How to Bridge the Marketing Data Gap
“Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”
– Dan Zarrella
In decades past, “trust your gut” was the unspoken mantra of the marketing world. Marketing was seen as a creative game, and even if reliable marketing data had been available, few would have known how to use it effectively.
As the level of competition increased, relying on instinct and intuition was no longer a sufficient strategy. Marketers slowly learned that if they were going to win, they needed data — the right kind and lots of it. They asked, and they received.
Today brands have access to more marketing analytics than ever before. You can track every email opening, every website visit, every click on your banner ad, every social media interaction. For brands looking to gain a competitive edge, the question is not the amount of data, but how it can be used to drive results.
The Rise and Fall of Predictive Analytics
As more quality data became available, marketers figured out that they could build predictive analytics models. By analyzing the numbers from the past, they could create models showing what will likely happen in the future. And today they have their pick of slick applications to do the number-crunching and model-building for them.
It’s easy to understand the attraction: plug numbers in, actionable results come out. And while predictive analytics can be useful, they also come with limitations that marketers often overlook:
As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” For a predictive analytics platform to be an effective tool, the data it feeds on has to be top-quality. Unfortunately, the quality of your data isn’t always obvious, even if it comes from a trusted source. Facebook, for example, admitted in 2016 that the data it was providing to advertisers contained some major inaccuracies.
For predictive analytics platforms to translate past data into future predictions, one thing they need is a set of assumptions. And while assumptions are necessary, they carry with them the danger of complacency. Past results can give us clues about what will happen in the future, but change happens — just ask Blockbuster.
Predictive analytics platforms take in a variety of different factors, and not all input is created equal. Decisions must be made regarding how to weight each variable in factoring the final output, and sometimes those subjective decisions can be out of sync with reality.
How Intent Monitoring Bridges the Gap
Of course, the biggest shortcoming of predictive analytics platforms is that they rely on the past to predict the future. But to succeed in a marketing environment where change moves at the speed of light, you need to know what’s going on now.
Fortunately, B2B marketing teams have an advanced solution that gives them that window on the present: intent monitoring.
Every minute of every day, prospective customers are communicating volumes of data about the problems they’re looking to solve and the possible solutions they’re considering. They do this not by answering a phone survey or filling out a form, but by leaving a “digital footprint” as they search online for answers to their most pressing questions. Intent monitoring offers a glimpse of that footprint, allowing your sales and marketing team to base their activities on actual intent signals from your specific target market right now.
There’s a reason why many thought leaders see intent monitoring as the next big thing in the B2B marketing world: it offers unique benefits that no other approach can, such as:
Customer needs and expectations can shift from one day to the next, and using months-old data in predictive models can’t deliver the results you need to keep pace. Intent monitoring gives you a perspective on what’s happening with your target accounts right now, allowing your team to respond promptly to opportunities as they arise.
Intent monitoring involves no assumptions or subjective decisions on how to weight specific factors — just current, precise data about how your prospects are signaling their intent through their online activities.
Benchmarking and Trending
Once you’ve identified specific target accounts, intent monitoring lets you benchmark their activity levels and watch for changes over time. For example, a spike in activity around keywords related to your product or service could indicate they are accelerating towards a buying decision, signaling your sales reps to step up their efforts.
The evolution of marketing data has forever changed the marketer’s game, putting an end to the days of “trusting your gut” once and for all. Rather than basing decisions on a best guess and hoping/praying that they deliver results, B2B marketing teams can move forward with the confidence that comes from knowing their strategy and tactics are grounded in cold-hard facts. And when you tap into the power of intent monitoring, you have access to the present-day, intent-focused data that can propel your results to a whole new level.