CDP vs. CRM vs. DMP: What Marketers Need to Know

CDP vs. CRM vs. DMP

How does a CDP, DMP, or CRM fit into your MarTech strategy? They’re all very different solutions, and many businesses use more than one.

Customer data is the lifeblood of any company that wants to use customer data to drive business value. Being able to gather, manage, understand, and store data effectively in single customer view (SCV) profiles is the ultimate goal of data-driven marketers. With unified data, brands can segment and target valuable customers more efficiently. They can also effectively tailor content, messaging, and the customer experience across any channel.

But, being able to accomplish all of that is no small task. And, it will involve at least one, and perhaps several customer data solutions to make it all a reality.

Three of the most popular customer data management solutions in the MarTech stack are a customer data platform (CDP), a data management platform (DMP), and a customer relationship management platform (CRM). Though they share some similarities, each platform comes with its own unique capabilities and challenges.

So how can a CDP, DMP, and a CRM be used by marketers to differentiate from competitors and serve the needs of digitally-savvy customers? Let’s dive into the details.

What is a CDP?

A customer data platform (CDP) is a customer data management solution that has the ability to ingest, integrate, manage, and deliver customer data to other technology solutions in order to personalize the customer experience.

CDPs collect and integrate first, second, and third-party data across different channels and systems to create a unified customer profile (also known as a single customer view). This unified customer profile can then be used to align the business around a single source of customer truth.

According to Gartner, in the first-ever Magic Quadrant for Customer Data Platforms (Get a complimentary copy of the report here, courtesy of Treasure Data.), a CDP is defined as “software applications that support marketing and customer experience use cases by unifying a company’s customer data from marketing and other channels. CDPs optimize the timing and targeting of messages, offers and customer engagement activities, and enable the analysis of individual-level customer behavior over time.”

Read More: What Is a Customer Data Platform?

What is a DMP?

A DMP is a software tool used primarily in advertising and marketing to build profiles of anonymous individuals, store summary data about each individual, and share their data with advertising systems.

DMPs are used to store, manage and analyze data about ad campaigns and audiences. A DMP connects to a demand side platform (DSP) or supply side platform (SSP) to purchase ads through ad networks. The platform ingests anonymous identifiers for your customers, matches these against third party lists, builds a lookalike model with summary data, and selects similar anonymous individuals from third-party lists to send to advertising systems. 

What is a CRM?

A CRM is used to store, update and maintain information about customers. Some CRM data is entered automatically, like when a customer submits a website form. Other data is entered manually, often by salespeople or customer support staff. 

A CRMis used to track and record all touch points along the customer journey, from pre-purchase, to retention and advocacy. The CRM records customer interactions (e.g., phone calls, including dates, times and call transcripts), as well as customer purchase history (e.g., product numbers, purchase dates, purchase amounts). When used effectively, CRM systems can help retain customers and grow revenue.

CDP vs. DMP vs. CRM: What’s the Difference?

All three platforms have their own functions and use cases in the marketing ecosystem, but there can be some overlap. What they share in common is that all three have been designed to improve the overall customer experience, making targeting and segmentation easier. 


A CRM is where your sales, services or marketing teams typically manage customers and update data directly, meaning the data is input manually by these teams. A common use case for a CRM is to compile and manage all contacts with a customer, including sales calls, contact center records, support, and maintenance calls.

CRMs are narrower in application and address potentially fewer use-cases than a CDP. They are also less adept than CDPs at certain core functionality, namely at integrating with other sources and types of customer data. An enterprise-grade CDP can incorporate data from all customer-facing systems including website analytics, in-store point-of-sale systems systems, billing systems, and more.

Learn More: CDP Vs. CRM: How To Master Your MarTech Stack


A DMP tracks third-party user behavior, but it only stores data for a short period of time (mostly in the form of a third-party browser cookie ID). A DMP helps with lookalike modeling at the aggregate level and targeted paid media spend, but you cannot use it alone to build detailed profiles of individual, identifiable customers.

A CDP can do some DMP functionality, but DMPs are specific to advertising and customer acquisition campaigns. DMPs work best with new or anonymous audiences, and join sessions based on third-party cookies. DMPs operate on a massive scale that is specific to audiences, and that’s why the data they process has a limited data retention period—but can help with lookalike audiences and programmatic advertising.


A CDP, on the other hand, builds a persistent, true single customer view—linking sessions based on first-party data and doing identity resolution across channels. That’s how a CDP manages customer experiences across all channels, helping to provide consistent messaging and exceptional customer experiences.

Ensure your CDP can use the DMP identifier as part of its identity resolution, so you can use DMP data as part of your unified customer profile. A good CDP should allow you to store your DMP data for as long as you need, and store the data in any format.You should also be able to push your CDP data back into your DMP to improve the accuracy of your lookalike audiences. Once you have attracted that customer to your site, the CDP can take over—providing real-time personalization.

Learn More: CDP Vs. DMP: How To Get The Best Value Out Of Customer Data

Orchestrate Marketing with a CDP

One of the benefits of an enterprise CDP it can activate audiences via your existing tools. In fact, being able to select best-of-breed solutions for your overall MarTech stack is a big CDP benefit. Your marketing team is already used to working with activation tools, and these tools are industry-leading with key functionality—so it is more effective if marketing can continue to use current tools and not have to learn entirely new ones. 

This is why selecting the right CDP for your organization is essential to successfully orchestrate marketing across all of your activation channels.

A CDP with customer journey orchestration capabilities can determine which channel to use, which message is best suited for the target audience, and when to send specific messages—for every single customer. Your marketing team can build templates and manage content in the activation channels as they do currently. 

And that’s part of what’s driving today’s move toward CDPs. Marketers don’t have to switch, and they don’t have to learn a new tool. Rather, they can focus on building successful campaigns, drive revenue from new insights, and creating profitable, personalized customer journeys that acquire new customers and build loyalty.

Want to learn more about how to choose the right customer data platform for your organization? Our comprehensive guide explores the key steps needed to create a successful CDP evaluation and selection process – from the capabilities to consider, to the questions you should ask prospective vendors to make sure you’re making the right decision. Access your copy of our guide here. Staff Staff
The staff has collaborated to deliver the latest information and insights on the customer data platform industry.