Why I Joined ActionIQ and Why Trusted Advice Remains My #1 Goal

Authored by James Meyers

First, I want to briefly thank the leadership team at ActionIQ for offering me this amazing opportunity.

Joining ActionIQ presents me two exciting opportunities:

  1. the opportunity to help organizations create informed marketing technology strategies during today’s critical era of digital transformation, and…
  2. the opportunity to join a vendor in a must-have technology category that has the underpinnings of a champion.

Prior to this new role, I was blessed with career-broadening experiences at two great employers (Gartner research and Lowe’s home improvement) wherein the commonality between them was my focus on single customer view solutions.

Let me explain more.

At Lowe’s, I helped integrate data into an already-built single customer view solution. Sadly, the solution significantly under-delivered on its use cases. Though instead of giving up hope, I interviewed stakeholders of their must-have use cases and channeled my drive for innovation by building a new single customer view solution firsthand. Thankfully, this solution is still being used today since it helps stakeholders achieve many of their personalization objectives.

Later at Gartner, I was privileged to advise over 200 clients on their single customer view initiatives. The consistent rise in client demand for this capability was validating evidence of two realizations: 1) that the next 12-18 months will be critical for organizations to succeed within digital/data transformation, and 2) that I’d built something special at Lowe’s to aid analytics and personalization efficiency. Today’s marketing, e-commerce, and CX professionals are illustrating full awareness that they must de-silo their data, democratize data access, and enable widespread personalization.

Unfortunately, many leaders do not know where to begin.

Graciously, Gartner afforded me the opportunity to study the now-blossoming vendor category that delivers the aforementioned capabilities, known as a Customer Data Platform (CDP). Shockingly, I found vendors could readily implement their solutions in less than three months and change the way marketing teams were operating. Highly skeptical – just as all research analysts should be – I took a meticulous approach to understanding which vendors were walking the walk, and who was simply talking the talk. ActionIQ turned out to be a vendor that wasn’t just talking and walking. They were running.

I reached out to ActionIQ for an opportunity to join their team because of two things:

  1. Their strategic vision
  2. Their fantastic product

My interview reinforced elements of what I already knew. Their leaders were taking a brilliantly strategic approach to their offering. They focused on the most important part of the platform first in building a proprietary infrastructure that scales infinitely and processes data at embarrassingly parallel levels. This is geeky and techy (I get it), but this infrastructure-first, features-second strategy gives clients a platform that doesn’t break down when demands are high. And it gave me the faith I needed that ActionIQ can lead the enterprise CDP marketplace.

By the way, this rock-solid infrastructure isn’t the only component that impresses me. The platform’s analytics and orchestration features enable self-service operations and automated marketing that change the way marketers operate.

So what will I be doing in this new role as a ‘martech strategist’ at ActionIQ?

My objective is to help marketing leaders assess their technology stacks and advance their single customer view solution initiatives by providing trusted advice. Ultimately, my premier objective is to help them make the right technology choices such that they have the highest probability of achieving their use cases, whether it ends up being ActionIQ’s technology or not.

With that in mind, I wanted to emphasize one important call-out, namely the go-to-market principles of trust and honesty that ActionIQ proudly shares with me. (These are worth reading about, especially if you’ve ever been duped by a vendor before.) Here are some examples to explain our objectivity as well as our focus on building trust with organizations:

  • Our sales and solutions teams routinely suggest buyers towards other CDP vendors. If ActionIQ isn’t a perfect fit for you, we will recommend another vendor that meets all your use cases. Why? Because we know that over-promising on undelivered features will eventually come back to haunt us and undermine our reputation in the marketplace. That philosophy is what attracted me to ActionIQ. We are founded on trust, and our strategy is to build immense amounts of it in the marketplace.
  • Our content and conference presentations will remain objective and without vendor bias. We want to be known as a trusted advisor, someone you can get unbiased technology advice from– not a vendor that makes you skeptical of underlying hidden objectives.

Finally, in the spirit of helpfulness, I wanted to pique your interest by sharing a few lessons-learned from my experiences building and advising on this technology:

  1. Siloed data is a problem unlikely to go away. In fact, the number of interfaces and channels that consumers interact through is only going to continue growing. That means, creating the single customer view and delivering seamless personalized experiences is only going to get harder if underserved.
  2. Building a single customer view solution in house is more challenging than you think. Data collection, data transformation, identity resolution, data modeling, and system management are tasks that require permanent teams, not a few enthusiastic individuals who build the solution, drink some champagne, and transition to other corporate projects. Ironically, I often daydream that I could go back to 2014 and bring a premier CDP vendor with me, wherein I would buy the technology from that premier CDP vendor instead of choosing to build one myself. My organization would have achieved data democracy and scaled personalized experiences within months instead of 2+ years.
  3. Building a single customer view solution by itself isn’t the end of the road. One still needs features to enable non-technical business users to access, analyze, and activate data without the need for technical skills or assistance. Off-the-shelf CDPs deliver this self-service through a user-friendly interface, drastically improving organizational efficiency in the process.
  4. Premier CDP vendors’ solutions are way farther ahead than you think. This means that those vendors with <100% of the must-have features are very unlikely to catch up (btw, nine out of ten vendors you talk to have < 100% of the must-have features). Premier vendors are innovating incredibly quickly, too (e.g. self-optimizing journeys, integration of homemade predictive models, advanced data quality features).
  5. A CDP’s ability to process data at scale is more important than marketers give it credit for. Consider this metaphor. If one thinks about a car as one’s CDP, and the car’s fuel is your customer data, then imagine if your car wouldn’t start one day because you put too much fuel in it and the only way it would run is if you took out a bunch of your customer data. Sorta defeats the purpose of having the car, doesn’t it? You should be able to put in as much fuel as you want.

There are so many more topics to cover, but your time is valuable so I won’t ramble longer. In case you’re curious whether you should subscribe to ActionIQ’s content, I thought I’d provide some of the topics we’ll be writing about in the future. They are: what use cases does a CDP support; where does a CDP fit in your martech stack; how do I interplay a CDP with my DMP, my MMH, or my CRM; what pitfalls should I avoid in planning for a CDP; what are the pros and cons of building vs. buying; how do I select the right vendor for my organization. Plus more. Stay tuned!

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

And if you’re embarking on a single customer view or CDP initiative like so many others are, I’d love to help you plan it. Message me if you’re interested.

All the best,

James

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