customer data platforms for B2B

With the advent of customer data platforms (CDPs), marketers are finally able to realize their dream of “one version of the truth” — that is, one central location for all customer data and insights. The conversation around CDPs typically focuses on B2C marketing, but the concept of a single profile for each prospect and customer applies to B2B companies as well — as the newly published Forrester New WaveTM: B2B Customer Data Platforms report, which we wrote about recently — makes clear.

In this blog post, I want to explore a few CDP-related ideas for B2B marketers, answering questions like: What’s the purpose of a CDP for B2B companies? What data should live within your CDP? And what are you going to do with the data to drive your prospects and customers forward in their journeys?

Why CDP: One version of the truth

While many B2B companies view their CRM as their single version of the truth, there is a lot more customer data residing across the organization that cannot be captured in a CRM system. You have data on email engagement, website interaction (including behaviors, interests, preferences, browser type, location, demographics and predictive scoring), and in-app or logged-in interactions (including login frequency, behaviors, preferences, feature usage, likelihood to churn, etc.) that the CRM was not built to collect, ingest or interpret. All of this data, though, should be combined with sales, support and customer success data that the CRM does collect, along with data from other internal systems (e.g., marketing automation, call center, loyalty/advocacy system) and third-party sources (e.g., firmographic data providers, third-party intent). Until now, all of this data has been siloed, creating a disjointed view of any single individual and account.

Having worked so hard to listen to what your prospects and customers are saying and put that data in one place, the CDP allows you to understand the context across systems and decide how to respond in an automated fashion and in real-time.

Think about a shopkeeper of a small, local retail store who greets each shopper in a personalized way as they enter the store, asks relevant questions to engage the person in a conversation, and offers the products they like — as well as some that they might not have thought of — based on their interests. Online retailers seek to emulate that personalized in-store experience on their websites, and B2B companies need to think that way too. The CDP acts as the brain of the shopkeeper allowing you to recognize and remember each person so you can respond with relevant experiences.

Now let’s think about some of the data points you have about your prospects and, more specifically, how you can take that data and use it to make sure you are having a conversation with them.

Actionable user and account profile data

As a B2B company, you collect data at the user AND the account level — and you need to be able to interpret what that data says about each user and account.

Starting with the user level, any channel that a customer interacts with generates data about that interaction. You track data about what prospects look at when they are on your site, what emails they have clicked, what webinars or trade shows they attended, when the last time someone on the sales team met or emailed them, and whenever they log a support call.

You also probably have lead scoring information about what this data says about a person. You may be scoring opportunities based on three of these things happening or assigning a higher weighting to a person who has interacted with the sales team over someone who came by a booth to get your branded fidget spinner.

Now think about those touchpoints at an account level. Let’s say that one person at Company X visited your site and downloaded an analyst report. That would not be enough to generate a score that warrants sales follow up. But if someone else from Company X signed up for a webinar, that should boost the overall score. Then, if another person from Company X came to the site and viewed a case study, we have ourselves the makings of a buying group.

Better still, you have email addresses for the person who downloaded the analyst report and the person who attended the webinar, so you have a means of proactive communication.

All of this information needs to live in a central location in order to reach this conclusion. And by understanding this information, you are better suited to build a relationship with that individual or group of individuals.

Initiating prospect and customer conversations

Next, you need a plan so you are not just shouting at your customer or prospect, but rather talking in a way that makes them want to listen.

Consider the stages a prospect goes through and how to best communicate with someone in each stage across channels based on the information you have available. For example, when a visitor clicks “request a demo” on your site, your job as a marketer is not done just because sales has taken control. You now have information that the prospect is in the demo stage, and you also have more detailed information about products of interest, industry, and other preferences. All of this needs to be remembered so that the next time the prospect visits the website or is sent an email, the conversation continues to be relevant and feels like it is a natural part of the buying process.

It can be something as simple as not showing “request a demo” to someone who has already had a demo, or changing the content of an email at open time to reflect the next step they should take, through to opening up access to the support site or more detailed FAQ’s for prospects who are deeper in the sales funnel. And then when they become a customer, be sure to treat them like a customer!

There are many more examples of how you can use the trove of data you have to make the prospect and customer experience as seamless as possible, giving the same great service regardless of how they choose to interact with you. Extending that to talk to people from the same company and same buying group has the potential to put you at the front of the line and reduce the sales cycle.

Final Thoughts

B2B marketers have customer and prospect data scattered across their organizations. The CDP has the potential to unify that data to create one single picture of every individual and account. That data can in turn be used to deliver a completely personalized and relevant experience to those individuals and accounts across channels. Take the time to think about how to act upon the data at each point of the prospect journey and customer lifecycle. Then think about the technology partner you need.