture of customer activity across digital touchpoints.
  • Transactional data: Purchases, product preferences, abandoned carts, no detail escapes the CDP’s watchful eye, providing insights into customer buying habits and preferences.
  • Behavioral data: Website behavior, content consumption, search queries, CDPs unveil a detailed portrait of customer actions and interests, revealing how they engage with your brand.

This provides businesses with much greater insight into who their customers are and what they’re doing throughout their journeys. But the real value of a CDP is making that multi-source data actionable for marketing teams, giving them the insights they need to reach the right audiences at the right time, with the right message, across multiple channels, empowering them to:

  • Craft laser-focused campaigns: Analyze customer behavior, preferences, and interactions across all touchpoints to deliver personalized messages that resonate deeply. Imagine sending birthday discount codes to loyal customers or recommending products based on their past purchases.
  • Align with buyer needs: Understanding the buyer’s journey is essential for effective marketing. CDPs enable businesses to align their marketing efforts with buyer needs and cycles, ensuring that messaging is timely, relevant, and impactful. For example, if you ran an ecomm puzzle business and found that customers purchasing large, complex puzzles were also consuming blog content puzzle tips and strategies, this insight would allow you to proactively serve up content on advanced puzzle-solving techniques and special offers on puzzle glue designed for large projects.
  • Optimize marketing spend: A CDP can help you track which marketing channels are most effective at reaching your target audience and driving conversions so you can allocate resources efficiently. For example, you might see that your social media ads are generating more sales than your email campaigns and then adjust your budget to allocate more resources to social media advertising. This data-driven approach ensures you get the most bang for your marketing buck.
  • Measure campaign effectiveness: CDPs allow you to track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns across all channels to more effectively analyze impact and identify areas for improvement. For example, being able to track how many purchase conversions came from traffic that was generated from specific channels and campaigns allows you to measure ROI and optimization performance across multiple channels.

 A real-life example of a CDP solution

Now that we have outlined some of the business benefits of a CDP, let’s take a look at some concrete examples of how a niche cable provider uses their CDP to improve their business:

CDPs streamline sales and lead management

The company uses a CDP to track and manage sales opportunities across multiple channels, including online inquiries, inbound calls, and retail store visits. The CDP integrates data from various sources, such as website interactions, lead forms, and customer inquiries, to create a unified view of sales prospects within a single system. With all this data in a single system, when a customer submits an online inquiry about cable services, the CDP captures the lead information and assigns it to the appropriate sales representative based on predefined criteria, such as geographic location or service area. The sales representative receives a real-time notification and can follow up with the prospect promptly, updating the lead status and progress within the CDP.

CDPs foster deeper relationships and personalized experiences

They also use their CDP to enhance customer relationships by personalizing interactions and delivering tailored communications based on individual preferences and behaviors. The CDP aggregates data from customer interactions across various touchpoints, including website visits, support calls, and billing inquiries. If a customer contacts the customer service department to inquire about upgrading their service plan, the CDP retrieves the customer’s historical data, including past purchases, service requests, and usage patterns, to provide the representative with a complete view of the customer’s account. Armed with this information, the representative can offer personalized recommendations tailored to the customer’s needs and preferences, such as suggesting a bundled package with additional channels or faster internet speeds.

CDPs can maximize growth

With the CDP, they are able to easily analyze customer data and identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling additional products and services. The CDP leverages built-in predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms to identify customers who are most likely to respond positively to targeted offers and promotions.

For example, when they launched a promotional campaign to encourage existing customers to upgrade to a premium cable package with exclusive sports channels, they used the CDP to identify customers who frequently watch sports-related content and have expressed interest in premium channel packages in the past. The CDP generates personalized offers tailored to each customer’s viewing preferences and history, such as discounted upgrade packages or free trial periods. By targeting the right customers with the right offers at the right time on the right communication channel, the cable provider can drive revenue growth and increase customer satisfaction.

