What is a CDP in Marketing? CDP Vs MAP

Customer data platforms have been a hot topic of late haven't they! But what even is a CDP in marketing? Worry no more! This post will walk you through the nuts and bolts of a CDP and give you concrete examples of why you might want to integrate a CDP with a marketing automation platform (MAP) such as Marketo.

Customer data platforms have been a hot topic of late haven’t they! But what even is a CDP in marketing? Worry no more! This post will walk you through the nuts and bolts of a CDP and give you concrete examples of why you might want to integrate a CDP with a marketing automation platform (MAP) such as Marketo.

If you want to jump ahead and get a look inside the hood of a CDP or you want to get an idea of how to integrate your MAP then check out the posts below:

CDP Marketing Definition

A customer data platform is a centralized repository that aggregates data for the leads in your database from numerous sources and can distribute this information to numerous destinations (you can think of a CDP as analogous to a router or switchboard). This data can range from website behavior to demographic information that allows you to build a complete profile of your customer.

Segment CDP Connections Overview
Segment CDP Connections Overview

You might be wondering why you would need to integrate a MAP with a CDP since MAPs can already track a lead’s web behavior and store lead values in fields. While MAPs can be a source to your CDP contributing behavior and field values, they can also be a destination receiving information from other sources routed through your CDP.

I will give a concrete example of how we use the Segment CDP at Telnyx to send important customer information to our marketing automation platform Marketo.

Telnyx is a telecommunications provider that has an online portal where customers can log in and conduct activities such as purchasing a number, creating a messaging profile, and adding a payment method. These activities are important parts of a customer’s journey that we want to be able to track and score on in Marketo.

All of these portal activities are synced into the Segment CDP platform as track calls in real-time and then sent to Marketo using Marketo Custom Activities that then appear in the customer’s Marketo activity log. Since the sign-up form to the Telnyx portal is not a Marketo form (since we wanted to enable “Sign up with Google” and “Sign up with Microsoft” options) we send new sign-up information from the back-end to Segment as an identity call, which then creates/updates a lead in Marketo with the sign-up information using Marketo Custom Fields to map identity traits to Marketo fields.

Ok so there might be a few terms in here that have raised even more questions e.g. track calls, identity traits, custom field mapping, so take a look at the Segment CDP with Marketo MAP Overview to clear these up!

CDP Vs Marketing Automation Platform: Is Marketo a CDP?

The short answer is no, not quite.

Marketo can collect and store information about the people in your database from munchkin tracking code on your site or form-fills. Marketo can also sync bidirectionally with Salesforce and offers integrations with other platforms through the launchpoint service. Additionally, you can use the Marketo REST API to receive and transfer data into your instance as well as using webhooks to make requests to the APIs of other platforms.

So while Marketo may be able to exchange data with other platforms and integrations, if you want to gather data from a bespoke data source e.g. the Telnyx portal mentioned above, or store this data in Postgres databases or AWS buckets this is where Marketo falls short of the CDP gold standard for ease of integration and data transfer. It is just not as seamless as a platform like Segment.

On the flip side of things, Marketo is a fully-fledged marketing automation platform and offers capabilities that a CDP cannot achieve. For example, in Marketo you can

  • Send emails to your customers based on certain actions
  • Subscribe people to different content based on where they signed up
  • Create emails, landing pages, and forms

In summary, while Marketo does have elements of a CDP it is a much stronger marketing automation platform and for the cost of this platform you will only get value out of it by using it as such.

Take your CDP Marketing Knowledge Further!

Now that you know the difference between a marketing automation platform and a customer data platform, the next stage in your journey is to take a look inside a CDP platform and see how you can go about integrating this with a MAP.


Tyron Pretorius

Automating with APIs, Python, Zapier, and Google Scripts 

Former engineer turned marketing operations lead who loves to get down and dirty with the Marketo API, Python, Zapier, and Google Scripts.

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