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CDP vs CRM vs DMP: Their Differences, Capabilities, and How They Can Work Together

Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager

Customer data platforms (CDPs), customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, and data management platforms (DMP) are all vital tools in a marketer’s arsenal. They help digital marketers work with data and use it to inform their campaigns, personalize their marketing, and gauge the effectiveness of their efforts.

Marketers strive to send the right message at the right time on the right channel. But how do they know if it’s the right message, right time, and right channel? They depend on their data.

Research done by Ascend2 and Research Partners found that in terms of data-driven marketing objectives 51% of marketers viewed the ability to make more decisions based on data analysis as a top priority.

Therefore, CDPs, CRMs, and DMPs are only going to grow more important. However, the three are different tools with different capabilities. It can be confusing to tell the difference between them and understand how they can enhance your marketing through data-driven insights.  

So, let’s look at these three tools and discover what can they do.

What is CRM?

Almost three-fourths (74 percent) of CRM users say the tool improved their access to customer data, which allowed them to know their customers better when they interacted with them.

A CRM tool collects customer data through the direct interactions customers have with a brand. Such interactions usually occur in a one-on-one scenario, such as over the phone, by email, on social media, web chat, or on a website. The type of data collected tends to be:

  • Relevant contact information

  • A history of a customer’s relationship and interactions with the brand, including any/all purchases

However, this data:

  • Is only on current or potential customers

  • Must be manually entered into the system to be tracked and collected

Customer service representatives make great use of CRM systems, but marketers can find the customer insights they provide of huge value as well. Collected data is used to:

  • Analyze the sales pipeline and conduct forecasting

  •  Craft a personalized customer experience regardless of how the customer contacted the brand

  • Foster a positive relationship with the customer

What is DMP?

A DMP tool gathers, categorizes, and classifies data from multiple sources concerning marketing campaigns and their targeted audiences. It stores that data in a central location for a short period of time to help marketers target web ads to the right audience.

To do so, DMPs:

  • Mostly collect third-party data from data providers, managers, and services

  • Manage segments of customers with anonymous profiles

  • Mainly work with anonymous data (cookies, device IDs, IP addresses, etc.)

What is CDP?

 A CDP is a data management system with a persistent and unified database that consolidates and integrates data from multiple channels and sources to build a single, unified profile around an individual customer. This data aids in personalizing marketing messages. 

According to Forrester, firms that utilize customer data platforms are 2.5 times likelier to increase customer lifetime value (CLV).

CDPs work mainly with first-party data, but they also:

  • Take in data from any source and work with both anonymous and known data,  such as name, email address, phone number, and other types of personally identifiable information

  • Store data over long periods of time to build in-depth, accurate customer profiles and nurture customer relationships

  • Share data with any system that needs it and can influence all types of marketing 

In fact, customer data platforms can draw data from CRMs and DMPs and share information back with them. The three systems work well together. DMPs can drive in new prospects and leads; CDPs help brands connect and engage with them; CRMs then manage the ongoing relationship between customers and brands. 

You don’t have to choose one over the other two. They all serve valuable roles that can improve the effectiveness of your martech stack and campaigns.


To learn more about customer data platforms:

To find out more about CRMs and DMPs, look at:



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Comments ( 1 )
  • Masamichi Tanaka Sunday, February 14, 2021
    This classification is very clear thus helpful to marketers striving to select right tools to fulfill their needs to create better engagement with their customers. With this classification it is easy to understand that many tools call themselves CDPs but in reality they are DMPs.
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