Integrating CDPs and CRMs for enhanced insights

While CDPs and CRMs offer distinct functionalities, integrating these platforms can unlock powerful insights and synergies:

  • Deeper data integration: Seamlessly integrating CDP and CRM systems allows businesses to leverage customer data effectively across the entire organization. By breaking down data silos and enabling cross-functional collaboration, integration enhances visibility, efficiency, and decision-making.
  • Supercharged segmentation and targeting: Rich customer data from CDPs and CRMs enables businesses to create targeted segments based on demographic, behavioral, and psychographic attributes. By tailoring messaging and offers to specific audience segments, marketers can increase relevance and engagement, driving higher conversion rates and ROI. Especially when it comes to targeting, utilizing your existing first-party customer data is likely to yield a much more accurate view of lookalike audiences for example versus purchasing these audiences from a third party.
  • Powered-up personalization: Personalization is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for modern marketers. CDPs and CRMs empower businesses to deliver personalized experiences at scale by leveraging AI and machine learning algorithms to analyze customer data, predict preferences, and automate content delivery across multiple channels.
  • Leveled-up lifecycle marketing: Customer journeys are complex and nonlinear, spanning multiple touchpoints and channels. CDPs and CRMs enable businesses to orchestrate personalized, omnichannel marketing campaigns that guide customers through the entire lifecycle, from awareness to advocacy.

Navigating ethical considerations and data privacy

CDPs are central to the ongoing and real-time collection, storage, and utilization of customer data for marketing purposes. As such, they play a crucial role in the age of data privacy regulations and heightened consumer awareness. It is critical to ensure ethical considerations and data privacy practices are upheld within marketing strategies according to the following:

  • Transparency and consent: CDPs aggregate data from various sources, including customer interactions, transactions, and engagements. Marketers leverage this comprehensive view of customer data to personalize marketing campaigns and improve customer experiences. However, to do so ethically, businesses must ensure that customers are fully informed about how their data is collected, used, and protected within the CDP. This transparency fosters trust between businesses and customers, enhancing the legitimacy of data-driven marketing efforts facilitated by the CDP.
  • Data security and compliance: Protecting customer data is not only a legal requirement but also a moral imperative. Businesses must implement robust security measures and comply with data protection regulations to safeguard customer information from unauthorized access, breaches, and misuse.
  • Fairness and bias mitigation: AI and machine learning algorithms have the potential to perpetuate biases and discrimination if not carefully monitored and mitigated. Businesses must ensure fairness and equity in algorithmic decision-making by regularly auditing models, testing for bias, and implementing corrective measures.

Implementing CRMs and CDPs with a dedicated partner 

CDPs and CRMs are complementary and indispensable tools and can be a powerful duo in a business’s digital marketing toolbox. While CRMs excel at managing customer interactions and sales activities and providing a record of individual customer journeys, CDPs illuminate customer behaviors across all touchpoints, drive more nuanced customer segmentation, and activate marketing efforts against customer data across all channels at scale. When used together, they offer a holistic view of the customer, enabling marketers to craft highly targeted campaigns, personalize content and offers, and optimize marketing spend.

However, it’s crucial to choose CDPs that integrate seamlessly with existing CRMs and to invest in the data discovery—requirements gathering, data architecture, and data classification and mapping—and data retrieval and harmonization efforts required to ensure smooth data flow, avoid creating data silos, and set your implementation up for success. It’s also important to adopt a responsible approach to data management that prioritizes transparency, security, and fairness to uphold ethical standards and foster customer trust. An experienced partner can help you unlock the combined data-driven power of a CDP and CRM to fuel higher performing digital marketing strategies while applying responsible practices for data privacy. ready to build out your business use cases for implementing a CRM or a CDP, or integrating the two, let’s talk.

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Small wins, big results: How Marginal Gains Theory supports significant growth

The pressure to deliver outstanding results can feel immense in today’s digital business landscape. Marketers strive for significant campaign performance boosts and consistent growth. But what if the key to achieving these goals lies not in sweeping changes, but in a series of small, strategic improvements?

