Data is central to the marketing world, and in many ways it has fundamentally altered both the power structure within companies and given CMOs much more clout than they have ever enjoyed in the past. And to a great extent, data has shifted the process of the complex B2B sale.
Business-to-business transactions are no longer driven by sales working on a huge quantity of unqualified leads handed off by marketing. Instead, the marketing team and sales team work in concert defining what exactly a "qualified lead" looks like within their specific sales funnel. They then take people from anonymous names to satisfied customers through a sales process that might take a year or longer depending on the industry and product or service being sold. And all of this is taking place under the backdrop of hyper-informed buyers and overly-abundant data sets.
Though data is still a challenge for marketers, and the concept of "analysis paralysis" is a real issue facing today’s B2B marketer, it is the fuel that drives the entire process.
There are good reasons why CMOs and their marketing teams should take control of corporate data. From buying the technology that they will be intimately be working with as well as developing cross-division relationships within the corporate structure, having a better handle on data will help marketing teams make better decisions and develop more cohesive relationships with groups from sales to IT and business intelligence. As data continues to seep into every turn of the complex B2B sales process, business marketers are tasked with finding ways to take control over data.
James Smith, CMO at OneLogin, a cloud-based software company, spoke to Marketing Dive about some of the subtle but significant changes they made at the company and how data has helped inform its sales pipeline. He believes part of the challenge marketers have with data is that they are increasingly under pressure to collect customer information and convert that information into actionable data points. However, digging through all that data is easier said than done. The catch, though, is that to engage customers more effectively, marketers are faced with having to parse through data more quickly.
According to Smith and other experts, analysis paralysis is a main pitfall marketers have with data. "When marketers have access to diverse sets of data, they often experience more difficulty interpreting it and turning it into action," he said, explaining that due to the abundance of data, marketers often are trying to deal with more than they can handle.
He said marketers need to "develop an in-depth understanding of the metrics they need to make informed decisions. Having access to too much data can be paralyzing, but keeping metrics simple and action-oriented can make all the difference."
One solution he suggested was to implement a centralized dashboard that condenses key metrics so that marketers can better track their data without being distracted by irrelevant analytics.
"When I joined OneLogin, the main metrics for marketing were web-site visitors and MQL creation. MQL’s are marketing qualified leads and Marketing typically decides based on lead scoring what is determined as an MQL.