As B2B marketers, we need to understand what Big Data can help us accomplish, and also what its shortcomings may be. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to best put Big Data to use in your marketing strategies.
There is a lot of hype about "Big Data." But let's not get wedded to the term, because sooner or later, another buzzword will rise to the surface and replace it. Let's focus instead on the problems that it can help us solve.
However, marketers do need to understand what Big Data can do for them, because if they don't, they risk being left behind by those who do. But to understand this, marketers need a filter: what are the underlying problems that Big Data can help B2B marketers solve?
While the Big Data Hype Filter for B2B Marketers consists of questions rather than solutions, you can use it as the first step in building your roadmap by understanding the challenges that Big Data can help with.
How well do you know your customers? Have you constructed personas that help bring to life their pain points and preferences? What is their role in the buyer-side decision team? Do you know how they prefer to communicate? What interactions do they have and how can you influence them? Can you identify key decision-makers?
At any given point in time, a relatively small percentage of your customers and prospects will be actively in the buying cycle. But knowing where they are is essential to more effective communication, and a more predictable and effective sales/marketing pipeline.
If you're a B2B marketer, chances are high that your product or service is a complex sale, involving multiple decision makers with differing sets of criteria. So, what buyers need from you to help make a decision (and to communicate that decision internally) also differs depending on their role in the decision team.
(If this is starting to sound complicated, welcome to the world of Big Data, which is essentially a convenient way of referring to the technologies that can help us make sense of the ever-growing mass of data out there, so that we can make better predictions and business decisions.)
Content is only useful if it drives some kind of action by the buyer. As marketers, the conversion in which we are most interested is the sale itself. But the reality of a complex sale is that many micro-conversions need to take place. And many of them are internal to the buyer organization and less visible to us. We want to achieve a series of micro-conversions - measurable actions by the buyer. We want them to consume more of our content, and we want them to share our content with others.
The following points are mostly about the basics that need to be in place if you are to gain maximum value from Big Data.
Some major B2B organizations take as long as three weeks to respond to a prospective customer who has filled in an online form requesting more information. By the time three weeks has passed, the prospect has probably already forgotten about filling in the form. What is to blame for this inefficiency? Complicated standard operating procedures around lead routing and what lead information needs to be captured. Although this is an operational and organizational politics issue, better data on the above points can help you argue your case for greater responsiveness, so that you identify and effectively seize moments of opportunity.
Better collaboration between sales and marketing is a perennial problem in many companies, and Big Data won't necessarily help unless marketers have the right mindset. In fact, according to the 2013 CMO Council report Know More to Grow More, marketers get an "F" for sales enablement. "In our quest to leverage Big Data to optimize marketing effectiveness, B2B marketers have lost sight of the fundamental mandate of marketing: to better enable sales and front-line revenue drivers," says Liz Miller, vice president of marketing at the CMO Council. Big Data won't solve this problem, but it may be a catalyst for change.
Is your prospect data unified or is it fragmented between marketing and sales? Achieving a single view of the customer is essential if Big Data is to play a role in achieving better visibility on your pipeline, which ultimately makes everyone's job easier, and enables more effective resourcing decisions.
While this only scratches the surface of the Big Data conversation:
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