Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to James Richter, Director, Cloud Success & CSG Global Program Lead, Salesforce Customer Data Platform (CDP). Join us as we talk about what CDP is, how it will be the single source of truth across all platforms, and how to get your org ready.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with James Richter.

What is CDP?

If you’ve been puzzling over CDP and what it could do for your org, you’re not alone. “My team is focused on getting CDP into the market, so you’re not the only one wondering what it is,” James says. So what is it?

“Have you ever read Dr. Seuss’s I Wish That I Had Duck Feet?” James asks. In the book, a kid wants to have duck feet to splash around and not have to keep them dry. However, he soon realizes there are some downsides to duck feet. For example, he can’t wear shoes. “What we’ve found is marketers and admins are the same way,” James says, you get all these shiny new tools but end up with a bunch of extra data you don’t know what to do with. CDP is being built to help you manage all that data so you can play with the fun stuff and not worry about wearing shoes.

The Single Source of Truth

You can do so much with all of the tools out there for the platform, but the data is really hard to deal with. CDP aims to segment and manage everything for you. For now, they’re building it to help with Marketing Cloud, but in the near future CDP will be the single source of truth across all the different Salesforce platforms for everything that a customer has done.

A lot of the stuff that CDP does is possible with tools like SQL, but CDP will make it possible with a lot less code and effort.

Getting Ready for CDP

So how do you get ready? The first thing is to make sure you have someone in the room who understands each of your systems. Before you start building, you need to understand what you’re building with. You need to know what data is the same across each platform so you can harmonize it, but that means you need someone to translate for you and explain what you’re looking at.

Once you’re able to show just how easy it is to get any piece of data you’re after with clicks, not code, the power of CDP will speak for itself. “It makes everybody’s life easier,” James says, “and that’s an easy thing to advocate for.”

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Full show transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast, where we talk about product, community, and careers, to help you be an awesome admin. I’m your host today, Gillian Bruce, and we are talking about CDP. You might be saying, “Gillian, what is CDP?” Well, don’t worry, we’re going to get into it, because it is a big deal, and it is an amazing thing for all admins to think about, because it really truly brings the single source of truth to your Salesforce platform. To talk about that today, we have James Richter joining us, he’s a director, cloud success, and CSG global program lead at Salesforce. He is doing all things CDP with customers, so he’s the right person to come on and explain what it is. Without further ado, let’s get James on the pod. James, welcome to the podcast.

James Richter: Thank you so much, thanks for having me.

Gillian Bruce: It’s so great to have you, and I’m very looking forward to our conversation, because we’re going to talk about something that I don’t know much about, and that is CDP. Before we get into all of that, can you tell us a little bit about what you do at Salesforce?

James Richter: Yeah, absolutely, so I am part of our shared success team, my team is focused on getting CDP into the market. It’s new for everybody, so you’re not the only one wondering what it is. We’ve been trying to teach people and also learn from everybody, so we’re out there working with our customers and partners to get CDP stood up in their environments, and just learn alongside them, and also, teach them as we go, and share that knowledge across to everybody else.

Gillian Bruce: All right, I like it. Okay, so here you are on the podcast, you got a whole audience of admins to talk to about CDP. Let’s get right into it, what is CDP? What does it stand for?

James Richter: What a great question. Yeah, so CDP is a customer data platform, and I think if you go out in Google, you will find a lot of answers as to what a CDP is. I’ll give you my take on it, and then we can talk later about how that checks out with your understanding. I don’t know, you’ve you’ve got kids, have you ever read Dr. Seuss’ I Wish That I Had Duck Feet?

Gillian Bruce: Okay, my kids are a little too young for that yet, but I do remember that book, yes. This is the greatest leading off explanation I think we’ve ever had on the pod, so please, take me from Dr. Seuss to CDP?

