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Ignore the hype: big data simply isn’t relevant in B2B

What has been the impact of big data in B2B? This was the question, near enough, that I was asked recently at two events where I was part of a panel discussion (organised by Adobe and the IDM respectively).

The answer, in both instances, was the same: to the best of my knowledge, precisely zero. In other words, I don’t know of any B2B organisations that are able to use big data to improve their marketing. I’m sure some are trying, but I don’t know of any success stories.

This situation, apparently at least, is not the same in B2C, where there are a number of brands with sufficient resources and competencies are making a serious commitment to big data.

So why has it so comprehensively failed in B2B? B2B marketers are still struggling with basic marketing data (things like accuracy and currency of phone numbers, email and postal addresses) let alone even contemplating the minefield of challenges and obstacles inherent in big data. The unfortunate truth is that the age-old challenges of B2B data decay still apply – companies move office frequently and employees switch jobs, meaning that up to 30 per cent of your database decays on an annual basis.

True, social media has provided new ways of refreshing and enhancing data, but even LinkedIn leaves much to be desired in terms of accuracy – anecdotally at least 10 per cent of profiles are inaccurate or out of date.

The most pressing data challenge for B2B brands right now is leveraging the more limited but potentially important data relating to their prospects’ engagement with content relating to their products and services (in other words, their digital body language) the aim being to score leads.

A small minority are getting this right, but the vast majority still have an awful lot of work to do before they can claim to have property exploited this highly potent data resource. As long as this remains the case (which it most likely will for some time) big data will remain at best an aspiration, and at worst a fantasy in B2B marketing.