B2B companies are constantly turning to data and analytics to achieve meaningful growth and accelerate the buying journey, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

However, what does come as a surprise is how a lack of confidence in B2B data is impacting the way in which companies leverage or don’t leverage even the most fundamental sales and marketing initiatives. What you will see in this article, some of the most buzz-worthy marketing and sales strategies like content personalization and account-based marketing (ABM), may not be as prevalent as one might think.

Surveying 250 B2B professionals in companies of all sizes across numerous industries, uncovered some important insights shaping the B2B marketing and sales landscape, including;

  • 89% believe data quality drives the right B2B sales and marketing campaigns
  • 50% of B2B companies are not confident in the quality of their data
  • 88% believe data is crucial for ABM, but only one-third of companies are executing it

Data Is Constantly in Flux:

Truth be told, almost every B2B company struggles to make sense out of the mounting data within the enterprise. Unluckily, we’re awash in data, and the availability of this information is constantly changing. And quite often, variety, volume, and velocity of data create chaos instead of opportunity.

The challenge is rationalizing and keeping current huge amounts of data while leveraging new data sources to create a real competitive advantage, an advantage that results from turning data into trustworthy insight that can drive actions to improve business performance.

For many companies, that process requires heavy lifting and lots of manual effort, making it hard to achieve intelligence that you can trust. In the B2B arena today, poor data quality is one of the biggest problems, and often, revenue opportunities are lost by the time companies are ready to execute.

Data Quality is a Key Component of the Revenue Equation:

For the marketing and sales professionals tasked with formulating their company’s top strategies for improving data quality, performance is paramount.

For today’s B2B companies, data quality itself is a multi-factored equation. It equates to leveraging and having precise insights that can move your business forward, where the pace is defined by the quality of these insights. In the marketing and sales realms, intelligence insights and account identity are very critical.

B2B marketers completely agree that quality data empowers them to send the right message to the right customers at just the right time. It enables them to know what their customers when they want it, how have they interacted previously with the company. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to get the fundamentals right to create a foundation that generates actionable insights, which will make a difference in the marketplace. Flub expectations and the bad experience can spread across the digital landscape like wildfire. Exceed it, and customers will shout your praise from the social media rooftops.

Implementing a Successful Equation for Better Data:

If ever, a large volume of data will rarely be 100 percent perfect for every possible use case. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable for a specific use case. Organizations usually confuse perfection with the quality needed for the job at hand. Data quality is an assessment or perception of data’s fitness to serve its purpose in a given context.

Data quality begins with record completeness, where your systems are populated with the required data as well as the information required to support your go-to-market strategies. Next comes accuracy, which is a measurement of the factual veracity of your record information, which we see from the survey results continues to be a challenge. The breadth of data is the next dimension of data quality and the depth of insight you can generate. The focus can be on turning intelligence into action with good first-and third-party data.

However, if companies don’t have the right processes in place to ensure continuous rigor around those initial factors, improved performance will remain elusive. Standardization enables data to be easily shared across systems, ensuring a consistent and accurate flow of information between marketing and sales. Additionally, failure to comply with key permissions and regulations will only hurt your efforts, as will long latency between updates. The farther away from timeliness and compliance you get, the more damage you can do to your performance and efforts.

B2B marketers need just the right combination of all these factors to deliver the intelligence and identity that leads to good decisions.

Bringing Quality Data into Your CRM:

  • A single view: It brings together all your data, so you can see each customer and access data from every perspective.
  • A complete view: It taps into global sources beyond your own transactional data sets, so you gain a complete, more comprehensive picture of your prospects and customers.
  • An Actionable view: It ties data directly to the business challenges facing your company so you can improve decision-making and gain real business value from your data. And it keeps that view continually updated so you can react quickly to relevant changes.
  • A flexible view: It structures and organizes data so that every business unit across your organization is working from the same set of insights and then customizing processes according to roles.

Confidence in Data Has Reached a New Low:

As we’ve already seen, B2B marketers unanimously agree that quality data is an important success factor for B2B marketing and sales. However, just 50% of the respondents said that they have confidence in the quality of their data, with just 11% expressing extreme confidence in their data.

While it’s most certainly encouraging to see at least half of B2B businesses expressing optimism about the data they are working with, but that number is lower than the previous year.

There must be a thoughtful plan and concerted effort to improve data quality in order for B2B companies to truly succeed. It’s certainly not easy, but making that commitment is the first step towards achieving what we hope will be skyrocketing confidence in data by next year.

Lack of Confidence is hindering many Data-Driven Strategies:

Many industry reports peg ABM as being one of the most popular B2B tactics because it’s said to provide higher returns than any other marketing investment. However, only a little more than a third of the respondents said ABM was currently part of their go-to-market strategy.

When the respondents were asked, what are your future plans related to making account-based marketing (ABM) a part of your go-to-market strategy?

The answer is as follows;

  • 6% within the next six months
  • 12% within the next 12 months
  • 41% no plans within the next year
  • 41% not sure

Although ABM is an exciting prospect for many B2B businesses, it seems most of the respondents need to get their data in proper order before they can commit to executing such a huge shift in how they measure success and their go-to-market strategy. Targeting specific accounts and the decision-makers within those accounts requires a synchronized, coordinated effort across several channels. It requires measurement systems and the right data, and alignment at the executive level between marketing and sales. And an overwhelming number of B2B companies clearly recognize this and are hence somewhat cautious in their adoption of this strategy.

