Rolls of DataFor all of the discussion of data in marketing, and Big Data in 2014, most B2B marketers are showing they are inept when it comes to actually using data to improve the majority of their marketing.

Yes, B2B marketers are doing a few things well when it comes to using data:

  • B2B marketers are increasingly adopting marketing automation and using past behavior to deliver more relevant content.
  • Ads are (occasionally) targeted and relevant to discrete audiences, using retargeting or through data providers like Bizo.
  • B2B marketing performance is being carefully tracked and optimized based on reported results.

Sound ok? Before you give yourself a pat on the back, this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg!

  • What about all of the first time visitors to your website? They all get the exact same initial treatment, don’t they? Now take a quick look at your web stats. Chances are new visitors are significantly more than half of your total visits. Why aren’t you striving to create a more relevant experience on the first visit?
  • Your site and content represent a tiny fraction of the time your prospects spend online. They visit industry sites, competitive sites and even still talk to peers and read offline! Data from just your site or email is woefully incomplete.
  • Your online ads are the banner equivalent of batch-and-blast email. Everyone sees the same set of ads across your entire program. One or multiple ads are queued and cycle everywhere, with HR leaders, business execs and IT staff getting the exact same message.

It doesn’t have to be like this!

Better Ways To Use Data

These are listed in the order of adoption that makes sense for the majority of B2B marketers I’ve worked with over the last few years.

1. Create a natural and relevant experience for new website visitors
Looking at your homepage, it is relevant when it speaks to the visitors specific needs. Use third-party data about visitors here to deliver information that is more likely to be relevant to each visitor.

However, for your homepage to be natural it must be a potential homepage for every single visitor. If you work for a hospital and visit, it would be very unnatural if the entire homepage was about hospital and healthcare provider research and solutions. You would immediately know that this isn’t the same page other people see.

The better solution is to incorporate relevant news, content or even images into the overall mix of page content based on what you know about each visitor. This approach increases relevance, maintains a natural experience and doesn’t presume perfect data or understanding of the visitor’s intent.

Today, too many companies ignore the opportunity to use data to create a more relevant first visit to their site. Even worse, those that do use data often use it to personalize instead of delivering relevance. The result is both an unnatural and often unhelpful first experience.

Potential providers: Demandbase, InsightERA

2. Fill the holes in your data!
Batch and blast has become short hand for unsegmented email marketing but too many carefully segmented email campaigns deliver that same old batch and blast experience to recipients. Why? Because the data used for segmentation is old and incomplete.

It doesn’t matter if someone said they were interested in server virtualization two years ago on a form or if you inferred their interest based on the content they read, that data is OLD! You need to clean up your data and append information that enables relevant segmentation.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of confidence even if you have relatively current information collected on your website. Outside of your one small site, the entire Internet is your blind spot.

Potential providers: Dun & Bradstreet, Reachforce, Madison Logic

3. Make your online advertising relevant
Today, many B2B online advertising buys use a mix of audience targeting through data (retargeting or using data sources like Bizo) and targeting through site selection (running on Forbes to reach business audiences).

Each site or placement is generally assigned one or multiple ads, allowing some tailoring of creative. But if you have a sizable online advertising budget and are running sites like Forbes with a relatively broad audience, you can do so much more. For example:

  • You can serve specific creative to people who have previously been to your site (or certain sections of your site) within your primary media plan. This means someone on Forbes, reached through your direct buy with Forbes, could still get the more appropriate for them creative used in your retargeting program. Simple in concept, but rarely actually done in B2B marketing.
  • For larger marketers like SAP, with specific solutions for verticals and various company sizes, you can use this information to dynamically deliver a more appropriate ad to every individual, not the more general creative you might otherwise run on a broader publisher like Forbes. And set this up once and you will get this benefit across every single publisher you work with.
  • You can optimize your creative based on what performs well for each individual audience segment on a site, not to the creative that performs only moderately well for most audiences.

Potential providers: Turn, MediaMath, The Trade Desk

Your Turn

What other ways to use data are B2B marketers missing today? Share your answer in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: dret via Flickr cc