Data is a marketer’s new best friend. Data tells a story. Yet the picture for B2B marketing isn’t black and white. We can see some trends straight up, but other marketing insights must be inferred or are only ad hoc, opinion-based beliefs.

What are B2B marketers looking to measure? Here’s the core list of goals we need to measure courtesy of the Regalix Research Report on the State of B2B Marketing 2016:

Regalix 2016 B2B Objectives

Even when we have good insights, knowing what to do about them is new territory. So, it’s time to invent new ways to help our teams know what to do with the data we give them.

Since startups are look for ideas from customers and prospects, I decided to offer some free advice in the hopes that we get better tools soon.

Here are 4 areas of B2B marketing analytics that are ripe for invention:

1. Measure marketing as a team sport.

Tracking traffic, pipeline, and revenue are a norm. It’s time that we also get smarter at how we assess marketing enablement of and collaboration with sales, corporate marketing, field marketing, and other stakeholders.

Start up pioneers have the opportunity to invent a smarter way to correlate the impact of marketing resources to sales productivity, market penetration, and brand awareness. We need better tools to measure how marketing investments directly and indirectly help other teams hit their goals.

2. Gauge true content impact.

As marketers, we’re in our infancy in understanding the impact of content. Most efforts at content measurement are anecdotal or ad hoc. Alone, an asset is an island unto itself. It doesn’t advance a dynamic dialogue with a prospect.

Want proof? The Content Marketing Institute reports that 57% of B2B Content Marketers cited measuring content effectiveness as a problem.

CMI-B2BContentMktg-Challenges

Over the coming years, we need to get better at measuring what content themes drive engagement, leads and pipeline. We need to track the flow of digital content conversations, and where these conversations trail off.

I’m not talking about tracking views of your assets or e-books simply to score leads. That’s only half of the story. Actually, it’s just the beginning of the story.

What’s important is the thread of the prospect’s or customer’s interest. That requires us to match digital content engagement plus social selling interactions plus conversation topics with our sales teams. In truly advanced B2B marketing companies, conversations with service teams would add transformative insights to the post-sale experience.

Hard to do? Today…yes. In the future, this is how we get smarter.

3. Forecast program impact to pipeline.

What programs drive more leads and pipeline? Do webinars get new leads or engage the base? By what average number and percent? If we can benchmark how programs perform, we can start to forecast contribution to net new and install base pipeline targets.

Sales organizations can do this well using advanced Sales Force Automation tools. It’s time for B2B marketers to get attention to the similar needs we have. It’ll make lead quality and lead flow more reliable and business demand more predictable.

4. Make it safe to embrace data.

B2B marketers manually drive a lot of integrated marketing today. But how do we know it’s working? How do we collectively add value to the demand creation process?

Today, marketing automation tools help with prospect databases, lead tracking, and pipeline flow. That’s very helpful. However, little else in marketing seems to be measurable. And that’s a major opportunity for hungry startups.

And, even if we had the right tools to see the impact of integrated marketing work, we’d need marketing ROI bootcamps. We need to train marketers in how to effectively read and use demand gen, product marketing, event, and other data to plan better programs.

We can’t truly embrace data without helping marketers grow along with the data revolution.