This is the philosophy behind Marginal Gains Theory. Popularized by British cycling’s dramatic performance improvement under coach Sir Dave Brailsford, it suggests that by focusing on a multitude of minor optimizations, you can unlock a surprising level of overall success. Imagine shaving off a few seconds here or optimizing a specific keyword phrase there—these seemingly insignificant tweaks, when combined, can lead to a substantial competitive edge and transformative improvement.

What can a strategy focused on marginal gains mean for marketers?

The pursuit of continuous, incremental improvement is a cornerstone of business success. While major breakthroughs are exciting, it’s often the seemingly insignificant adjustments that unlock significant progress. Marginal Gains Theory embodies this philosophy.

At Tallwave, we embrace this philosophy. We meticulously analyze and refine every step of the business journey, from initial brand awareness to user experience optimization, SEO strategies, and post-purchase communication. We believe in the power of “sweating the small stuff” to achieve significant results.

Here’s how marketers and other business leaders can apply Marginal Gains Theory to achieve incremental gains that add up to major impact:

Focus on measurable improvements

By tracking key metrics and focusing on areas with the most significant impact, you can ensure your incremental optimization efforts are targeted and effective.

Prioritize efficiency

Small tweaks don’t require massive investments of time or resources. Putting focus on those allows you to experiment more frequently, identify winning strategies faster, and optimize your marketing efforts with greater efficiency.

Build sustainable growth

The beauty of implementing tactics that encourage marginal gains lies in their cumulative effect. By consistently making small improvements across various marketing channels, you can create a sustainable growth trajectory for your brand and marketing efforts.

Foster a culture of experimentation

A strategy focused on marginal gains and small wins encourages a culture of experimentation and continuous learning within your marketing team. This fosters creativity, data-driven decision-making, and a willingness to test and iterate for optimal results.

Reduce risk

Large-scale marketing changes can be risky and expensive. By focusing on smaller, more manageable optimizations, you minimize potential downsides while maximizing the potential for positive outcomes.

Establish a long-term competitive advantage

In today’s dynamic marketing landscape, the ability to adapt and improve is crucial. By embracing a strategy focused on marginal gains, you develop a strategic advantage by constantly refining your approach and staying ahead of the curve.

Prioritizing incremental and iterative improvements empowers marketers to achieve significant results through a series of small, data-driven enhancements. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but the consistent pursuit of continuous optimization can create marketing strategies that deliver exceptional results over the long term.

How can we apply Marginal Gains Theory in digital experience optimization?

Through our digital experience optimization (DXO) work with a diverse client base, we’ve found many opportunities to implement small changes that have a significant impact on improving conversion rates, lead generation, and full-funnel strategy growth.

Here are a few areas where we can turn the concept of marginal gains into tangible tactics:

Technical touch points and website health

When it comes to your website, every millisecond counts. Here are some tactics that can continually improve how users (and search engines) might interact with your site:

  • Implement caching mechanisms: This allows your server to store frequently accessed data, reducing the load time for returning visitors.
  • Optimize image sizes: Large, uncompressed images can significantly slow down your website. Use tools to compress images without sacrificing quality.
  • Minify code: This involves removing unnecessary characters and spaces from your website’s code, resulting in a smaller file size that loads faster.
  • Leverage a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN stores copies of your website’s content across geographically distributed servers. This ensures faster loading times for users around the world.

A/B testing and understanding what words work

Don’t underestimate the power of tweaking your website’s headlines and calls to action (CTAs).  Here are some tactics that can produce marginal gains through A/B tests:

  • Test small variations in wording: Focus on specific elements within your headline or CTA, like changing a verb or adding a power word.
  • Track user engagement: Use heatmaps and analytics tools to see where users are focusing their attention and how they respond to different headlines and CTAs.
  • Embrace data-driven decisions: A/B testing allows you to experiment and identify the most effective messaging for your audience. Even a minor improvement in click-through rate can translate to a significant increase in leads over time.