Top Tactics Used to Drive ABM:

The top strategies that are used to drive ABM are as follows;

  • Sending Email: 85%
  • Scheduling 1:1 meetings: 76%
  • Social Engagement: 66%
  • Content Personalization: 60%
  • Workshops/Private Events: 57%
  • Direct Mail: 50%
  • Programmatic Advertising: 38%
  • Microsites: 29%

And while for the companies looking to succeed with ABM, data is certainly one of the most critical factors, other elements are equally important as well in shaping it. ABM is not entirely a digital strategy, nor is it something that can be served by a single technology platform. So, it is no surprise technology came in at the bottom when the respondents were asked to rank list the most important factors in realizing success from their ABM campaigns.

Most Critical Factors in Driving ABM Success:

The most important factors in driving ABM success are as follows;

  • Alignment with sales: 49%
  • Identifying target accounts: 46%
  • Ability to measure success: 46%
  • Budget: 38%
  • People/Resources: 38%
  • Having the right content: 21%
  • Technology: 18%

On the other hand, only 50 percent of the respondents noted the importance of aligning marketing and sales to achieve success with ABM. This couldn’t be any more true. Actually, we need to stop focusing more on the “M” in “ABM”; it truly needs to be called as account-based sales and marketing. Because, when done right, we shouldn’t be able to tell where marketing stops and sales starts. And to build that synergy between the teams, you must have shared processes, shared insights, and data across shared measurements, and technology platforms. Only by having teams work together, frequently communicating and sharing, will B2B businesses see success from ABM.

Data must Fuel your Revenue Operations:

The actual power of data goes much beyond ABM. It’s especially effective for marketing and sales teams who can use it to deliver a flawless experience at every stage of the buying process for B2B customers. It means launching a seamless campaign strategy that engages audiences with relevant and personalized messaging to help turn prospects into customers.

B2B marketers now understand that data plays an instrumental role in enabling all the moving parts of the marketing and sales strategy, from beginning to end.

Top five activities that are positively impacted by quality data are as follows;

  • Campaign execution
  • Personalized content and messaging
  • Sales prospecting and closing
  • Generating customer insights with analytics
  • Lead qualification and scoring

All of these steps come together to build a 360-degree marketing and sales approach that uses data to accurately identify new opportunities, target the right audience with the right message, arm sales professionals with the right intelligence and provide leanings that enable them continually improve their strategy. It’s a perpetual cycle that fuels revenue operations, the strategic function that aligns sales, marketing, and customer success activities to expose and pinpoint revenue opportunities. And when done right, this is the winning formula that turns more efficient, personalized, and impactful marketing tactics into accelerated sales – at scale.

Targeting and Segmentation are Still the Backbones of B2B Marketing:

B2B marketers generally master segmentation and digital targeting only when they reach complete maturity in the way they use data. Are they using segmentation and targeting to turn data into valuable information, that valuable information into knowledge, finally knowledge into valuable insights? Naturally, it’s predicated on good data. But despite the struggles, B2B marketers seem to have with their data quality, they are a little more confident when come to engaging with their audiences.

Around 62% of the respondents expressed confidence in the ability to build a list for a campaign that accurately reflects their target audiences, while nearly 50% of the respondents said that they are confident in the ability to segment that list.

Following are the top ways B2B sellers are targeting B2B buyers;

  1. Geography: 71%
  2. Industry vertical: 59%
  3. Account specific: 50%
  4. Online activity: 48%
  5. Company size: 41%

When you begin categorizing your audience based on different targeting segment, specific behavior patterns starts to emerge. This information can open the door to new audience opportunities.

When the respondents were asked, are you currently using analytics to drive market prioritization and identification?

Their answers are as follows;

  • Yes: 50%
  • No: 35%
  • Not sure: 15%

Bringing It All Together:

Most of the B2B companies continue to struggle with capturing and managing data in their systems, one of the top pain points they’ll have to fix to succeed with data. And for many of these B2B companies, CRMs are the epicenter for data collection that fuels revenue operations.

When the respondents were asked, how well do you integrate your data with your CRM system?

The answers are as follows;

  • Advanced: 13%
  • Intermediate: 34%
  • Novice: 28%
  • Beginner: 11%
  • Not sure: 14%

The sales teams usually have their preferred CRM system to manage data, while the marketing teams may prefer a different CRM system, which leverages customer data quite differently. This divide is causes challenges, especially when it comes to execution. More than 50% of the respondents said it’s very to extremely difficult to align marketing and sales data about accounts and contacts when executing programs across channels.

When the respondents were asked, rate the difficulty of aligning marketing and sales data about accounts and contacts when executing programs across multiple channels?

The answers are as follows;

  • Somewhat difficult: 36%
  • Very difficult: 37%
  • Not at all difficult: 8%
  • Extremely difficult: 19%

Similar to the challenges raised with ABM, marketing and sales need a tighter alignment. And while better alignment would help to alleviate some of these challenges faced by B2B companies, the respondents noted other issues when it comes to ensuring their database can support their go-to-market activities.

Most significant challenges are as follows;

  • Data accuracy and completeness
  • Budget allocation toward data management
  • Organizational support to make improvements
  • Data quantity and acquisition
  • Data visualization/activation technology

Naturally, everyone understands the role data has within the company, so now it’s time to prove it. And a good approach is to implement is to build a business case that quantifies the business value data will deliver against specific goals. So, if you can effectively tie everything back to ROI, you will have the ears of the right executives. It is necessary to invest in all these areas: from the right team to the right leaders.

It’s as much an art as it is a science, and your team and company should be the last thing stopping you from launching a data-driven strategy.

Conclusion:

Modern marketing and sales are predicated on not only collecting data, but pulling insights and also using this information in real-time across teams and systems, in such a way that the right people get insight, understand it, and take action on it at the right moment. And the ability to fully understand everything about a potential buyer begins with data and also ends with data.


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