Demand generation is the lifeblood of a strong revenue engine. B2B marketers have developed a honed set of best practices to target, engage and convert relevant leads.

As data continues to transform B2B marketing from an art to a science, demand generation marketers are feeling the pressure to be more aware of their customers’ behavior than ever. Incorporating analytics into demand generation processes is essential to achieving this goal. Buyers’ activity on your site and their search patterns on 3rd-party publisher sites provide a wealth of data that can help improve your ability to capture demand and generate revenue.

Here are four questions you need to consider in this new age of data-driven demand generation.

Question #1: Can we identify prospects early in their buying process?

Today’s customers conduct research independently before getting in touch with vendors. The earlier you can enter the conversation and earn your role as a trusted advisor, the better.

Demand gen marketers can no longer wait until a prospect raises their hand and requests a product demo or engages with a requisite amount of content on your site. Doing so excludes your marketing and sales team from the formative part of a prospect’s research process – missing the opportunity to shape the scope and direction of their project.

Early, proactive customer engagement during the research and awareness stages drives higher conversion rates and larger deal sizes. The ability to anticipate when an account will enter a buying cycle will separate successful demand gen marketers from the rest.

Question #2: What is the prospect’s buying stage?

Companies used to impose their sales process on the buyer. Today, that approach no longer works. Buyers expect you to meet them when they’re ready, and via their preferred channels.

Marketing automation and CRM can be a great help when it comes to tracking the buyer’s journey and accommodating buyers’ communication preferences. Where both technologies are lacking is in maximizing the value of the data they capture. Existing tech stacks simply do not identify where a prospect sits in their buying journey until there has been direct contact between the prospect and your sales team. Using predictive modeling, modern marketers are empowering their sales development teams with buying stage information, allowing them to prioritize and customize their outreach.

Question #3: When will we open an opportunity with this account?

Time is a salesperson’s most valuable resource. Nothing is more demoralizing than spending a significant amount of time chasing a lead or an account that was never in market to begin with. Most companies have developed clear lines of communication between sales and marketing to create mutually agreed upon marketing qualification rules to avoid just such an outcome. While these are good first steps, they fall short in a increasingly data-driven world.

Predictive lead scoring is a step forward as it puts mathematic analysis behind the rules-based approach of demographic and behavioral qualification rubriks. However, these technologies have inherent drawbacks, because they rely only on data generated by your individual website and pre-existing records in your system.

Predictive intelligence taps data external to your website in order to identify—with a high degree of accuracy—where there is actual buying intent. The result is that demand gen teams pass much stronger leads to sales, while disqualifying those that are unlikely to become customers.

Question #4: Who are the real decision-makers on an account’s buying committee?

If salespeople can’t access a decision maker, they’re likely to lose a deal to someone who can. As the buyer’s journey becomes more circuitous, marketers must give sales teams the most clear and accurate portrait possible of contacts and decision makers in potential accounts.

Predictive intelligence can help you identify the key contacts, influencers and end-users for each account, based on historic opportunity data and each individual’s online activity.

B2B customers demand customized engagement with highly knowledgeable sales and marketing teams. In this new environment, your data and how you use it will determine the level of success that your marketing and sales organization can achieve.

Pivotal customer data won’t come just from your website, CRM and marketing automation. After all, your prospects are conducting research on multiple websites across the entire B2B web—not just yours. Increasingly, it will be important for you to have a tool that rolls up predictions based on the digital footprints that prospects are generating across the greater B2B web.

The bottom line is that great marketers never assume they know everything there is to know about their customers. Instead, they ask the right questions that help them target the best leads possible.

Interested in learning more about how demand generation leaders are using marketing automation and predictive intelligence? Join our webinar Making Account Based Marketing Work with Marketo’s VP of Demand Generation Heidi Bullock.