Beyond customer data: harness your business data with Custom Objects

Customer data is the cornerstone of personalized messaging. The more effectively you can capture and leverage information about who your customers are and what they do, the more effectively you can engage them with targeted messages. 

But messaging automation is more than just customer data. Your business itself generates a wealth of information, and if you aren’t using it in your messaging strategy, you’re missing out on a lot of value.

That’s where custom objects come in. This Journeys feature allows you to bring in just about any business data to vastly expand the possibilities for detailed personalization and marketing automation — at scale. 

Read on for the how and why of using objects:

Types of data in Journeys

Before we get into the details of objects, it’s helpful to understand the different types of data you can bring into the platform. We can sort them into two groups: data about individuals (aka, customer data) and data about your business. 

Data about individuals

Every person in your audience gets a unique profile and identifier. Then various types of data can be associated with each individual. 

  • People: As the name implies, people data is the information that identifies each individual in your audience. Each person has a unique identifier, which is usually their email address or a customer ID number. 
  • Attributes: Attributes are things you know about your customers, like their name, where they live, the devices they use, and their preferences. You can create as many attributes as you like based on the data you ingest.
  • Events: Whenever someone takes an action, that data is an event associated with that individual. This can include things like doing something in your app or on your website, interacting with a message, or making a purchase.

Data about your business

While data about people is a powerful source for personalization, there’s so much more you can do when you tap into your broader data set. “Non-people data” can be any kind of information about your business, like a list of upcoming events, promotions, products, or account tiers. 

  • Objects: An object is an individual thing that you want to relate to one or more people. Like collections, they’re a way to group people based on how they relate to your business data. However, objects open up even more possibilities, especially if you have large sets of data or things that change frequently. 
  • Collections: With Collections in Journeys, you can identify a specific set of “non-people” data and use it in a campaign, tailored to individual people’s data. Collections are very flexible, and they’re ideal for small data sets that don’t change very often.

Relating business data to people allows you to really leverage all of your data in a holistic and flexible way. And objects allow you to do that with vast quantities of ever-changing data. 

What are objects and how do they work?

One of the most common questions I hear from customers is whether they can use a particular piece of business data to accomplish something specific in their messaging automation. And the answer is yes — if you have data about something in your business, you can create an object for it. Each object has its own attributes that you can use to personalize campaigns and broadcasts.

Types of objects

When you start working with objects, you’ll want to define what type of objects you’re creating. Common examples are the companies people work for or the courses, events, or appointments people could sign up for. 

Creating objects

Your objects receive a unique identifier, just like individual people, and you’ll choose the name for each object you create. For example, you might want to bring in data about all the accounts your business handles. Your object type would be “accounts,” and you can then create an individual object for each account, like Acme Company.  

Object attributes

You can set attributes for each object (again, just like people). If you were adding attributes for the Acme Company object, you might want to capture attributes like their industry, location, monthly billing date, and accounts payable contact.  

Relating objects to people

This is where you start really using your business data to power personalization. Objects enable one-to-many relationships, meaning you can relate one object to multiple people (or vice versa). For instance, you might want to relate the Acme Company object to every person in your audience who works at that company. You can also relate one person to multiple objects; for instance, an online learning app could create an object for each of its courses, and relate each individual to all the courses they’ve enrolled in. Once your relationships are in place, you can create segments for personalized campaigns or broadcasts. 

What kind of data can you use to create objects?

The answer is: virtually anything! That’s what’s so valuable about objects; they allow you to bring all of your core business data into Journeys and use it to personalize messaging and support your business goals. 

A few examples to get your imagination going:

  • B2B: companies/accounts, account tiers
  • EdTech: courses, certifications, instructors
  • Real estate: properties being managed, for-sale listings 
  • FinTech: investment types, account types
  • Two-sided marketplaces: job postings, auction bids, employee benefit plans

3 benefits of using objects 

Objects let you bring more of your business’ data into Journeys, and they can make segmentation even more powerful and simple. There are many possible benefits depending on your type of business; these three can get you started thinking about the possibilities. 

1. Automate messaging at two levels 

When information is relevant at both an individual and company level, objects allow you to automate messages at both levels. In the example of the Acme Company object above, you could send a message to everyone related to that object when it’s time for the company’s annual renewal or you release new features relevant to the company’s industry. 

2. Connect two sides of marketplaces

Whenever there are two sides to a business interaction, the data where they meet in the middle is a great use case for an object. As an example: a company that manages employee benefit services could use objects to identify which of their client companies offer which plans, and which of their employees are on which plans.

3. Streamline segment creation

Using an object is much simpler than setting attributes or sending an event for every individual you want in that segment. A good example of this is from the EdTech world: say you have an online learning platform for marketing professionals. You could create an object for each class you offer, then segment based on classes people have taken. For instance, you might target everyone who took your copywriting fundamentals class last fall with a campaign promoting your new class on writing with keywords.

Leverage all your data with objects

There’s a big difference between having data and getting value out of it. If you’ve been looking at your marketing automation strategy through the lens of customer data, you’re missing the forest for the trees. Using objects makes the full breadth of your business data actionable. Take a look at the detailed documentation to learn how you can put objects to work for you.