James Richter: Yeah, so Dr. Seuss, there’s a kid that says, “I Wish that I had duck feet, I can tell you why, I can splash around, I don’t have to keep them dry.” But then he realizes like, “Hey, if I had duck feet, I couldn’t have any shoes,” and he says, “I wish I had an elephant nose, so I could put out fires. He’s like, “But then they’d make me wash the windows.” What we’ve found is marketers and admins, we’re the same way, we see all these cool, shiny tools and we’re like, “Hey, I want to go out and get that,” and we get it.
We realize like, “Hey, we had a consequence to that, the consequence is usually I got a bunch of data. I’ve got a bunch of different records of people, I’ve got all this data out there.” What we’ve tried to do with CDP is say, “Hey, bring us all that data. Let’s let you have all the cool things, and let’s be the platform where you can bring the data, and hopefully we can give it to you in a way that you can use it. You can have all the fun with it, and not have to suffer the consequence,” that’s the goal.

Gillian Bruce: I love this. Okay, data is like admin love language kind of. Let’s dig into it a little bit… CDP is not unique to Salesforce, and so tell us a little bit about why now Salesforce is in the CDP space? What does that look like?

James Richter: Yeah, so I obviously we have been in the data space for a very long time, and everybody has come to this conclusion at the same time that we’ve got to have a way to start leveraging all these systems. We’ve got all these great companies out there that are offering so many great tools, but as admins, you get overwhelmed by them. We saw the writing on the wall that we were going to have to have something that would allow people to take full advantage of them, and so I think that’s why we’ve landed here.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so you mentioned we have a lot of tools, which is very true. Admins are at the crux of all of the tools, and especially the last few years. It’s not just what we used to think of as core Salesforce tools, but now we’ve got MuleSoft, we’ve got Slack, we’ve got Tableau, how does CDP sit in the context of this expanded one Salesforce platform?

James Richter: Yeah, so right now, a lot of the use cases that we’re talking about are for marketers. We look at Marketing Cloud as our primary recipient of the data at the moment, and so you’re in CDP, you’re running these segments, you’re building these audiences, you’re finding all the different versions of Gillian. You’re saying, “Hey, tell me all the things she’s done across all these different tools that I have?” Then I want to be able to send her a message that’s the right message for her. At the moment, we’re seeing it sit within our core platform, that’s where we’re doing all the segmentation. That’s where we’re bringing all the data, we’re storing the data, we’re doing the segmentation. Then we’re sending that over to Marketing Cloud for action via email, via SMS, whatever it may be.
Long-term though, what we’re saying is we want to bring those segments back into core, we want to bring them into CRM and say, “Hey, when somebody calls our call center, I want to be able to look Gillian up, I want to be able to see all the times I’ve known Gillian, I want to see what’s local to this system that I’m in, what’s local to this CRM that I’m in. Then let’s also pull in all our other ones.” We’re multi-tenant we want to be able to bring all those back in and say, “I know what you have done on each one of these platforms, and that makes me better able to help you, and better able to serve your needs.”

Gillian Bruce: We’re talking about a real true single source of truth for a customer within the context of all of the systems, which is pretty exciting.

James Richter: It’s awesome. Yeah, it’s finding the harmonization across all those different records and saying you can finally reference all of them. You can finally look at all these instances of the customers, all the things we’ve been talking about, and that’s the goal, that’s the dream, and that’s the need that the market has, and so that’s what we’re after.

Gillian Bruce: I mean, I’m already just building dashboards in my head of all of the incredible things that you could now display, thinking of how you can connect all of those interactions into one beautiful thing that we can look at. That’s a really descriptive word, but so what are some of the… You mentioned you’ve got some use cases, can you talk to us a little bit more about maybe one or two examples of initial CDP use cases, that maybe some customers are working on right now?

James Richter: Sure, a lot of them aren’t new, a lot of these are use cases that we’ve talked about forever. It’s I want to be able to see all the customers that I have that have bought a pair of red shoes, and we’ve always been able to do it, we’ve always talked about it, but we’ve done it with SQL. We’ve done it with different tools and we’ve done it sort of inefficiently because I can find all the times that I’ve bought red shoes, but maybe, I don’t know that it’s me all three times that you found me.
What we’re saying now is, as we build this segment, I want to know all the people who have bought red shoes, or blue shoes, or green shoes. I might fit one of those or all three of those across all of my different records. That’s what we’re after is bringing that back in and being able to say, “We can do it better than what we used to,” it’s not necessarily new. We’re not necessarily unlocking anything that we haven’t talked about before, but now we’re able to do it hopefully with a lot less code, and hopefully in a way more efficient manner.

