This might be hard to believe, but the concept of “Big Data” first became a trend du jour in B2B marketing about a decade ago. And if you’ve been in the industry for that long, you surely remember the headlines. Back then, the promise of Big Data was akin to that of the discovery of oil—a veritable gold rush of untold riches (and extreme competitive advantages) to the companies that tamed it first.
Those predictions weren’t exactly wrong.
In fact, a 2011 report by McKinsey went so far as to suggest Big Data was the next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. And, in 2012, the MIT Technology Review published an article detailing how President Obama’s campaign team used Big Data to rally individual voters in his re-election bid. And those are just two examples.
Now, here’s the problem: Looking at Big Data through only the lens of its successful outcomes often glosses over the challenges created by this flood of information.
Data quality, structure, and context are limiting adoption
Unsurprisingly, data remains at the heart of most B2B companies’ go-to-market strategies. The sixth annual B2B Marketing Data Report from Dun & Bradstreet reported that B2B marketers view data, almost unanimously, as a catalyst for driving effective sales and marketing strategies.
As Josh Mueller, SVP of global marketing at Dun & Bradstreet, explained to CMO.com, “Data is foundational to B2B marketing. Without the right data, all other investments are suboptimized. To enable world-class customer experiences and improve company performance, implementing the tools necessary for the most accurate and reliable data isn’t a luxury—it is a requirement.”
What is surprising: Dun & Bradstreet’s report found that data is, in many ways, negatively affecting many organizations’ ability to execute on that experience.
Notably, 50% of the sales and marketing leaders Dun & Bradstreet surveyed expressed a lack of confidence in the quality of their data. And that lack of confidence is leading to slower adoption of marketing tactics that are highly dependent on data—such as account-based marketing, which only 33% of firms have embraced. Furthermore, just 53% of respondents have adopted data-driven success factors, such as establishing systems for insight and expanding their ability to reliably source quality external data.
Why is that such a problem?
It’s simple: When organizations don’t have the right rigorous processes in place to ensure ongoing data quality, the flood of Big Data can quickly drown an organization’s efforts—hindering the ability to deploy key sales and marketing initiatives.
Instead of creating opportunity, too much data creates chaos.
Overcome the data deluge to execute smarter campaigns
The first rule of Big Data isn’t not to talk about Big Data. In fact, the first rule of Big Data is to acknowledge two things:
- Data is always in flux.
- If you lack visibility into those fluctuations, you’re in trouble.
The reality is that the only consistency in relation to data is change. And if you don’t keep pace with that change, it will render the data you do have irrelevant. In fact, Dun & Bradstreet’s report found that in just one hour, 429 business phone numbers will be changed or disconnected, 743 business will open their doors, and 13 companies will change their names—and that’s just in the US.
The challenge is to reconcile that change, rationalize it, and keep current the massive datasets every B2B marketer must rely on to make smarter decisions about the campaigns they run.
So, how can sales and marketing leaders begin to embrace that challenge?
Start by ensuring your systems and processes are capable of creating four unique views:
- A single view that brings together all your data so you can see each customer and access data from every perspective
- A complete view that taps into global sources, beyond your own transactional data sets, so you gain a fuller, more comprehensive picture of your customers and prospects
- An actionable view that 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 your system should keep that view continually updated so you can react quickly to relevant changes.)
- A flexible view that organizes and structures data so every business unit across your enterprise works from the same set of insights and then customizes processes according to roles
B2B marketers need the right mix of all those factors to deliver the identity and intelligence that leads to good decisions.
What’s more, B2B firms will need to eliminate data silos and share information across departments to ensure they are working with the most accurate data. According to a recent Forrester report commissioned by Dun & Bradstreet, 72% of firms said managing multiple CRM systems across geographies and/or technology silos is moderately to extremely challenging. That siloed nature of enterprisewide data management fouls up operations and decision-making—so much so, that data is not always the guiding factor in key business decisions. In fact, only half of B2B marketing and sales decisions are made using data.
Risk and reward: Create a real data competitive advantage
In a world where change is constant, keeping massive amounts of existing data current while continuing to use channels that pull new data into your systems can seem overwhelming. But that’s precisely why doing it—and doing it well—can be such a huge competitive advantage. Most companies will stop at “overwhelming.”
Ultimately, turning data into trustworthy insight that drives actions to improve business performance is what sets you apart. Your campaigns become more targeted and contextually relevant. Optimization becomes simpler (because you have data you can trust). Conversion skyrockets. And revenue often follows.
You don’t have to be a data scientist to recognize that as a win-win for just about everyone involved.