Paul is an industry veteran, and he joined Chip Rogers on the Alliance Ace podcast to talk about customer data infrastructure and treading the thin line between partnership and your own company's needs.
"At Segment," Paul said, "we provide a customer data infrastructure."
Essentially, that is clever plumbing that enables a client to maximize their customer data from taking all the sources from all the customer touchpoints. However an individual chooses to interact with a consumer, Segment consolidates all the information that individual uncovers and then fires it out into the tools they want to use for marketing.
"It's about cleansing data to give (the client) a homogenous view of the customer," Paul said, "and then enabling them to get that view, those traits, and those behaviors into the marketing tools."
Customer data infrastructure gives any client the most universal view of their customers possible. It's the best and most accurate way to identify what people want and how they behave when they interact with any given company.
There are three parts to customer data infrastructure:
- The initial plumbing, which Segment calls "connections."
- Protocols for data governance. Here, the client makes sure they are following all the security guidelines and rules.
- Personas. This part is more about the audience management side of things.
Segment's product simplifies data engineering while making sure that the information everyone is working from arises from a single source of truth.
As Segment has grown (and it has grown quickly, doubling its growth every year since it's founding in 2012), partnerships have helped guide the company's development particularly as it has moved from SMB to enterprise-level service.
Breaking into enterprise marketing means knowing who the partners are in that space because enterprise companies buy everything from software to services from a partner.
A true collaboration, after all, means having a deep understanding of what each other needs. That's happening more and more, as companies, vendors, and partners mature.
Social media is a part of that. You have to use Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, or another platform because it's what both customers and workforces understand.
What's the nature of working with a partner in the data management space?
"What we have is more of a referral model," Paul said, "where we look to get partners who will bring us into customers. We will then work with them to make sure the Segment gets implemented. And then a fee is paid."
Because of that, Segment attracts a certain type of partner. The company calls it's partner base a solutions partner or a channel partner network. It's mostly composed of digital consultants who understand where Segment fits with a customer's infrastructure, and therefore as business process reinvention consultants, it works as a helpful tool for them.
"We've seen a wide variety of partners come," Paul said.
But it's only recently that Segment has formalized its partnership model. A lot of partners are keen to represent them in the market, but Segment is now having to catch up on enablement since it has been working with an ad hoc structure.
That growth is undoubtedly going to change the ecosystem at Segment, but what that change will look like remains to be seen.
The evolution of partnerships
Partnership growth changes any company's design, but some things never really change. For instance, it's always those that offer a service who flourish. That's been true for years. Regardless of the foundation, you must understand how to benefit the customer's business. Without a clear concept of the benefits you bring to the customer, you're lost.
"What the best partners have had to do," Paul said, "is to understand that there are times when you have to keep your foundations and maybe build an extension. There are times you had to rip your foundations out altogether."
The good partners are the ones who see the trends and understand the gaps. When your partners help you understand your customers' needs, the best practices of all your customers will get built into your product.
With the proliferation of companies out there, it can be difficult to understand what the customer base is doing without partners who can help you track its moves.
By looking to forward-thinking partners who are close to customers, you can pull ideas together and create a roadmap.
"It's not necessarily the stuff that they want to see in the product, either" Paul said, "It's more the direction we should be going."
If there's a sea change happening, partners will see it and understand it to understand what Segment's value can be.
"You're very naive if you stop taking advice," Paul said. "You should always put yourself in the position to at least listen."
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