Having spent the majority of my career in the B2C space, the last couple of years have been particularly exciting for me as I watched the B2B world take more and more cues from B2C marketers. This has been especially true with regard to how B2B marketers have begun to shift their approach to data. B2B marketers are approaching prospective customers in the same ways that B2C marketers approach individual consumers – by leveraging intent data to accurately target and engage with decision-makers and their influencers.

In 2015, for B2B marketers, lead generation will no longer mean casting a broad net and hoping to snare a handful of in-market customers. It means leveraging technology to find more qualified leads and utilizing every opportunity to engage these leads throughout the funnel to increase your chances of conversion and brand affinity. Lead generation technology no longer looks like disparate data streams. It now looks like a platform that gathers, parses, analyzes, and acts upon data in real time to deliver relevant, compelling messages to highly qualified leads.

Consumers expect to be engaged in a way that speaks to their individual needs at that moment. And though we are often compelled to separate the industries, today’s B2B customers are very similar to individual consumers. No longer can we simply treat B2B prospects as leads to be gathered and then passed off; we must be with them at each step of their journey to ensure that we are learning and acting upon their needs in real time. It is this full funnel approach driven by intent data that helps B2B marketers turn leads into long term business relationships.

Intent data has already begun to establish itself as the gold standard for both B2B and B2C marketers. B2C marketers utilize intent data to accurately target large audiences to drive sales, while B2B marketers leverage intent to both acquire new customers and nurture relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. B2C marketers analyze millions of interactions to derive intent data that enables them to optimize engagement at each stage of the funnel. B2B marketers are adopting the same platforms and practices in order to engage corporate prospects on a larger scale, and to cultivate long-term loyalty as the customer lifecycle progresses.

For B2B marketers, 2015 will be all about leaving behind legacy platforms for the real-time intent data-driven platforms and full-funnel approach of modern B2C marketers. For instance, traditional lead generation methods result in a mere 20 percent of leads being actually qualified. That kind of waste simply won’t stand in the year to come.

B2B marketers must move toward solutions that identify and act upon intent throughout the customer journey. These solutions must be able to identify key decision makers, as well as their influencers, and then engage with them in real-time, at the right time, based on intent indicators like budget, authority, need, and time in-market (BANT.) They must be able to not only communicate with target prospects but also actively move them all through the sales funnel with compelling content and advertising.

Though I’m a former B2C guy, I don’t mean to imply that the B2C space has perfected the art of digital marketing. Rather, technology has, over the years, blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives, such that we now have the ability to determine intent from interactions across both of those personae and every device involved. So why do we insist upon a separation between B2B and B2C? The fact is recent years have brought about a new kind of B2B customer who expects to be engaged as a person, not as a corporate purse holder. 2015 is the year when B2B marketers are going to embrace the new B2B prospect, to acknowledge their targets as both professionals and people who need to be engaged throughout the funnel but who are more likely to repay your timely, relevant messaging with lifelong loyalty and brand ambassadorship.