Friction-fighting forms

Analyze your website forms and eliminate unnecessary fields. Here are some tactics to achieve small wins:

  • Identify essential information: Only ask for the information absolutely necessary to qualify a lead. Every additional field creates friction and discourages users from completing the form.
  • Pre-populate fields when possible: Use cookies or autofill features to pre-populate fields with information users have already provided. This reduces the amount of typing required and streamlines the process.
  • Offer clear value propositions: Explain why users should provide their information. Highlight the benefits they’ll receive in exchange for completing the form.
  • Simplify form design: Use clear labels, intuitive layouts, and avoid CAPTCHAs whenever possible. A user-friendly form experience encourages completion.

Data-driven SEO and content optimization

Leverage website analytics and data strategy to identify high-performing content and low-performing pages. Earn marginal gains through:

  • Topic cluster optimization: Identify high-performing content and create supporting content that dives deeper into specific aspects of the topic.
  • Content refresh: Update existing content with fresh information, keywords, statistics, and visuals to maintain user engagement.
  • Internal linking: Link relevant content pieces together to improve website navigation and user experience. This also helps distribute link juice and improve search engine ranking.
  • Optimize for user intent: Analyze user search queries and optimize your content to address their specific needs and pain points.

Laser-focused landing pages 

Make sure your landing pages are laser-focused on a single conversion goal.

  • Clear CTAs: Each landing page should have a clear and prominent CTA that tells users exactly what action you want them to take.
  • Targeted messaging: Craft compelling and targeted messaging that aligns with the offer or lead magnet on your landing page.
  • Clutter-free design: Avoid distractions and maintain a clean, user-friendly layout that guides visitors toward the desired conversion action.
  • Mobile responsiveness: Ensure your landing pages are optimized for mobile devices as a significant portion of website traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets.

Unleash the power of experimentation and iteration with marginal gains

The beauty of Marginal Gains Theory lies in its continuous improvement mindset. By consistently monitoring data, identifying areas for optimization, and implementing small changes, you create a culture of iterative improvement that can significantly impact your marketing results over time. 

Want to know more about how small wins add up to big improvements? See our case study about how we helped an e-commerce company double revenue in just three months.

Ready to play a long game of small wins?

Marketing success rarely happens overnight. It’s the result of a consistent effort, a commitment to data-driven decision making, and a relentless pursuit of improvement. By embracing the philosophy of marginal gains, you can transform your marketing strategy from a series of random acts to a well-oiled machine of continuous optimization.


At Tallwave, we believe in thoughtful rigor and sweating the small stuff, just like Sir Dave Brailsford did when he coined Marginal Gains Theory. Let’s talk about the big growth we can drive with small improvements.

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Customer Engagement Highlights Reaching New Customers Strategy

Organizational growth strategies: Aligning purpose and practice

Organizational growth isn’t just about increasing revenue or market share. It’s about building a sustainable and purpose-driven organization. 

Sure, every company aspires to quickly grow and see revenue rise. However, understanding the “why” behind that growth is critical for attracting and retaining talent, authentically engaging customers, and achieving long-term success. Simply put, understanding your “why” and aligning your purpose with your operational practices can unlock true organizational growth.

Understanding the ‘why’ in business growth

Many companies define growth in terms of financial metrics. While these are important, focusing solely on profit and EBITA is like having a destination in mind without plotting a route to get there, which can leave business strategies directionless. A truly purpose-driven business clearly understands its “why”—its core reason for existence beyond making money. This purpose serves as a guiding star, rallying like-minded employees, inspiring customer loyalty, and fostering a genuine connection between your organization and the market you serve. When companies are guided by purpose, they’re more likely to find their way to financial success.

