B2B demand generation guru, Ruth Stevens, author of “B2B Data-Driven Marketing,” was a recent guest on The True Influence Accelerating Revenue Podcast. In “How to Think Like a B2B Data-Driven Marketing Genius,” we cover a lot of ground, including what it takes to navigate the data-driven world of digital marketing.
One tip we came away with — Don’t underestimate the importance of data, especially with all the types now available and actionable. But even marketers who are into data have questions, and there’s confusion and misunderstanding about data sources and uses, as well as data maintenance and hygiene. As you read through these takeaways from Ruth’s podcast, you’ll gain a better understanding of the data-driven world of B2B marketing.
1. Your first B2B marketing data source should be internal
There’s a lot of useful customer-related data lying around in various systems inside companies, and all of it needs to be extracted and pulled together. It must be duplicated, analyzed for quality, and placed in a repository where it can be accessed and sorted — either a CRM system or a marketing database.
But how do you enhance this data? How do you find new accounts? Ruth explains the types of data that you can find from various vendors. She talks about studies from over the past decade about quality and availability of data, analyzed through research reports, including some that are vendor-specific.
Data storage is inexpensive, and there’s very little constraint on marketers to limit data elements. Ruth cautions people to be very careful about the data elements you need to be an effective marketer. Data degrades quickly, as much as 4-6% a month will go bad, although it varies by element. Titles change more rapidly than mail addresses. They need to be maintained, because if the data is wrong, it’s almost worse than not having the data at all.
2. For B2B marketing, make sure the data is correct
If you’re spending any amount of money on a campaign or outbound prospecting, you must ensure the data is correct. According to Dun & Bradstreet, 21% of business postal addresses on file will have changed just from the time of Ruth’s book being published. So if you’re using postal mail, and the Postal Service can’t deliver it, you’ve wasted money.
Marketers tend to get excited about offer development and messaging and buyer journeys — but if you go back to direct marketing principles, 50% of the power to drive a response is guided by whether you’re talking to the right audience. The creative and the offer together are worth another 50% of the response driving power. But it’s in those two areas that most marketers devote 99% of their time. Responsibility for the data is delegated down the chain, and it’s wasteful, if not irresponsible. Takeaway – pay just as much attention to data quality as to other elements of your digital marketing strategy.
3. Customer lifetime value is essential
Ruth has taught a “Customer Acquisition and Retention” course in business schools around the world for more than 20 years, and she tells us that Customer Lifetime Value is addressed in the very first class session. It’s the #1 decision-making tool for investing in current customer marketing or new customer acquisition.
In B2B, this term is more difficult to grasp, because we’re usually thinking at the account level vs. the individual contact level — lifetime values in B2B accounts tend to be enormous, so much so that an ROI calculation is almost a useless management tool. On the account level, trying to make a decision about running a campaign into this account, connecting the results to a sale that takes place 12 months from now that involves multiple touches, sales calls – it becomes almost unworkable. This is one extra angle to consider when relating to customer lifetime value in B2B marketing.
In B2B, the account is served by a combination of sales and marketing sources. If you don’t look at the account level, with both sales and marketing expenses baked in, you may find that your highest revenue accounts are actually your least profitable. The deeper and larger the relationship, the more the power of the negotiation shifts to the account. As Ruth remarks, a sophisticated operation will take that into account and pick and choose, and decide how much they’re willing to invest in serving based on ROI.
4. Pre-identifying by category & product level interest is “B2B catnip”
Instead of cold communications based on typical variables like company size and industry, or job title — the three driving selections used to find prospects — what if you could focus on something more relevant to the actual purchase or need? If we can get into accounts that have signaled they’re researching a specific category, then we can infer they’re in the market for a solution or a product in a particular area. That’s going to shorten the sales cycle, increase campaign response rates, and lower the cost of sales overall.
Marketers want to know which intent data provider is right for them and who can provide that coveted “B2B catnip” of interest by category and product. But marketers are in a bit of analysis paralysis, and if you don’t know how to shop for data, you need to understand how vendors differ. Transparency and clarity from data providers serves everyone well. Ultimately, the good news is that through simple experimentation, marketers will discover which is the best vendor. They’re going to buy the data, use it, and get measurable results. B2B marketers should be asking for examples and testing the data in disciplined manners – “try it before you buy it”.
5. Appreciate and value the importance of marketing data
One practical tip Ruth provides: if you’re a lead generation marketer or brand marketer, or in corporate communications, and you want to get closer to the marketing data being used, there’s an administrator in charge of that data. It’s important to become friends with said individual, invite them to lunch, get to know them and have the chance to discuss the problems they face or some of the solutions they’ve come up with.
Examine records to quell fear about “touching” data and to become more familiar with what the data looks like. It’s not so scary once you get familiar with it. After it’s part of your world, your attitude changes; you feel ownership and personal interest — and that’s key to raising your skill level and your results as a B2B data-driven marketer.
Hear the full podcast episode
Want to listen to our podcast episode with Ruth Stevens, “How to Think Like a Data-driven Marketing Genius”? Visit the Accelerating Revenue Podcast for that episode and many more.