Not All Data Is Created Equally

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Today's B2B marketing teams are awash in customer information. This flood of data can produce optimal marketing results and significant ROI opportunities, but not before it tasks marketers with putting it all into context. The right customer data leads to the right customer insight—ultimately providing accurate business foresight—but first, marketers have to catch, integrate, augment, and analyze all that information. That means knowing what kind of data is needed, what data is being received and reported, and how to capitalize on the information.

Direct Marketing News invited seven senior B2B marketers to a conversation about data capture, management, and optimization strategies for customer acquisition and retention. Integrated marketing solutions company Reach Marketing cohosted the discussion, which ranged from how to gather the right data from the best sources, to how to enrich that data; and from how to improve data management, to how to approach social media information.

 
 Front row (left to right): Danielle Brooks, director, business development, McVicker & Higginbotham; Joel Anker, senior director digital marketing, INTTRA; Peg Kuman, vice chairman, Relevate; Second row (left to right): Gil Levy, managing director, Ecommerce Partners; Greg Grdodian, partner, Reach Marketing; Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief, Direct Marketing News; Adam Reinebach, EVP, marketing services, SourceMedia; Peter Westerman, chief audience officer, Summit Business Media

Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon, Direct Marketing News: Welcome, everyone. Let's start by discussing your role with data within your organization and by describing some of your current data efforts and challenges.

Adam Reinebach (SourceMedia): Our B2B publishing company has 28 key brands, and I run marketing solutions, which is a pseudonym for custom marketing, so content preference is a huge area of focus for us. I also run what we call ancillary revenues—list rentals, content licensing, and Web seminars. I'm split between the client-facing stuff and our internal efforts, [such as] our internal circulation. Our goal is to reduce our reliance on email marketing—that's the Holy Grail for us.

Joel Anker (INTTRA): Our software service company facilitates the flow and automates the processes of information between buyers and sellers of goods that go across the ocean. My role includes enriching that data to do customer retention programs most efficiently, to try to get upsell, cross-sell, and loyalty from our customers. We do use some tried-and-true methods, such as SEO and SEM. Our customers are the manufacturers—those that provide the commodities—as well as the ocean carriers, the containers.

I'm responsible for…lead generation. The challenge is trying to bring transactional data into a usable data warehouse that we can extract from and do some modeling with. We've got all this rich data that exists. So we can build out that profile of our existing customers, [determine] which are our best customers, and identify where we should go to get the next round of best customers. We're finding that trade publications tend to have the most targeted set of customers currently. [A question is] how do we use trade publications to reach out to those prospects to help them grow their business?

Peter Westerman (Summit Business Media): My company is an amalgam of lots of acquisitions in events, in traditional media, and in data products. My primary responsibility is to federate all of our database assets, order them in a way that's useful to the subordinate brands of the company, which means everything from building a new, centralized data warehouse to bringing in marketing automation tools to figuring out ways of segmenting the data. We have very large databases of regulatory filing information in the markets we're in—insurance, employee benefits, and financial services. One of our efforts now is to be systematic in leveraging our internal data in our data products group, so we can attach that to our audience customer records in the media group. We have a lot of heads-down work internally to do.

Peg Kuman (Relevate): We're a data developer and builder, a licensor of many multiple data sources, both business and residential, as well as some proprietary content. We use all of that information to enhance and enrich clients' databases. We also do digital marketing, so I'm doing a lot of work with the trading desks and trying to really get a handle on attribution, which everybody around this table is wrestling with. And we've had great success in B2B modeling.

Gil Levy (Ecommerce Partners): We're a marketing agency, but we're also in Web development. In our world it's very hard to do just the marketing and not have control over the website or the e-commerce. So, we provide the build and the hosting, but our primary source of revenue is from the marketing that comes afterwards, such as pay-per-click, affiliate management, list management, and segmentation. Right now we're starting to get into mobile.

