With the advent of COVID-19, the B2B industry has undergone a massive shift in the way marketers are reaching their target audiences, allowing them to leverage data insights and buyer trends for effective strategy building. Reliance on data insights has gone from a method of driving engagement and performing outreach to a necessary adaptation for survival.
This year’s Buyer’s Insights & Intelligence Series hosted by Demand Gen Report provided many key insights into intent data gathering and segmentation, buyer reliance on the presence of the vendor and the prominence of ABM and explored how B2B marketers are using these data insights to adapt to the challenges of social distancing.
“This gives you a lot more data and insights that you can leverage to reach out at the right time, and tailor your message to speak directly to the topics and content they are already engaging with,” Poe explained, “They are not casually reading content that they might be interested in or might read someday. They are doing serious research and have reached an inflection point where they have a problem they are trying to solve and they are actively seeking a solution. This is an opportunity to swoop in and save the day by presenting the best solution possible.”
Using Spikes & Hidden Factors To Get A Complete View Of The Buyer
Intent data is more relevant for identifying buyers than ever before, especially with all marketing outreach happening from home. During her presentation, Kay Kienast, CMO at TrueInfluence, explained that company data, contacts, persona databases and cookie data are the most common methods of gathering intent data, but using it only to target accounts is a waste.
“Intent data is being used by sales as a means of ‘I want to talk to this person at that number and email address,’” said Kienast. “But intent is more intelligent than that. You want to go in-market where people are.”
Keyword searches, blog content and website content reading rates also highlight intent, and Kienast explains that TrueInfluence uses its Relevance Engine to proof leads and identify intent more accurately. Marketers should dig deeper into the intent of buyers and companies by following the spikes in research, finding the highest quality intent, accounts and leads in the channels and markets buyers are active in.
6sense’s session discussed the opportunity to move away from traditional marketing based on form fills, emails and cold calls to help marketers improve their ability to use intent. Latané Conant, CMO at 6sense, explained that as marketers send constant emails and phone calls, the buyer gets bombarded and decides to withhold information and remain anonymous, creating a dark funnel that prolongs the marketing process.
“We have no idea on what’s what,” Conant explained. “If you uncover your dark [funnel] — using AI, big data or an ABM platform — all of a sudden you know exactly how many accounts of your ICP are in each of the buying stages. You know how they are engaging and where they are in their journey by finding that sweet spot or in-market indicator.”
During LeadMD’s session, Go-To-Market Practice Lead Kristen Markson noted that buyers’ needs and insights need to be a priority for marketers, as the amount of research and content consumed by potential buyers can lead to spikes in intent data or new insights into buyers.
Markson also provided some suggestions for marketers looking to improve their data:
- Install a buyers’ intelligence committee that reviews current and recent insights and data;
- Focus on best buyers who are data-validated, displays positive signals;
- Holistic views help marketers understand all aspects of buyers, their needs, the market and segmentation.
“Becoming more knowledgeable about buyers isn’t something we can do just once,” said Markson. “It’s an ongoing process that must be a team effort that aligns people, processes and systems to deliver not only great experiences, but also the ongoing insights to improve them. Building an agile process for understanding buyers and asking questions directly is the best way to prepare for the next big change or crisis.”
Doubling Down On ABM For Greater Engagement
Research presented during Dun & Bradstreet’s session showed that 60% more marketers are implementing ABM strategies and plays in 2020 as opposed to 2019’s 37%. This revealed that digital interactions are now twice as important for engaging with prospects during social distancing.
Nipul Chokshi, VP of Marketing at Dun & Bradstreet, explained that data can make or break a business’ ABM plays, and that segmenting account data by how each account fits into a business’ ICP can help drive consumption. Along with intent data, account data can also be used to identify the profitability of an account, allowing marketers to more accurately decide which accounts should be targeted.
“When finding what a good account and contact looks like, it’s not just how closely they resemble your ideal customer profile or the type of interest they are exhibiting, but also how profitable they can actually be,” said Chokshi. “What a lot of our customers are doing is a combination of fit and intent plus risk to really surface and bubble up accounts that sales and marketing teams should be pursuing their business.”
Segmenting your account data is also another way for businesses to adapt to the changing market and buyers’ needs. During Triblio’s session, Chief Customer Officer Andrew Mahr explained that ABM requires multiple strategies that can handle different segments of account data to help marketers fix their account listings, improve their targeted messaging and account-based analytics.
“It’s not just about finding accounts in your hidden funnel,” Mahr explained. “It’s about understanding what needs are driving [buyers] forward right now. Are there new problems you can solve for them that give you a chance at booking a meeting with them and getting engagement? You need to make sure you’re delivering something that alleviates their pain right now and use data to drive that conversation.”
