How to Launch a Customer Data Platform Pilot Program

Investing in a customer data platform (CDP) helps teams across your organization meet department goals for targeting, acquiring, and retaining customers efficiently.

To begin measuring the impact of your CDP initiative, it’s good to start small. A pilot program focusing on key CDP use cases can help set the stage for short-term success, and set you up to achieve your long-term goals. Follow these steps to begin measuring the larger impact on your business, and how to scale your customer data platform strategy over time.

1. Gather the Right Stakeholders

One of the first steps to implementing a CDP is understanding the stakeholders involved and the roles they will play. 

Key stakeholders for your CDP implementation team can range from the project manager and team members, to executives and resource managers across marketing, sales, customer service, and IT. These stakeholders will have different levels of time invested in the project, but they will also have different levels of decision-making power on the CDP implementation plan, and identifying the right use cases to pilot.

Make sure all the necessary parties are involved from the start to align the project towards the right short-term and long-term goals. This will also give you the necessary buy-in to keep the project on track, within budget, and prioritized by all involved teams.

2. Align on Use Cases and Create a Roadmap

Once you know the “who” of your project, it’s time to tackle the “what,” “when,” and “how.” This is when the focus shifts to deciding on the right use cases for your CDP pilot program and assembling your ideas into a project roadmap.

There’s a long list of common use cases that a CDP can help with, including audience segmentation, retargeting, customer journey optimization and marketing automation. Stakeholders will need to decide the priority of these use cases. 

Stakeholders will also need to determine when these use cases can be implemented. While it may be tempting to choose a long list of initial use cases to put into action, it’s important to keep goals realistic when considering what CDP use cases to focus on first.

Building out a realistic and comprehensive roadmap that includes scope, deliverables, timeline, and milestones — while also accounting for other technical steps, like integrations — can help to set realistic expectations aligned with your priorities.

3. Identify and Prioritize Data Sources

Now it’s time to approach your plan for data integration. There’s plenty of opportunity when it comes to the data types that you can ingest in your CDP. While this opens a world of possibilities, it can also make it difficult to figure out where to start.

Refer to your roadmap and determine which data sources will be required to move from one stage to the next. Since your roadmap should be driven by business goals, you’ll also be able to tie your data integration strategy to specific outcomes that will support sales, marketing or customer service KPIs. 

According to Kim Davis, editorial director, MarTech, “You have to ask yourself questions like: What’s the current state of our data? What do you want to be able to do with the customer data? Have you got the staffing and people who can operate it?”


While it’s important to keep all of your stakeholders in the know, make sure to consult with your data team since they will be responsible for implementing the integrations. Early buy-in and direction from this team are critical to understanding and confirming the viability of the roadmap. 

4. Launch Your CDP Pilot Program

Once you’ve aligned on priority use cases, it’s time to run a pilot program. Running a pilot project allows you to put what you’ve planned into action, and make progress toward your use case roadmap. 

To run a successful pilot, you need to determine who will be responsible for the project and what KPIs you’ll use to gauge the project’s performance. There are several KPIs that you can choose from to gauge the performance of a CDP, but some will be more relevant to your pilot than others. Select a team that will manage the project, track the KPIs, and champion the rollout of your CDP.

For example, if one of your use cases is to reduce ad spend, you might start by assembling members of your paid marketing team to work with your data team. These teams would work together to make sure the data that’s needed for the project (e.g., point-of-sale data, social media data, and device-specific data) is integrated into the CDP. 

The paid team would then be able to use the data to improve ad targeting and retargeting, while also implementing lookalike marketing to reach potential customers that match the existing customer base.

Then, the team could compare the performance of their ads before and after using the CDP, specifically looking at metrics like cost-per-click and conversion rate.

5. Measure Outcomes

Measuring the success of the pilot means considering several indicators. In addition to considering the metrics that you tracked throughout the pilot, ask questions to everyone who participated, like:

  • What worked as planned, and what didn’t?
  • Did you see the expected outcomes for the use case? Why or why not?
  • Are there other data sources that you should bring into the CDP for this use case?
  • What should be improved for future use cases?
  • How can team workflows (e.g., data team, marketing team) be improved to better make use of the CDP in the future?

You can ask questions like these through surveys, interviews and meetings. Once you start to receive results, you can use those answers to tackle new use cases that are in your roadmap.

6. Improve and Iterate

As with any new technology, there will be a learning curve. It’s important to keep gathering insights as you make your way through your roadmap to give yourself the best chance of making progress toward your goals. 

You can also apply what you learned to future use cases, bringing in more teams to work together and activate your CDP simultaneously. Harvard Business Review recommends scaling by giving teams key outcomes and a timeline, and letting them find innovative paths to reach the end goal.

However you choose to onboard more teams to your CDP, prioritize finding efficient workflows to meet your objectives, since efficiency is key to realizing ROI.

Make a Significant Impact with Your CDP

The value of a CDP goes beyond the ability to hit specific numbers in your marketing KPIs. Whether your organization is looking to prioritize better spending on sales and marketing efforts, stronger and more personalized sales outreach, or higher customer satisfaction and retention, a CDP can help you achieve your goals.

To get this value from a CDP, be willing to work closely with stakeholders, invest time into planning your roadmap and learn from each new use case you put into action to improve the next one.

Read more about understanding CDP ROI across the organization: Staff Staff
The staff has collaborated to deliver the latest information and insights on the customer data platform industry.