Consider Patagonia, a company renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability. Their purpose isn’t just selling outdoor apparel but protecting the planet for future generations. This purpose informs everything they do, from product design to marketing campaigns, and has earned them a fiercely loyal customer base for good reason. Consumers get to feel as if they are playing a part in the health of our environment by purchasing Patagonia goods while having great gear to enjoy the great outdoors. This is a great example of how threading purpose all the way through an organization drives positive business outcomes.

The significance of authentic branding

Authentic branding is the outward expression of your company’s purpose. It’s about clearly communicating your values, mission, and the impact you strive to make. Customers today are savvy; they can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away. Remember when Kellogg’s CEO Gary Pilnick suggested on national television that American families consider “cereal for dinner” in response to rising food costs? Consumers certainly do, and an organized boycott is still underway.

When your branding authentically reflects your purpose, it fosters trust and creates a positive emotional connection with your audience. Here’s where crisp and consistent storytelling comes into your brand’s message and content strategy. Your company story should be woven into every facet of your marketing and sales efforts. This can include blog posts, social media content, website copy, and even customer case studies. By consistently telling your story, you reinforce your purpose and build brand loyalty.

Linking purpose with operational efficiency

Purpose is not just a feel-good slogan; it must be operationalized to fuel your company and ultimately growth. This means ensuring your business operations and processes are aligned with your purpose and your people are equipped to deliver on your promises, not just to customers but to one another. 

Here’s where data-driven accountability and data-centricity come into play. Leaders and decision-makers need access to the right metrics and data to assess operational efficiency. These metrics should measure progress toward company goals, client satisfaction, customer perception, retention, and growth. By holding leadership accountable for key performance indicators (KPIs) that connect to purpose-driven growth, you create a feedback loop that ensures alignment across all levels of the organization.

The critical role of sales and delivery synergy

Imagine a scenario where your sales team paints a rosy picture of your product or service to close a deal, but then the internal teams responsible for delivery lack the resources or capacity to fulfill those promises. This disconnect between sales and delivery creates a frustrating experience for customers and can damage your reputation (your brand). It’s important to remember that sales are just one step in the customer journey.

For true organizational growth, your sales and delivery need to be in lockstep. This requires clear communication between both teams, ensuring everyone understands the product or service capabilities and realistic timelines. Additionally, shared goals that prioritize customer satisfaction and advocacy are crucial. By aligning purpose with operational practices, you can foster strong collaboration between sales and delivery, ensuring a seamless and positive customer experience from initial contact to successful delivery.

When internal solutions fall short: Finding the right partner

Sometimes, organizations get stuck in their siloed workflows and struggle to create the internal alignment necessary for sustained growth. This is when partnering with a trusted external partner can be invaluable. Infusing fresh perspectives and outside expertise can help you refocus your strategies with your customer at the center and your purpose as the driver for greater resonance with your target audience and purpose-driven growth for your business.

Here’s why seeking external help can help bring purpose to your efforts:

  • Internal blind spots: Teams can be too close to the problem, losing perspective on the value your brand exists to create for your customers and missing potential solutions.
  • Leadership challenges: Leaders may lack the expertise or resources to implement necessary changes when purpose becomes disconnected from practice in their business operations and strategies.
  • Translation to execution: Even when the purpose is clear at the brand level, it’s not always easy to thread it through to execution at the hands of practitioners. From sales and marketing to product, IT, finance, operations, and every other business discipline, the subject matter experts across all these domains need to approach what they do from the context of why they do it, which stems from your purpose.

By partnering with an agency that aligns with your purpose, understands the digital landscape, and approaches marketing, product, and data strategies as tools to help you fulfill your brand’s purpose and create the kinds of experiences that your customers demand, you can overcome organizational inhibitors and achieve your growth goals.

At Tallwave, we’re passionate about helping businesses unlock their full growth potential by aligning purpose with practice. We believe that a well-defined purpose, operational efficiency, and authentic execution of the brand are the keys to sustainable growth in today’s competitive environment.

Ready to take your organization to the next level? Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you craft a purposeful and profitable growth strategy.

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