You are here

How Predictive Analytics and Big Data Will Shape Buyer Interactions

Yesterday, I got an email from Marketo asking me if I’d like to join one of their weekly demos to get more information about their financial product, Marketo Financial Management.  The email came from one of their sales reps with a short and personalized message. It wasn’t an over-the-top sales pitch, just an offer to learn more about how Marketo Financial Management could help my company.

At first, I thought it was a bit of an odd email for them to send me since I’ve never sent a request for information (RFI) and I’ve given no other indication that I was in the market for a financial management application. Then I remembered that I was working on an article about Marketo and had been visiting that specific landing page fairly regularly to make sure that I fully understood the capabilities of that application.

Marketo had been tracking my IP address, noticing that I was interacting with their website in a way that a potential buyer might be if they were conducting product research and preparing to make a purchase. And, since I’ve left my personal information in exchange for a whitepaper download on multiple occasions, they were able to send me a personalized email. This kind of event trigger and automated outreach is becoming fairly common in marketing software as a way to keep your product top of mind and bring new leads into the pipeline.

While I’m ultimately not interested in that product right now (though my company might be at a later date) it occurred to me that this is a great example of where marketing is headed. And, in future, this type of proactive, timely outreach will only get better as technologies like predictive analytics and Big Data mature. In this post, I want to talk about how the convergence sales and marketing software, predictive analytics and bBig Data will shape buyer interactions in the future.

Connecting at the Right Time

As it turns out, Marketo’s outreach email didn’t hit my Inbox at the right time even though I was exhibiting signs of purchase intent. But it did a great job of getting their product top of mind. As software gets better at aggregating other types of buying signals, via predictive analytics, the ability to connect at the right time will only get more refined, making marketers and salespeople that much more effective.

Consider this. Research from CSO insights suggests that most salespeople only spend about 40 percent of their time selling. The rest of that time is divided between hunting down new leads and opportunities, carrying out administrative tasks (e.g., drafting up contracts) and combing through various systems for prospect data that will make their outreach more contextual.

Predictive analytics can significantly improve that last part--searching for prospect information to make a timely connection. At the moment, Marketo is using (at least from what I can tell) a fairly straightforward buying signal--repeat visits to a particular landing page. It’s a good indicator but not always a very good predictor that someone is in the market. Predictive analytics refine that outreach by doing things like scouring the Internet for news about my company and crunching the information to understand when I might need the application.

For instance, if there was news about how my company had recently taken a round of venture capital funding or we’d bought a new office, the software might understand that my company is in a period of growth and that this might be a time when I’m in the market for a new application. Then, once I visited the Marketo landing page, sales outreach could be that much more refined. The email could be an invitation to discuss the how the product can help me in this time of company growth. We’re already moving in that direction and when we get there, conversational marketing will be even better.

Knowing What to Offer, and When to Offer It

It also occured to me that there’s also an opportunity for Big Data to better inform what marketers and salespeople offer existing customers. As it turns out, we already use Marketo for lead management but the email didn’t mention anything about us being an existing customer. It seems like, in cases like this, there’s an opportunity to cross-sell or upsell.

Cross-selling and upselling can be a great way to generate topline growth. However, it’s often very difficult to know what to sell or who to sell it to. As AJ Gahndi, vice president of customer solutions at Lattice Engines, put it in a recent conversation, “Many companies have 30 to 50 products that they can sell any customer on. If you consider that the average salesperson carries 20 to 100 accounts, you suddenly have 600 to 1,000 different choices a salesperson can make on who to call and what to sell them on.”

That’s a lot of choices to make, and a lot of room for human error. That’s where I think Big Data can help out. A lot of companies are already crunching internal data such as a customer’s account balance, their transaction history and certain life events to try to predict what product any particular customer might need next. But it can go one step further to crunch more sources of customer data.

For instance, software might start to monitor a customer’s questions on Quora or Twitter and then feed that data to sales reps where they could use that information in a sales call. While most sales calls are still based off a script, big data technology dynamically adjust that script to tell salespeople they should talk about how their product or service can answer questions that I’d just been asking elsewhere on the Internet. Having that kind of a personalized tailored pitch would be a powerful weapon in a salesperson’s arsenal.

As these technologies become more efficient and effective, marketers are salespeople will be able to make more meaningful connections than before. While I still think that Marketo had a great and timely email to me, it can get better. And we’re living in an exciting time where we can watch all of it unfold.