Danielle Brooks (McVicker & Higginbotham Inc.): We're a personalized printer working with nonprofit organizations like MoMA and the Metropolitan Opera. I'm going to pull my comments from my [prior] experience in data management. We managed databases for numerous consumer and B2B organizations, and we also provided a resident list to a lot of organizations, consumer as well as business. Valpak was a big client and several large publishing firms that had B2B. Our clients were using the Dun & Bradstreet information or InfoUSA, but we felt that we needed to go other places, and we never attempted to bring in email addresses, because that seemed particularly hard in the B2B space. We also had difficulty in modeling for the B2B organizations.

Greg Grdodian (Reach Marketing): Reach Marketing is a fullservice, integrated marketing firm specializing in the B2B and digital space. We take a client's marketing from beginning to end, helping them develop their creative and introduce that effort to the top audience through the most efficient channel. For us, email is the initial communicator between our clients and their prospects and, potentially, their next customers. A lot of our offerings use email as the anchor to trigger additional responses and communications through other channels. Reverse append, email append, and firmographic append are probably the three most relevant and the most frequently offered services of ours.

DMN: Let's talk preferred channels and the data that you capture from them.

Levy: Email segmentation is the key in our business in terms of behavioral data. What do customers buy and in what categories? What we see constantly is this: The more you know about the customer, the better you [can] market to them and the longer you can retain them. We have stores that have multiple categories like funky shoes and dress shoes, etc., and putting customers in the right buckets [is an important step].

For us in the e-commerce world, email is…the biggest revenue generator. We do sweepstakes to acquire new clients, give all kinds of freebies. And once you have them in your list, that's the best source of revenue.

Westerman: Storage is cheap, processing power is cheap, and you never know a year from now what data is going to be useful for the business. So my attitude is, if you can collect it and measure it and it's a signal, store it somewhere, even if you don't have an immediate use for it, because you probably will some day.

Also, we're very interested to begin modeling and segmenting on phones versus tablets versus print versus websites, making sure that we understand the data that we're looking at. Most people are consuming our content on the phone, standing in line somewhere. That has to inform things like what the ad units should look like and how that user experience should be designed.

Reinebach: Sometimes you get enamored of having all this data, so you just blister customers with different offers. It doesn't always work.

There's so much data out there that could be useful in terms of how we target. I feel like the appetite for it is endless, but the trick is the application of it. We've got a Web-analytics tool that the telesales team looks at on a daily basis, and, say, if we see a lot of law firms looking at a particular story on cross-border regulations, we can tailor our marketing and sales efforts to it.

Kuman: We're finding event-driven information's extremely valuable. What are the interest levels? Is the interest continual or is it a one-off? Do they just buy the product? What are their opinions and what are their attitudes? That can be learned in conversations, by scraping email replies, and by looking at social. And those are the things that we see that are of greater value than just the firmographic information you're going to get.

The experts who are your customers are mouthpieces, and you start that dialogue, getting very rich data from both prospective and existing customers…plus, the opportunity to engage them.

DMN: What's the biggest inhibitor to using data today? Is it more technical or resource related?

Anker: I think from the inhibitor side, it's getting visibility of that data into our system. We're a Salesforce shop, so it's: How do we take all the data from the behavioral clicks, opened, websites, page use, transactional data, and put it at a company level? A lot of those tools do it at the individual-user level. [We need] to bring it to the company level and then have a view, a profile of that company to try to understand what they're doing and what their trends might be. I think that's the hardest part: aggregating.

Levy: Right now we have an overflow of information. The director of an e-commerce cosmetics brand has a full-time job, plus, for example, looking at analytics for a couple of minutes, looking at the data and the performance of the email. But nobody has the time to actually put them together and analyze them.

Kuman: I think the biggest challenge is normalizing and flattening out all of the attending data. There are a couple of things that I notice on the B2B side that are very different on the B2C side. If you make a commitment to social on the B2C side, you have to have a 365, 24/7 team that's monitoring your brand and your reputation all the time. It's not really being done on the B2B side for several reasons. One, it's an economic spend that people can't seem to justify at the moment. And two, most people in B2B are focusing on the LinkedIn play, which other than the breaches that they had last year, seems to be pretty normal.

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