If you’re a B2B marketer, you probably have one or both of the following problems with marketing and customer data:
- There’s too much.
- All that data still leaves you with open questions, or partial answers to key questions.
As a result, your data-driven marketing strategy fails to win you new buyers. Consequently, you might be seduced by the idea that more powerful software will make your marketing problems disappear. Or, that you are just one software integration away from truly understanding your customer. But more software won’t fix your problem.
In our research, we’ve seen purely software-centered B2B marketing strategies fail because B2B sales are too long and complex. A B2B sale might take months or years, and involve an average of 6.8 stakeholders. Thus, a single database can’t comprehensively represent what’s going on, and B2B marketers see large holes in their data they can’t always explain.
Conversely, in a B2C sale, the entire purchase might take a single buyer half an hour on Amazon. So, while B2C marketers can find everything they need to know about their buyers from analyzing social media, click streams, web analytics, and content marketing statistics, B2B marketers need a different approach.
Specifically, good B2B marketers rely on a blend of great software, data, and organic market insights – based on independent research.
So before you pull out your credit card, try this sanity check: when you look at your existing dataset, do you have a clear idea of how to fill in those dark spots in your data? If you answered “no,” put the credit card away. More software won’t solve your problem.
Marketing Data Has Limits
Data can tell you if you’re winning new customers, but not necessarily what you should do to win more. Here are some examples of the fundamental limitations of marketing software.
- Customer data profiles (CDPs) created from your CRM, Google Analytics, and other databases help you optimize for existing customers, but won’t tell you why you can’t find new buyers.
- Marketing platforms help you run endless A/B tests to optimize your campaign for that extra 2 percent in your open rate. But data doesn’t guarantee a clear understanding of why a particular campaign works. Even worse, your hypothesis is limited to what your own team understands about your buyers.
- You’ve spent millions of dollars on a one-stop shop marketing platform. After a 6 month implementation, you can finally see data coming in from all the trackers you’ve connected to existing processes. But all you’ve done is make your old work more efficient. All that work hasn’t helped you differentiate your product, which means you still aren’t equipped to attract new buyers.
Data Can’t Reveal Root Causes
Let’s say you’re running an email campaign to engage new buyers. You’ve done your A/B tests to determine which subject line and content gets the most clicks. However, your open rates still linger in the low single digits, and few buyers are biting.
Even so, your data should give you a pretty good idea of the following:
- Only a handful of your contact list is opening your email.
- Even fewer opens lead to clicks on your call to action (CTA).
- You can see what pages a buyer has visited once he or she visits your website.
- A tiny fraction of your initial list of recipients has converted.
Yes, you can clearly see what your buyers are doing. Unfortunately, this is where data’s usefulness ends. Beyond internal hypotheses, you can only guess why more buyers aren’t clicking on your email or your CTA, why they don’t spend more time on your website, and why so few convert.
Without knowing why, martech can only help you track more things – and invite more speculation.
On its own, data simply cannot tell you why buyers do the things they do.
Use Market Research To Inform Your Data-Driven Marketing Strategy
While data is effective at showing you what your buyers are doing, market research can explain why they do what they do.
An alternative strategy in an email campaign scenario would be to run a small market research study before launching a campaign. Your study could identify personas, reveal the problems they struggle with on a daily basis, and give you insight into the things they value. A message testing study could show you which elements of your messaging framework resonate with B2B buyers, and which parts turn them away. Understanding your buyers in this way might finally explain why some emails get opened while others don’t. As a result, you can spend more time crafting and testing persuasive emails that get more attention.
This is just one example of how market research can positively impact your data-driven marketing strategy. By giving your marketing data a frame of reference from interviews with B2B buyers, you’ll understand your customers more clearly and reshape your marketing initiatives for better effect.
“Why” Matters More Than “When, How, What, and Where”
You shouldn’t solely rely on customer data and your martech stack to achieve your marketing goals. All those systems and tools you’ve integrated can tell you when, how, what, and where buyers do what they do. But to know why, you’re going to have to do your homework. That means custom market research.
To win buyers, you have to understand why your buyers care about their priorities, and how to connect your solution with their desires at an emotional level in your messaging and campaigns. That’s the kind of context only research can reveal.
So put the credit card away. You already know plenty about when, how, what, and where. It’s time to understand why.
With more than 14 years of experience in the B2B technology sector, Cascade Insights understands how research can inform effective data-driven marketing. Learn more about our market research services here.
Special thanks to Sean Campbell, CEO, and Philippe Boutros, Director of Systems Design, for advising on this piece.