Gillian Bruce: Hooray, I’m cheering for admins everywhere. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the specific things that maybe admins should think about when we’re toying with the idea of making use of the CDP. What are some initial things that you should think about from an admin perspective in terms of strategy, when you’re talking about basically implementing CDP or starting to use it?

James Richter: Sure, so the main thing that we should worry about is how do I take all of these systems and make sure I have all of the people in the room that understand each one of them? The first task that we’re after is harmonizing the data, and that means looking at all the different ways that we’ve stored it, and all of the systems and saying, “I know that field first name is the same as field F name is the same as field F,” and making sure that you’ve got the people in the room that represent those tools, so that they can translate that for you, and you can get the data ready. Because, like I said, we’re harmonizing it, but we can’t do that without the influence of the people who are responsible for those tools, and so that’s really step one.

Gillian Bruce: Really important. Hey, before you start building anything, let’s make sure that we understand what we’re building with.

James Richter: Yeah, for sure.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so we start that strategy, we’re talking about how we’re going to harmonize the data, getting the right people in the room, understanding how to translate these different, maybe similar activities, across different systems and now that we’re going to pull them into one place. What are some of the cool initial wins or things that an admin might be able to look for to start saying, “Hey, look at this, this is a successful thing,” what are some initial things that maybe might help get more people on board in the process of trying to put this together?

James Richter: Yeah, so I think it is going back to those use cases and showing people just how easy it is to find those records, just how easy it is to search, just how easy it is to build the segment. Just how quickly you can get the insight into what it is that you’ve been after for so long, and not having to go check 10 systems, and export all of that, to bring it to another place, to have to export it again, to have to get it to somewhere that you can actually do something with it. I think once you start to show off the power of, hey, I did this through clicks and not code, hey, I did this through something that’s been saved and you can repeat it, that’s what’s getting people excited.

Gillian Bruce: Okay, so I think that’s the… You just tapped into the major admin superpower right there. Because here’s the thing, if you’re as an admin able to save all of those steps, and all of that time, and all of that processing, I mean, that puts you in an incredible position. I mean, CDP seems like this could be a really powerful thing for an admin to use.

James Richter: For sure. Yeah, once we get that data in, and once we’ve had a chance to harmonize it, once we’ve got this thing up and running, it’s really impressive. I think it makes it so that everybody’s life gets easier, and that’s an easy thing to advocate for. It’s an easy thing to go and show off and say, “Hey, I know that you’ve been wanting to do this, watch,” and you can actually get a feel for just how quickly it comes together. Then once you get past that, you can start to expand the use cases. We can start to get into calculating lifetime value, we can take all that data across everything and say, “I can now see how many times Gillian’s made a purchase, and I don’t have to wonder do I have all the records of her. If I’ve got that harmonization, I can actually go in and calculate that and show people the data that you’ve been after or the data that we’ve had for so long, now we can actually start to do something with it.”

Gillian Bruce: I love that. Okay, so I am imagining that there might be a listener or two out there who’s now saying, “Great, I am super interested in trying to figure out how I can bring this to my organization,” what resources or what is out there to help an admin as they begin to basically put the business case forward for making CDP a thing for their organization?

James Richter: For sure. Yeah, so you can go out and there’s a lot of great resources that we’ve got, a lot of blogs. I think you’ve got one that’s recently come out that breaks down some of the content, and some of the things that we have available to work through, to figure out what is next for CDP? How do I get started? We also have a lot of great content out on Trailhead, so you can go out and take a look, and take some of those certifications, and get an idea for just exactly what it is that you’re getting yourself into, and what those first steps look like. Then obviously, the marketing cloud account executive is the one that represents this at the moment, and so they can help you connect those dots. They can get the demo for you, they can show you what the tool looks like in person, and start to show you all the power that’s really there.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. Yeah, you mentioned the resources that we just put out. Just actually last week we put out a CDP for admins blog post, and so yes, it does list all those resources. We’ll, of course, also put those in the show notes here, there’s an implementation guide, there’s all kinds of great stuff. Of course, hey, Trailhead, we always love more great Trailhead content.

