Finding Business Contact Data in Era of “Work From Anywhere”

By Ray Estevez
Chief Information Officer, True Influence

How do B2B brands find business contact data when “Work from home” is the new reality? Actually, it’s more accurate to say “work from anywhere.” The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the inevitable workforce transition that had already begun, thanks to high-speed home internet, cloud-based business software, and powerful personal computers you carry in your pocket.

Things are never going back to the way they were in 2019. I know it seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? But B2B marketers must adapt now. For many, that means acquiring new sources of data to help find and follow the best prospects as they move from office to remote workspace, and even company to company.

Prospects on the Move

The first step in adapting to dramatic change is to accept just how radically different the situation has become. Here’s a data point for you – at the start of 2020, only 12 percent of workers in the United States worked remotely on a full-time basis. Suddenly, all knowledge workers were at home, and by mid-year, with no immediate end in sight, companies like Twitter began to announce that employees could work remotely indefinitely.

We here at True Influence are built for remote work, and we weathered the pandemic in great shape. But for a lot of companies, the transition was tumultuous, and it’s still in progress. Workers will begin coming back into offices this year, but not every day. The savings and convenience of office-sharing and eliminating the daily commute are just too enticing to just put the genie back in the bottle.

Ultimately, B2B workers are going to do work where they happen to be that day – a coffee shop, the office campus or their couch. CMSWire predicts that in 2021 companies will offer employees stipends to shore up their home office and invest heavily in mobile productivity apps.

Finding these prospects now, no matter where they are, will be the difference between winning new business and just churning dead lists. And that will require more data and powerful analytics to tie it all together into a clear picture of individual contact behavior.

Market to a Person, Not a Job

Nothing is going to replace the marketing building blocks of a contact’s business email, job role, responsibilities and interests. But emerging new categories of data like personal email, device IDs and phone numbers add context to those core contact attributes and allow for more targeted, personalized messaging.

Again, business email accounts are the gold standard. But as people do more research from home and personal mobile devices, the greater the likelihood they will use a gmail address to download a whitepaper or register for a webinar. That’s equally true of personal mobile devices and numbers.

This creates a number of challenges for B2B:

  • Privacy regulations are primarily focused on consumer data, so augmenting your database with what’s traditionally considered B2C information can complicate what’s an already challenging governance landscape.
  • Deciding when or if to use a “personal” channel to contact a prospect requires some nuance in campaign planning and execution. People still want some level of separation between their personal and work lives, and so may be less tolerant of business messaging in their personal inboxes. Of course, this depends largely on channel and funnel stage – sending awareness programmatic ads to a CTO while they stream a soccer match is a great fit, as our COO Craig Weiss notes in a recent post. As always, it’s about context.

Which leads me to my most critical point …

  • You must map personal and business data to a single contact record to create a complete picture of your prospect’s movements and behavior. This is where adding personal data to your mix pays off. Big Data is useless unless you have the technology to find meaningful patterns and connections within it. In B2B marketing, that means identifying the specific individual showing interest in your product.

We developed our Identity Graph technology to match emails, IPs and behaviors across physical locations and platforms to create a 360-degree picture of contact behavior and interest. I’ve written extensively about Identity Graph in the past – let me just say here that the technology is advanced and continuously improving.

These kinds of powerful analytics are fueled by data, including personal emails. So marketers need to look for ways to add this data to their mix responsibly and securely.

B2B Workers Change Jobs More Frequently

Another fallout from the “work from anywhere” revolution is that people are moving from company to company more readily. When commuting or re-location no longer present a barrier, taking on a new career opportunity becomes a lot less daunting.

Knowledge workers are already moving out of large, expensive coastal cities in the U.S. where their companies are likely still headquartered. Coupling that with the possibility that 2021 will actually turn into a boom year for new corporate projects, as some prognosticators believe, and keeping track of a contact you’ve built a relationship with for the last six months becomes a challenge.

This is another value point for personal contact information being added to your contact databases. People aren’t likely to drop a gmail address just because they moved jobs.

Let me emphasize here – you obviously still need to know where a contact works in order to evaluate how their personal interest affects the overall readiness of an account to buy. Business contact data is still the gold standard. But sending a whitepaper offer to a CSO’s old business email just to get a bounce is a dead end.

Personal email and device data can serve as a persistent marker for a contact who’s moving from company to company. With Identity Graph and other advanced analytics, you’ll be able stay in touch with them. In fact, knowing that a key decision-maker changed companies may be a vital piece of intelligence in your ABM prioritization and strategy.

Messaging Gets Personal

B2B Sales has always wanted to gather personal details about the person they are selling to, and that trend is beginning to make its way into B2B marketing, as well. What is the prospect’s family income and lifestyle? What are their group affiliations, both personal and professional? What piece of information can help break the ice and begin a conversation that leads to sale?

Obviously, this kind of data is not as readily available in traditional B2B as it is in B2C. But I think adding this kind of data will become more common as marketers embrace content personalization. And, obviously, sales and marketing need to share this information consistently in centralized data stores and systems. And of course, it must always be gathered and handled according to regulations and best practices.

It’s all the same customer journey, after all.

Tying Locations Together

When it comes to business contact data, I am seeing a lot of research about how marketers struggle to correlate the various email domains and IPs used by a single corporate entity.

Think of a large appliance manufacturer. This company may have numerous email domains for its various specialty divisions and plants, not to mention countless IPs for office parks and facilities across the country. But if you sell an HR software solution, you’ll definitely want to know about campaign response and purchase research happening in both Boise and Dayton.

Interestingly, this phenomenon also applies in reverse for some large organizations, particularly in the public sector. All aspects of a city’s public works may be issued city.gov email addresses, so isolating specific departments can be a real problem.

A good place to start in adding this layer of granularity to your targeting mix is a data provider such as True Influence. We’ve been building our email and IP mapping technology for years, and it continues to become more sophisticated. Your own marketing and sales prospecting intelligence is also an invaluable resource.

Adding New and Updated Contacts

There’s always going to be a demand for more new contacts, and that won’t change in 2021.

B2B sellers often don’t see the total active market for their services. In fact, finding interested buyers that you don’t know about is one of the key benefits of intent data, as we often discuss here on our blog. So the more interested, qualified contacts you have in your database, the better.

I’ll add that in a period of high job mobility, adding “new” contacts to your database is a great way of refreshing and validating your current contact records. If someone is checking a new work email on the same cell phone, you’ll see that and be able to update the contact’s company and job role records – if you have the right data and data intelligence in place.

Use Intent to Fill Intelligence Gaps

As I’ve mentioned a few times now, another emerging data category that B2B marketers need to incorporate in their mix is intent data. Obviously, I am a bit biased here – we here at True Influence helped define this category – but the added layer of intent really does help fill any gaps in your B2B marketing data.

Intent finds new contacts and accounts who are researching purchases in your market. By correlating a broad cohort of related intent topics, you can build a comprehensive picture of your prospects’ interests. And working with a trusted data partner, you can use intent as a trigger for updating contact records for professionals who are increasingly on the move.

It’s a real-time filter on what might otherwise become stagnant data resources.

Business Is on the Move, and Data Must Follow

B2B marketers are constantly looking for new sources of data, and Big Data analytics make it possible to correlate all that information into a clear picture of a contacts total work experience and purchase journey. Appropriately incorporating personal data along with the powerful behavioral lense of intent is the next step in connecting with increasingly mobile B2B decision makers.

And the step after that? Perhaps this piece by our Chief Revenue Officer, Peter Larkin: “Real-Time Lens of Intent Data Reveals Prospects with Budgets.”

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