In any industry — and any size company — driving business decisions with data is critical to success. Traditionally, some organizations relied on guesswork and trial and error as they hammered out the kinks in their marketing, sales and other business-related strategies. However, with the prevalence of customer data and social media information available in today’s market, the era of blindly guessing what’s right for your customers is long gone.
Social media, in particular, has driven recent change in the B2B marketing landscape. Social data gives organizations a new depth of understanding about customers and their preferences; as a result, companies can adjust marketing tactics to reach customers on the terms they prefer. However, the sheer amount of available data can make analysis and future planning feel like a major undertaking. Below are three things B2B marketers should keep in mind as they focus on personalization, one-to-one experiences and a human outlook in a marketing context.
1. Not All Data Is Created Equal
Big Data is only overwhelming if you’re sifting through it without an ultimate goal. You can cull trends, insights, strengths or weaknesses from almost any data set, but will that information really help improve your company’s bottom line if you’re not sure how (or where) to apply it?
Marketing and sales professionals should aim for insights about the sales pipeline as they use data to answer target questions. After all, the facts and figures present in your data can shed light on your customers’ priorities, not to mention the factors that help win the bulk of your sales deals. Sample questions that apply data to the pipeline include:
- How are we categorizing customers in our pipeline, and can those categories be improved?
- Why did we lose our last 10 failed sales opportunities?
- How quickly do customers move through the sales funnel, on average?
- Which customer milestones should we reach toward in the next quarter?
- Who is responsible for each item in our sales funnel?
- Can we assign values to our incoming opportunities, as well as the deals we’ve won in the past?
2. You Need An Organized System To Uncover Insights
As you’re outlining new goals and leveraging a stable of applications to collect data and extract insights, it’s critical to keep one thing in mind: a central point of information is the key to avoid data falling through the cracks. Systems such as CRM platforms can help sales and marketing pros retain real-time visibility into their sales funnels, recognize where leads are coming from and outline the most valuable opportunities for investing time and budget.
CRM systems can also integrate with file sharing, email marketing, finance, collaboration and other tools, which helps organizations save time and the hassle of managing multiple accounts. When your entire team is working from the same playbook, your company’s operations are bound to become more efficient. On the other hand, not having a central point of visibility into the sales funnel can prove disastrous for B2B marketers — as evidenced by a CRM Search study, which found that 80% of marketing-generated leads are usually ignored by sales.
3. Integrate Social Insights With CRM Data and B2B Marketing Plans
One of the most valuable aspects of social media data is the deep level of personalization that it makes possible. Customers use social media to reach out about customer service issues, share impressions about companies and their technologies and grow relationships with brands. This information is a crucial part of data analysis, and when brands proactively respond and engage in a way that feels organic, informed and immediate, customer loyalty and satisfaction rates inevitably rise. On the other hand, brands with minimal social accounts, posts and followings can seem like they’re not listening to their customers’ voices.
Whether your company is just getting started on social media or looking to grow its presence, four best practices can help catapult your brand from simply having an account to using it as a top data source and key point of customer interaction:
- Fill out your profiles. It sounds simple, yet it’s unbelievably important. From using a high-res company logo to including details about your company’s services, history, mission statement and contact information, make sure every social page is a one-stop shop for customers interested in your brand.
- Understand the nuances of each social network. The same posts (and voice) probably won’t succeed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Spend time listening, observing and learning about conversations taking place in your field on every channel before you dive in.
- Respond, always. Social media is a direct line of communication between your customers and your brand identity. If you delay or censor answers when users post questions, you harm your company’s ability to foster an open, real-time dialogue.
- Be consistent and timely. Don’t churn out endless posts that serve as a commercial for your brand. Show your company’s personality — engage about trending topics and current industry news, while maintaining a consistent cadence of posts.
One additional practice for social media activity is really a mantra for every B2B marketing strategy: Be human. Just because your customers represent brands doesn’t mean you’re not dealing with human beings — and you should write, post, engage and analyze data with this critical fact in mind.
Loretta Jones, Vice President of Marketing at Insightly, a San Francisco-based SaaS CRM application for small businesses, has more than 15 years of experience in marketing, including marketing strategy, communications and lead generation. Loretta has grown marketing programs for both SMB and enterprise customers at Coveo, Adobe EchoSign and several other companies. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.