As B2B Marketing continues its evolution as a data-driven science, companies continue to face the dual challenge of smartly exploiting user data to fuel revenue growth, while managing that same data as an essential business asset that must be protected at all times.
Both automated marketing programs and emerging strategies like Account-Based Marketing require advanced metrics tracking and analysis. At the same time, Sales and Marketing will always be tempted – innocently enough — to dig for data signals to justify an extra campaign or marketing effort.
This is exactly why smart B2B companies employ trained data analysis specialists to create multi-layered metrics, KPIs, and triggers designed to drive automated marketing campaigns, and prove how marketing budgets grow the bottom-line.
Data specialists need to be from that rare breed, who have mastered the complex technology surrounding data schemas and queries, but are also able to think like business people. That’s been a mantra in business technology for decades now, I know, but it is most true in B2B marketing, where algorithms and dashboards will always need to co-exist with human intuition and the creativity it brings.
As customer data continues to grow exponentially, distilling meaningful metrics will require the advanced skills of analysts trained in statistics and other data sciences.
Data Analysts Should Work on a Technology Team
When recruiting data analysts, be on the lookout for candidates with degrees in statistics, computer sciences, and relevant technical disciplines. These team members should report up to the technology division of your company, alongside your DBAs and other data infrastructure specialists.
To be clear, every modern B2B marketer must understand KPIs, and be able to suggest the appropriate reports and analysis that support or evaluate campaign efforts. So, in that sense, everyone is a data analyst. Trained statisticians can see data in multiple layers, and create sometimes elaborate metrics, that correlate individual behaviors to account-based rankings, or evaluate sales cycle lengths as a key factor in your overall marketing ROI. This can, and usually does involve fairly advanced statistical skills.
These analysts should also be knowledgeable with both data structure and Big Data technologies that can dramatically grow your customer knowledge store through third-party services, like True Influence’s InsightBASE. They may be involved in designing data integration and mapping projects, both of which are skillsets most suited for your company’s technology group.
Data Analysts Need to Develop Strong Ties to Marketing
Data Analysts should not just view B2B marketers as allies; they should be involved in cross-functional teams that constantly evaluate and refine a company’s marketing metrics and campaign triggers.
This level of engagement with the marketing team is essential, if data analysts are truly going to understand the unique challenges facing your business. Statisticians – and, honestly, technologists in general, tend to rely on best practices when presenting using data to present their case(s). Best practices come built into the dashboard of any Marketing Automation System (MAS); thus citing them constantly will not going to move your business forward.
Instead, your Data Analysts need to cull competitive advantages from your customer data. Those insights come from constant engagement with the Marketing and Sales teams, who face daily revenue challenges.
Data Analysts Need to Challenge Reports and Metrics from a Business POV
Everyone values data, but many marketers and business users don’t understand the full complexities of segmentation and statistical analysis; after all, they are not statisticians.
Data analysts need to push back what analytics guru Avinash Kaushik calls “data puking” or simply pulling data reports, as requested, without first examining the business value of a given report or metric.
Data requests should always be met with inquiries about the business challenge or goal that prompted the request. The ultimate value proposition, particularly when it comes to marketing, is whether the company will be able the act on the results of the analysis. If the answer to this initial vetting is “no,” an analyst may well be able to refine the request into a more actionable form.
Again, maintaining close lateral relationships with the Marketing and Sales teams will keep data analysts wired into the business’s daily challenges. Reporting up through the CTO will give the analyst the required autonomy to push back on requests for non-actionable data.
Which brings to me to my final point.
Data Analysts Should Be the First Gatekeepers for Data Overuse
Basic data hygiene has long been the domain of the technology team, to ensure that data is protected as a key business asset. As demands to access, and actions on customer data continue to grow, the same principal can be employed to monitor the efficient use of data as a primary business commodity.
Of course, this is not to say that the technology team should dictate the standards for acceptable data usage; those should be defined on a company-wide level, with buy-in from the executive team. Data analysts, working on the technology team, are ideally situated as the initial gatekeepers for these standards.
Remember, every touch of your customer database comes with the real risk of attrition. Even while endorsing advanced analytics and segmentation as the backbone of ABM, a recent Forrester Research report noted that, churn still must be tracked as a key efficiency metric for marketing efforts. Considering this real cost is part of the business-centric review data analysts should perform on new report requests.
Smarter Data is Better Data
Winning B2B marketing programs are based on smart, multi-layered analysis of customer data, designed to create actionable segments and campaign triggers. The value of these marketing campaigns will increasingly be determined by advanced analysis. This analysis maps campaigns directly to revenues.
Data Analysts will be the key team members in driving this process.