The customer is always right, but is your business’ data wrong?

“The customer is the number one stakeholder of the business.” This is a common phrase used by businesses, internally and externally, to show they truly value their target audience. Yet, how often is it that an organisation actually puts this into place and makes the customer the most important pillar of the business?

In today’s digital world, the customer experience is becoming paramount to gaining and retaining customers. To truly deliver the most customised and connected customer experience, marketers have to start with data. It’s not enough anymore to simply track behaviours online and build experiences based on those. Today’s modern marketers know that you must marry online interactions, like web visits and form fills, to offline engagements, like trade show visits or sales interactions, to build a complete 360-degree view of the customer. Integrating both online and offline data together to link up the customer’s journey is the only way to provide an unbeatable customer experience.

This article will look at the importance of implementing a data-led approach to the customer experience in a world that is increasingly moving online, and analyse how B2B marketers must transform their offering to meet the needs of the modern day customer.

Turning data into customer insights

Data is proliferating at an immeasurable pace, and harnessing it can seem like an almost impossible task. Not a second goes by without a new Google search, YouTube video or tweet being posted online. This offers a huge opportunity for the sales and marketing team to connect with audiences in smarter, more targeted and direct ways. However, without some sort of engine to make sense of all the data, most marketing organisations would be paralysed by the sheer volume. It is imperative that marketing organisations invest in their foundational (or ‘master’) data as a first step. This means making sure the data in the company’s database is accurate, up-to-date, and structured in a way that the information can be read across departments in the organisation. This allows a connected approach to the customer from all areas of the business, whether it is sales, marketing, finance, or customer service.

Once you have that connected view, it makes it possible to deliver the personalised experience customers expect. In some cases you can leverage that data to create a tailored experience online. In other instances you can look to create an entirely personal physical experience, at a trade show for example.

Marketing in a multi-channel world and accelerating the customer journey

According to McKinsey, “the average B2B customer now uses six different channels over the course of their decision-making journey.” The same article also discusses how B2B companies often struggle to keep up with the influx of information. What’s clear is that marketers will ultimately fall at the first hurdle if they cannot align information from all campaigns and touch points in the customer journey.

The rise of vast datasets has completely changed the path of potential prospect to customer. Today’s omnichannel marketers have to expertly interconnect the right mix of channels and data to identify, target and engage with their customers – where and when they expect it.

All of this hinges on the ability to track the customer’s identity across multiple channels, which can be difficult if you don’t have a single identifier by which to track that person. 

For example, a buyer at a company could start their journey as an anonymous visitor on your website, captured by your web analytics tool. They could then become known to you via a site visitor identification service or completed web form when they download your whitepaper. At the same time, an associate from the same company could visit your booth at an industry event and end up in your CRM system. 

As this first-party data is collected across your sales and marketing systems, it’s imperative to stitch them together. Build the accounts, link the contacts, and then enrich your business records with third-party company and contact data built for B2B marketing. Then, you need to deliver the optimal experience based on this data. This allows you to then interact with the customer in the most targeted, personalised way and move them through the funnel more quickly. 

Data is the lifeblood to the customer’s heart

What’s evident is that B2B sales and marketing professionals must embrace a data-led approach that places the customer at the very centre of the business. Modernising your business as the customer continues to shift online couldn’t be more important in a world that is being transformed by new technology such as IoT and artificial intelligence. As the customer becomes more inundated with digital noise, it will be incumbent on businesses to show how they can create unbeatable experiences with the huge amounts of data available.

A blend of traditional and new forms of data can be the difference in connecting with the customer at the right time, and through the right channel with the most accurate pitch. The customer is the most important stakeholder but will refuse to pick up the phone or open an email if they are approached with the wrong information at the wrong time.

If you understand your data, you’ll understand your customer.