Q&A: How a CDP helps Oracle use its customer data more effectively

March 8, 2024 | 6 minute read
Sarah Gaade
Director Global Campaigns
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Justin Thorp joined Oracle through an acquisition in 2016, and now he’s guiding email marketing and audience strategy for the global tech company. A core part of the job is finding ways to use email marketing more effectively to drive revenue growth. Part of that effort includes looking at how to best use Oracle’s audience marketing data, in email and together with all other channels. Thorp works closely with channel leads across digital marketing to figure out how they can leverage customer data. Here’s a discussion with Thorp about his experience as a marketer at Oracle, including how using a customer data platform has helped his team execute.   


 Q: With an organization as large as Oracle, and the amount of data and marketing departments you’re working with, how did you begin to build out a strategy to use the Unity customer data platform for outbound email campaigns?

Thorp: It’s very much going back to basics and creating a very simple framework that groups everything together. There’s that old marketing saying of “right person, right place, right time.” I think of audiences, especially B2B, having three different layers that I’m looking for. First is the right company. There is a lot of data that I could potentially leverage—maybe it’s target account, but maybe it’s competitive usage data or firmographic data. There are different types of data that will help me find the right company and the right person.

Second, we talk a lot about the persona type data—who is the right person who’s going to be either buying or influencing the purchasing process inside of the company? We start plotting those out relative to the specific business need.

The last thing is the right time. Who might be interested in the message you’re offering? For example, someone who is brand new to your product is going to have very different needs versus someone who is a superfan. So, we use a lot of intent data, engagement data, and usage data to try to identify where we think they are relative to the different phases of that journey. 


Q: You did marketing at Oracle before using Unity. What impact have you seen since using Unity?

Thorp: I think it’s twofold. First, it allows for greater specificity. With Unity, my ability to find a very specific audience is incredible—down to specific product usage, job title or company, or people who attended a specific event. I can go very granular with whom I’m going after. There is incredible power there.

Second, the ability to reuse segments is incredible. It’s not just about building segmentation. It’s about building segments that meet business needs and being able to reuse those segments repeatedly to help create a more efficient work process. For example, we spend a lot of time identifying who is part of different buying or influencing roles in a finance organization, or people who have specific products. Once we’ve done it, we can use the same segment over and over again. Also, the CDP is cloud-based and not an on-premises application, so we have fast access to the data in real time. I can’t imagine a world now where data wasn’t immediately available for use.


Q: What impact have you seen with using a CDP in a global organization?

Thorp: We’ve been able to help internal teams find the prospects that they should care about. Before, we used to have to utilize broad strokes to do the segmentation, and people saw watered-down results in terms of how they were leveraging data to drive marketing engagement. Now, we can find exactly who they want, and the relative engagement certainly got better. We have seen that when trying to sign up people for regional events, or finding people who are more interested in specific types of content assets based on our data about where they are in their journey.


Q: Who are your primary users of Unity?

Thorp: I’d say the people who use it land in one of three buckets. First, we have the data architects. Those are the people who handle upstream data and help to unify it into a singular model that we all have access to. Second, we have our audience strategy and operation teams who are looking at the data and trying to figure out how we can more effectively match the data to our business strategy. Third are the marketers, and they’re leveraging the downstream benefits of my team, as we help figure out what they’re trying to accomplish and then map data to their strategy.


Q: How has the learning curve of your team been with Unity?

Thorp: It’s a very advanced tool, and with great power comes the potential for complexity. We have found that there’s a learning curve to it, and we need a baseline understanding and training to get the most use out of it. It’s not just about creating any one segment, but about how all the segments work and overlap together, which is going to decide how everything is ultimately successful. We’re not just thinking about that one segment. All the segments work in concert with one another.


Q: Do you find that the time to delivery has improved since using Unity because data is now in your hands and you don’t have to wait for other teams to build it and come back and do iterations?

Thorp: Oh my gosh, yes. If I get business requirements that map to segments that are already created, then I can have Unity segments done in minutes or hours instead of days or weeks—with 100% confidence in the output. Previously, it used to be done by another person who didn’t understand what I was trying to do, so there was always a QA aspect on our end. Not only was it slow and cumbersome, but I also was never completely confident in the product I was getting. With Unity, we are past that, and it’s so quick.  


Q: Has using Unity given you a competitive edge that you didn’t have before?

Thorp: Yes, 100%, because of speed and accuracy. Previously, only the data architects had access to the data—it was people who knew SQL. Now, it’s not that a field marketer using Unity has all the specificity and power a data architect would. But it does provide them a decent level of sophistication, so a marketer can start leveraging that power relatively easily on their own.

Take, for example, a request to add certain criteria to a persona. Before, we would have to make a request to a separate team in a different time zone, then it would be put in a queue, and then processed—all of which is time-consuming. With Unity, I can ask a member of my team to add the updates to the specified persona segment, and it’s done in minutes.


Q: Last question—what would you tell people who are curious about a CDP but aren’t quite sure they’re ready for it?

Thorp: I think in today’s market, the people who win are going to be the people that can fully leverage the data they have. We live in a digital native environment, where you have all the signals, and if you want to win, you have to use these signals successfully to give your audience the messages that they want. This has got to be top of mind for everyone, especially in our world where access to third-party data is changing and your first-party data—that’s the whole show.


Learn more about Oracle’s customer data platform, Unity. To hear about Oracle’s CDP strategy from an operations perspective, check out this Q&A with Oracle’s vice president of global marketing technology, Bence Gazdag.

Sarah Gaade

Director Global Campaigns

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