B2B marketers all share the same basic goals: consistently generating pipeline and passing qualified leads to sales.
That’s the primary function of any demand gen marketer — and as a recent industry study revealed, B2B marketers more generally define supporting sales as their primary focus.
But it’s easier said than done.
The same study by the Marketing Technology Industry Council revealed that, despite the glut of “big data” marketing technologies out there (or, at least in part, precisely because of that glut), B2B marketers are unable to leverage their data effectively enough to know who they’re marketing to. Essentially, they’re marketing blindly, without the foggiest idea of who their audiences are.
But if you don’t know who your audience is, how can you create great marketing campaigns that reach the right people? How can you know who to target? What platforms to find them on? What message will generate the desired engagement or action? How can you create an accurate Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)?
The good news is that the data you need is all out there. The question is how to access it, process it into accurate intelligence, and then use it to generate qualified leads and guide them through the sales funnel (simple, right?).
To do that, B2B marketers need to identify the 4 key obstacles standing between them and their ability to effectively leverage marketing data.
Obstacle 1: It’s all over the place
The most basic problem with B2B data is that it’s so hard to pin down. The data you need, on the individuals and companies you want to reach, is scattered and siloed across so many different sources.
According the recent Marketing Technology Industry Council survey, B2B marketers currently use at least 15 marketing technology tools to collect customer information. Many bigger companies utilize up to a staggering 100 such tools for their marketing data!
How can you get to know your audiences if their profile is splintered into so many disjointed pieces — particularly if different pieces are being used by different departments within your organization?
But even if you were somehow able to piece those fragments together, they wouldn’t form an accurate or coherent picture of your audience, because…
Obstacle 2: There are pieces missing
For a start, as things stand you don’t have access to all the pieces of the puzzle.
You can get leads from your Marketing Automation Platform with some basic information on them, garnered from online form fills and other inbound marketing efforts (though even those forms may not have been completed or accurately filled in). Your events team could also provide you with a list of contacts from a recent tradeshow. You could supplement that information with a Google search and by sifting through LinkedIn profiles, and then piece it all together for a reasonable-ish picture.
But ask yourself this: if someone wanted to get to know you, would information from a form fill, a look at your LinkedIn profile and a Google search do the trick?
And how would you feel if they subsequently bombarded you with “targeted” marketing on the basis of that highly superficial impression of you? (That’s a trick question: just hold your nose and open your junk mail folder to find out.)
You could commission a third-party data vendor to fill in some of the holes in your data, as many demand gen marketers do for outbound prospecting.
But the fact is, traditional data vendors only magnify the problem: Yes, they can bring you a far larger volume of contacts; but they’re still operating off narrow, superficial data sets like “job title”, for example, so the quality of their data is still frustratingly low and requires a lot of mind-numbing, inefficient, manual work afterwards.
Obstacle 3: Much of the data you can access is conflicting and inaccurate
“Big data” isn’t all good data. In fact, much of the information out there is inaccurate. And because so much of it is siloed across different sources, that also often means a lot of conflicting data.
That VP Marketing at the Silicon Valley startup? She’s now CMO at a New York-based company. That key stakeholder at a crucial account you’re trying to reach is… unreachable, because none of the contact information you have for him is accurate. And why is the same lead marked as being in both sales and marketing?
Part of the problem is your inbound leads who didn’t fill the form in properly or correctly. But you’ll get plenty of bad and unusable data from trusted data vendors too.
One of the greatest contributing factors to this phenomenon of bad data is the short shelf-life of B2B marketing data. B2B professionals change companies, get promoted or fired, take on different job functions and responsibilities, retire and even change industries all the time. So data which only a few months ago was totally accurate may already be completely outdated.
Obstacle 4: How can you make sense of it all?
Let’s say you’ve managed to gather together all the data you need, on all the leads and accounts you need to target. You’ve filled in all the blanks and verified that it’s all accurate.
How do you process such a colossal mass of information into actionable intelligence, and then determine which platforms to execute your marketing on? How can you use that data to find the right people to market to, at the right time? What about all those potential customers you haven’t even discovered yet — how can you use that data to reach them?
What B2B Marketers Need: An Audience Management Platform
Any B2C marketers reading this blog are probably asking themselves why on earth their B2B counterparts are marketing like it’s the year 2000. (They’re also probably asking themselves why they’re reading a B2B marketing blog.)
For a long time now, B2C marketers have used audience management platforms (AMPs) to overcome precisely these problems.
But until now, no equivalent existed for B2B marketing — in part because of the misnomer that B2B marketing is somehow less of a personal endeavor.
Well, it is personal. Yes, B2B buyers are motivated by concrete, measurable business needs as opposed to fads or “wants” (although with all the hype out there, you’d be forgiven for forgetting.) But regardless, you can’t market anything to anyone unless you know who they are and what pain points they are looking to solve.
Fortunately, that’s all about to change, with the emergence of the B2B Audience Management Platform.
Picture credit: iStock