The cosmology of data

Judith Niederschelp, MD of Aberdeen Group Europe, discusses why asking the right questions can help deliver more from your data universe

Marketing data points are like stars in the sky. With scientific analysis they can reveal clear-cut ideas about the nature of things. Yet to the untrained eye, they can simply be an overwhelming, albeit beautiful, abundance.

Nevertheless, just as early sailors used the stars for navigation, marketers without a naturally analytical mind-set can harness data for targeted marketing. You just need to discern the data points that can drive smarter decisions from those which are shiny, twinkling distractions.

Buyer data is important…but what about data on what buyers can actually do?

It’s widely acknowledged that B2B marketers are ultimately targeting people, not businesses. So naturally, data-driven persona development is critical to ensure activity is relevant and engaging.

If your communications cleverly address buyers’ pain points, you may receive responses along the lines of ‘I love this…’ or ‘this really hit home for me…’.

However, if your targeting is incomplete those messages may go on to say something like ‘I love this, but my hands are tied…’ or ‘this really hit home for me, but my organisation just isn’t ready for it…’.

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because when applying data you are distracted by the shiny end-point: the buyers. Yes, engaging buyers is important. But for marketing to deliver tangible commercial impact, you also need to understand the environment in which they’re working.

Better business data

Best-in-class marketers are outpacing their peers by overlaying buyer-based interest and activity data with business-based firmographic and capability data. While buyer data helps inform content creation, business data enables better spotlighting of organisations that are likely to be a good fit for your product or service. You might be communicating with the buyer, but the resources, capabilities and culture of their organisation are inextricably linked with the decision making process.

Keeping it simple

Don’t think of data in terms of complicated algorithms, equations or systems. Look at it as answers to questions. Before you dive in to determine the right people to target, think about what enables them to buy. Targeting your marketing in this way enables you to precisely tailor activity to people and businesses that are sales-ready. It also reduces the risk of alienating others by offering things they cannot have.

Approach your data with questions like these to discern which businesses have a higher propensity to embrace your offering:

  • What existing tools or technologies do buyers need to support our product or service?
  • Are there specific time periods in which they can or can’t buy?
  • What factors correlate to spend capability? (Tip – it won’t necessarily be annual turnover or company size)
  • Are there commonalities among our most successful accounts that make our offering especially valuable to them?

If you can’t answer these questions using your in-house data or analytical skills, put them to any third party data analysts or providers you’re working with. You will soon see if they are able to provide the required level of insight to maximise your marketing.

Discerning drivers from distractions

When it’s deployed effectively, business-based data can filter out organisations that cannot buy from you. This allows you to focus more intently on buyers in businesses that are sales-ready. You can build a clearer picture of who they are, how they behave and the challenges they face. And you can invest more confidently in activity that will resonate with them, knowing that they have a higher propensity to convert.

Like looking to the stars, there’s a lot to take in when using data for targeted marketing. But if you stake out reference points using business-focused questions and criteria, you can navigate your way to success.