James Richter: The Trailhead content is really great, actually, it’s been put together in a way that’s a lot easier to understand. 18 months ago, I didn’t know what a CDP was, and I started on Trailhead. It definitely gets you started in a way that makes sense, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

Gillian Bruce: Awesome, I love it. Okay, so since now that you are an 18-month expert on CDP, can you talk to us a little bit about maybe are there any roadmap or fun next things you see in the CDP space for Salesforce? Anything that you can give us a little what future-looking, safe harbor, forward-looking statement, anything in the pipeline?

James Richter: Absolutely, you have to love the safe harbor. It’s not a complete meeting if you don’t mention the safe harbor. Yeah, so right now, as I mentioned, we’ve got a lot of use cases that we’ve been focused on that are Marketing Cloud specific. We’ve taught a little bit about some of the core use cases that’s out there, right now, we’re really focused on integrating it out, so that we can get it to more use cases. There’s a lot of work being done with our partners, with our activation channels, to make sure that you can take the data from CDP and use it in lots of different app exchange packages. We want to be able to leverage that data, not just for Salesforce, but for all the different channels. I think that’s where a lot of the work is being put in is how do we better orchestrate where you can go with the data?

Gillian Bruce: I love that. Hey, bringing it to the app exchange, those are other notes of music to an admin’s ears, so that’s fantastic. James, before I let you go, we’re very happy to now have you as one of our experts in the Awesome Admin realm here. What things have you seen? You’ve been talking to admins, you’ve been talking to people working with the Salesforce platform for a while. Do you have any overall top tips that you’ve seen from people who have been successful in implementing either CDP, or just successful from your perspective as an admin implementing Salesforce?

James Richter: Yeah, I think it sounds silly, but I heard somebody say it at Connections last week and I love it. It’s the slow is smooth and smooth is fast. As you get ready for CDP, we always buy new shiny tools and we’re like, “Hey, let’s go, we got to start using it right away, we got to just go.” It comes down to, we got to plan. We have to plan, we have to get our data aligned, we have to get ready to go. Then once we have that understanding of the data, we can really get in there and take off. That’s the biggest advice I have for anybody is plan for that time of we got to figure this thing out, and then once you get it figured out and off and running, life gets better in a hurry.

Gillian Bruce: I love that, slow is smooth and smooth is fast, that’s fantastic.

James Richter: I liked it a lot, too. I didn’t come up with it, obviously, but I heard it last week and I was like, “This is the highlight of Connections, I love it.”

Gillian Bruce: Hey, marketers know how to make everything sound good, I mean-

James Richter: Right.

Gillian Bruce: Awesome, well, James, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and helping demystify CDP for admins. I am very excited to see what our admin community is going to start doing with it. I envision so many admins basically harnessing this technology, and really propelling not only their organizations, but their own careers forward pretty quickly, so this is great. Thank you so much.

James Richter: Yeah, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.

Gillian Bruce: Well, thank you so much, James, for joining us and demystifying CDP. Wow, it is a powerful, powerful way to bring all of your customers’ data and interactions to one single place. Hey, you talk about the ultimate awesome admin tool, I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to start playing with that and seeing it in action. CDP is great, now I love some of the points that James made about how you get ready to set yourself up for CDP. Slow is smooth and smooth as fast, words of wisdom from James. Make sure that as you get into the planning process for CDP, or even exploring if this is something that you and your organization want to do, take the time to really understand the data. Get the right people in the room to understand where the data is sitting, what it all means, and what it might look like to pull it all together, because then you’ll be really set up for success when you roll out CDP.
Wow, the powerful tool it is. Check it out. Okay, as James said, there’s lots of resources to help you learn more about CDP. I’ll put a link to the blog post that we talked about in the show notes, as well as some great Trailhead content on CDP. Now, if you want to learn more about anything else that we mentioned today on the podcast, or anything else about how you can be an awesome admin, make sure you go to my favorite website in the whole entire world, and that is You’ll find great blogs, videos, and some more podcasts on there. If you would like to follow my guest today, James Richter, he is very active on LinkedIn, so I’ll put his LinkedIn in the show notes. You can follow all things Awesome Admin at Salesforce Admins on Twitter. You can follow me at Gillian K. Bruce and my co-host, Mike Gerholdt, at Mike Gerholdt. With that, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, thank you for tuning in, and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

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