Along with having multiple ABM strategies, first and third-party intent data is essential for understanding how account data is segmented. Redpoint Global, a customer of Triblio, leveraged first and third-party intent data to personalize their ads to nurture potential buyers through targeted messaging.
Another session with TechTarget reiterated the importance of targeted messaging in a case study discussion with its client Cornerstone OnDemand. Brenna Lenoir, Director of Field Marketing at Cornerstone OnDemand, said a focus on interacting with accounts directly and targeting accounts on a stricter criterion of risk and intent allowed the company to drive more engagement and sales.
“MQLs are linear and follow a straight path, but ABM is a little bit different,” Lenoir stated. “With ABM, you’re starting with the accounts you want to target. You can do this based on intent. Your focus isn’t about volume, it’s about the opportunities, such as how many meetings you can get with target accounts, how many accounts are engaging with you and ultimately how your win rate has improved because of the investment.”
In MRP’s session, Pierre Custeau, SVP of Product at MRP, highlighted the importance of understanding all facets of your enterprise ABM strategy and capabilities, both for businesses looking to create new ABM plays and for those who are looking to experiment with ABM. He stressed that there will also be a higher likelihood of complications with enterprise ABM plays.
Custeau broke down his presentation into 5 pitfalls to avoid, including:
- Inadequate oversight from system administration;
- Failure to execute insights at speed of buyer engagement;
- Poor data management capabilities;
- Only leveraging one channel; and
- Failure to measure and learn from results.
“ABM within enterprise should be about achieving higher ROI,” said Custeau. “More money equals more results for your marketing dollars. It’s predicated on not just surrounding the account with the right messaging, it’s based upon implementing ABM strategies across the enterprise. It’s also about engaging the customer and gaining the insight to help businesses focus on the right companies.”
Understanding Buyers To Plan & Build A Better Strategy
According to Drift’s session, 80% of businesses believe that they are providing the best buying experiences for their customers. However, only 8% of buyers believe businesses are catering to their needs, with 74% of buyers switching brands or 51% stopping the purchasing process entirely.
“There’s this huge gap between perception and reality when it comes to the customer’s experience," said Molly Clarke, Head of Digital Marketing at Drift. “Some companies think they are doing a great job, but really they are not.”
Julie Hogan, VP of Customer Experience at Drift, emphasized the importance of knowing buyers and their needs. Obtaining new buyers is 5X to 25X more expensive than retaining old buyers, and retaining old buyers will help businesses increase their ROI. Hogan explained that using feedback from older buyers improves current marketing strategies while also helping marketing teams build more efficient strategies for newer buyers in the future.
“We’re closing that loop, feeding the insights from customers back into the top of the funnel and back into what we’re doing to attract our most successful customers,” Hogan explained.
The Demandbase session also spoke to the importance of understanding the buyer’s journey, as sales reps are making a more consolidated effort to know about buying teams, their goals, needs and challenges.
According to a new B2B Buyer Behavior Study, 65% of buying teams felt that the sales rep addressed their needs and concerns with content and targeted messaging. When sales teams understand who is on the buying team and what their goals are, businesses can impact their buyers, drive more engagement and foster more wins.
“We’re enabling our sales teams to understand [buyer] personas, how they are involved in the field and what their goals are,” said John Dering, Senior Director of ABM Technology & Strategy at Demandbase. “This is so salespeople have a resource that allows them to say, ‘If I’m talking to this type of persona in the buying group, I know what’s relevant to them and communicate with them in their own tongue.’”
Another session from PureB2B debunked a common marketing misunderstanding – the sales-ready lead. According to PureB2B’s CRO Chris Rack, 83% of the buyer’s journey is already finished before buyers are sales-ready, and that focusing on the sales-ready lead can result in an 80% loss of potential revenue.
Rack said marketers should implement a “get-in-early” strategy, using content and human interaction to help buyers in the researching stages of their journey. “No one wakes up one day and says, ‘I need to buy a CRM,’” he said. “They do, however, wake up and think, ‘I need to organize my prospects better.’ By getting in early, and educating your client or prospect with content, you are helping build that narrative that you can solve their problem. Being able to get in, nurture, influence and reach the sub-buyers outside of the main decision-maker is vital to generating long-term ROI.”
A session from SurveyMonkey highlighted the importance of using feedback to improve your understanding of buyers and the market.
“Feedback is more important than ever,” said Jack Foster, Senior Director of Generation & Marketing at SurveyMonkey. “You need to be listening to your customers and telling your story through them. Collecting high-quality feedback is important.”
Folloze’s session explored the account-based experience, and how ABM is ultimately more customer-centric than marketers realize.
