B2B Marketers Need to Move Beyond Demographics

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Gary Brooks, Cortera
Gary Brooks, Cortera

Today's marketplace is overflowing with business-to-business data. Yet, the saying “more isn't always better” is often applicable in the case of B2B marketers who remain challenged to find relevant, useful, actionable information on their current and prospective customers. With all the talk about Big Data and the abundance of search tools we have at our disposal, the expectation is that it's easier than ever to find the pertinent information necessary to better target prospects, develop highly relevant messages, improve marketing conversion rates and increase sales closure rates.

Although we have more data than ever, B2B sales and marketing professionals struggle to connect with their current and prospective customers, and continue to experience low, single digit lead-to-closure rates. Why? Traditional demographic data—including SIC codes, company locations, and sometimes annual sales revenue when it's available—may reveal what a company does (and even that is often inaccurate), but it doesn't tells us how a company is behaving. What is it buying? How much is it spending? What is it investing in? Who is it hiring? What about public records?

The truth is, B2C organizations have long understood the promise of Big Data, well ahead of the current hype. B2C organizations have figured out that an individual's behavior—what they buy, how they pay, where they shop, etc.—is a far more accurate predictor of what that person will purchase in the future. Armed with that data, B2C organizations have fostered a level of customer intimacy previously unimagined; think of Amazon's recommendation engine or any number of mobile apps that tailor offers to a consumer's specific preferences and needs. Because of this, they can tailor the messaging, the offer and the timing in a way that both the consumer and the organization can benefit from.

As with a consumer, a company's behavior speaks volumes about its priorities and direction. The promise of Big Data is that it can help usher the B2B world into a new paradigm, one based on business behavior data and insights—what companies buy, how they pay, how they invest, who they hire, public records, news, blogs, etc.—as the basis for identifying sales prospects or highly qualified leads. This behavioral data can help with finding the companies that not only look like, but act like current customers; the ones with a high propensity to buy your products and services.

What are we waiting for?

B2B marketing has experienced numerous innovations over the past two decades, which include email marketing, search engine and social marketing, retargeting, marketing automation, Google analytics, and more.

When it comes to outbound marketing, one important variable in the B2B marketing equation has remained virtually unchanged: sales and marketing's use of demographic data. It's time change comes to the data we use to identify qualified prospects, the ones that look and act like existing customers thus have a high propensity to buy what we're selling.

Using both demographic and business behavior data to identify lookalike sales prospects is the new paradigm—one that will usher in the marketing conversion rates and sales conversion rates that we been striving for.

Gary Brooks is CMO at Cortera. Follow him @Cortera.

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