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Fuze CMO: A single source of truth for customer data ‘collapses under its own weight’
The former CMO of Eloqua, Brian Kardon, likes silos of data -- as long as they have porous walls and are connected by unique identifiers.
Virtually every marketer or marketing software vendor I interview says they want to establish “a single source of truth” about customers by getting rid of silos and setting up a single company-wide repository.
Everyone, that is, except Brian Kardon, CMO of business communication provider Fuze.
The former CMO of Eloqua and Lattice Engines, Kardon is not exactly a novice in dealing with customer data. (He will be participating in a keynote discussion on the evolution and future of martech at our MarTech Conference in October.)
“Each marketer has one system of record,” he told me, “and that ends up being marketing automation” like Salesforce’s ExactTarget, while salespeople have their own customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
A marketing automation platform, he said, contains “all our campaigns, all your activities, who opened [emails].”
“That’s your main system of record,” he said. You might also have, say, a specialized tool to track webinar activity, and that data ports into the marketing automation platform.
But, I asked, what about a central repository of customer data, like a Customer Data Platform? Some “single source of truth” about the customer, something that almost everyone I interview professes to want.
Nope, he said. “It’s not our taste. I need to have some walls up.”
‘Bad data on good data’
“Salespeople can overwrite bad data on good data,” he said, and that messes it all up. Or a predictive analytics tool might similarly add bad to good.
As an example, he noted that a key field for B2B marketing and sales is the number of employees in the target company. “But Dun & Bradstreet [might have] one number, and LinkedIn has another.” The data could become confused, with different owners and departments using different sources or criteria.
“You have to be pretty frigging confident your data is right,” he said. “I’ve seen bad things happen when it’s all in one place.”
In practice, Kardon said, a single repository “collapses under its own weight,” because so many people are pulling on it, not to mention that it’s “very expensive [to build] a unified database across functions.”
One of the key arguments for a single repository of data and an end to separate silos is that it better supports the ability of all channels, all touch points, to share the same info so the customer experience is unified.
Kardon said that can be done with unique identifiers, which cross-reference people and companies across every department’s own records.
“I’m comfortable with different walls,” he said, and there can be porous walls to these silos, although “not completely penetrable,” with controls over what flows between the different silos.
“I go to an event, I don’t want that in one [business-wide] repository. I want it in marketing, and [then we] push it to sales.”
“I’ve seen bad things happen when it’s all in one place.”
Most of the initiatives for a unified, single customer database “have failed terribly,” he said. “In the next five years, I don’t see companies having a unified database across all functions.”
In fact, Kardon told me, “commingling all those [records] is crazy,” adding that it’s like having three barrels of different kinds of wine.
“You put them all together,” he said, “and it tastes like”…
Well, let’s just say Kardon doesn’t think it tastes like a single source of truth.
If you’re headed to the MarTech Conference in Boston, be sure to attend the session with Brian Kardon on Wednesday, October 4.