Gary Gerber, Head of Product Marketing at Folloze, emphasized that every interaction with an account involves personalized campaigns, channels and buyer’s journeys that align with a business’ goals. He defined this as the Customer Journey Personalization Strategy, saying marketers need to personalize these experiences in order to build trust in a cost-efficient manner.
“As a customer goes through their journey with you or are experiencing you through different channels, ads, social media, etc., you need to be able to personalize consistently over time and across different channels,” Gerber stated. “What kind of experience are you giving them? How do you deliver these experiences? How do these experiences build trust?”
Gerber also passed along these tips for building a strategy for marketing and ABM strategies:
- Have a clear goal that you can use to measure your success;
- Put the people first;
- Design content for every account; and
- Leverage all data sources to fact check and enhance.
Managing Data & Leads Is Crucial For Success
LeanData’s session highlighted how poor data management can result in a lack of funnel visibility, bad data and account segmentation, misaligned marketing and sales and an overall poor buyer experience.
“If someone reaches out to you and four people from your company say, ‘I got it,’ why are they saying that?” asked Charm Bianchini, VP of Growth Marketing at LeanData. “It’s because there is bad data. They all think that they own that customer account and they are all going to follow up on that customer. And the poor customer is probably going to be bombarded and think, ‘What is going on here? If they have a poor buying experience, they may reconsider buying from you.”
Bianchini believes that businesses need to clean up and understand their data first and foremost. She suggested forming a data committee comprised of both marketing and sales that proofs data, validates leads and forms clear goals for the entire business to follow. The alignment of marketing and sales and the data committee can strengthen the business’ data and prevent their databases from being siloed.
“Once you have multiple eyes staring at the process, you are able to quickly point out what is not working and correct it,” Bianchini stated. “You can then use that to improve the quality of data and benchmark it over time. You need to adapt to change.”
A presentation by Conversica delved into the idea of an augmented workforce as a means to efficiently manage data, using intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) to assist SDRs in lead outreach and follow-ups.
“You’re joining up the SDR teams, sales reps and marketers that you currently have, and they are getting a helping hand,” said Amanda DePaul, Senior Director of Demand Generation at Conversica. “What the IVA is doing is automating your routine tasks to free your people up to do what they do best. Essentially, you’re creating an SDR for your SDRs.”
Encouraging Buyer Interdependence Closes Distance
As social distancing policies continue, buyers are becoming more independent in their research but do not want to be isolated from vendors.
ON24’s session reinforces this, with Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy at ON24, emphasizing the importance of presence during the researching process. Buyers are already engaging with content while researching a potential purchase, and marketers need to be mindful of how and where they deliver that content.
Keith explained that the current digital-only environment is not an excuse for marketers to forgo human interaction. Citing SiriusDecisions’ research, she highlighted that human and non-human interaction are two different experiences for buyers. The preference varies among buyer personas, but marketers need to demonstrate a mix of digital and physical interactions in order to meet buyers wherever they are.
“People still crave human interactions,” Keith insisted. “This notion that a buyer would go through an entire process without actually engaging in a human way with your company has been debunked at this point. Just because in-person events are on hold, for now, doesn’t mean buyers don’t want human interaction in this new world of working out of our home offices.”
Content4Demand’s session encouraged businesses to provide more content that enables buyers, giving them independence while relying on the businesses they are buying from.
According to Brenda Caine, Senior Content Strategist at Conten4Demand, buyer enablement content allows businesses to provide guidance and information for the buyer to interact with. This content is persona-focused, solution-focused and community-driven to help buyers understand their needs and reach a purchasing decision with a business’ presence still being felt.
“In buyer enablement, you are typically in the middle or late stages of marketing, so you want to give buyers information that will help them make a decision,” Caine explained. “You can determine the best format based on your objectives, your audience, your messaging and even the decision.”
Another session from Grubhub explained how offering virtual events can encourage freedom of choice, allowing businesses to engage their target audiences based on their preferences.
Heather Grobaski, Senior Enterprise Sales Director at Grubhub, explained that seven out of 10 events are now virtual, which allows buyers to choose whether or not to attend a digital event based on the time, location and cost. To encourage freedom of choice, Grobaski suggests providing incentives, such as meal coupons, that can be redeemed at any time or place, driving more engagement toward the digital event.
Despite being isolated at home, marketers are leveraging the power of data insights to optimize their marketing strategies in our “new normal.” Whether it be through understanding their ABM strategies, maintaining their relationships with existing customers or encouraging and helping buyers reach a purchasing decision, businesses are willing to adapt in order to thrive to the current pandemic and to future challenges.
For the full Buyers Insights and Intelligence Series experience, check out all the sessions on-demand here.