‘Big data’—the topic everyone is talking about, but nobody knows how to handle. The problem is that if your B2B business doesn’t begin to utilize all the data available to you, you risk falling behind your competition. On the flip side, if you adopt early and apply it to your marketing strategy, you can gain insights that give you an edge over your competitiors.
So, how can B2B companies get started? With 56% of North American companies reportedly investing in big data, it’s an issue all B2B companies need to be thinking about.
In this article, we will cover what big data is, why it’s important, any obstacles you may face in adopting big data, and any actionable steps you can take to start your big data journey.
First things first, let’s review what big data is.
- Big data is analyzing large data sets to find customer trends, mainly relating to behaviors and interactions.
- It’s important because savvy marketers can use their findings to increase their Return On Investment (ROI).
- Getting onboard is as simple as using a Big Data as a Service company, or poring over data found within a dedicated analytics app.
What Big Data Is
By definition, big data refers to extremely large data sets that can be analyzed in order to find trends, patterns, and associations—particularly in relation to human behaviors and interactions. Essentially, you want to use all the relevant data you can gather, associate it in meaningful ways, and learn more about your target audience.
As technology has developed, more and more data is created and processed everyday. Information can come from emails, log data, social media platforms, intent signals across the internet, and transactions. Furthermore, you can access public and proprietary data on customer preferences, behavior, and usage.
The challenge for most is knowing what to do about it.
At a conference focused on innovative cloud technologies, moderator Bill Coughran said he knew dozens of companies who were collecting large amounts of unstructured data, even though they didn’t know what to do with it. Furthermore, Dun and Bradstreet found that 66% of companies lack revenue and industry data for existing customers.
However, the sleeping giant is slowly waking up.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that the tech and services market for big data will grow to $41.5 billion by 2018; a 26.4% compound annual growth rate. To put it into perspective, that’s six times the growth rate of the overall IT market.
So, what is driving the growth? Plenty, according to Aureus. There’s no doubt the use of big data is growing, but what can it do for your company?
Why Big Data is Important for B2B Marketers
The buyer’s journey is increasingly important in our digital marketing age. There are many touch points that customers are going through as they identify problems, research solutions, compare solution providers, and make buying decisions. However, companies are struggling to put the pieces together.
The CMO Council reported in January of 2016 that only 5% of marketers claim they have the ability to adapt and predict the customer journey, and truly understand what behaviors drive maximum value. It means 95% of marketers are making decisions in the dark!
Big data is the solution that enables you to turn the lights on and find out what is going on. For example, a study by McKinsey and Co. looked at the correlation between big data investments and Return On Investment (ROI). Here is what they found:
“Companies benefit broadly from big data investments. With minor variations, spending on analytics to gain competitive intelligence on future market conditions, to target customers more successfully, and to optimize operations and supply chains generated operating-profit increases in the 6 percent range.”
Furthermore, they found that when data was put at the center of marketing and sales decisions, marketing ROI improved by 15-20%.
So, why aren’t more companies utilizing big data? Let’s look at some of the obstacles.
Obstacles to the Effective Utilization of Big Data
There are several obstacles that have been stopping companies from pursuing big data utilization, and it’s not necessarily that there aren’t solutions around to invest in. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Matt Turck put together a glimpse at the big data landscape as of 2016, which shows just how many solutions there are.
A bit intimidating, right? Well, complex algorithms and extensive data mining are potentially intimidating to a B2B company, because they don’t know where to start. As a result, many keep data isolated in specific tools to serve one channel, which prevents them from seeing the customer’s full journey.
Another problem arises when internal data is not properly attended to, as it can become messy and unorganized. Given that the B2B buyers journey is long and complex, there’s a significant amount of data to consider. As mentioned above, that data is often housed in many different systems—which makes consolidation and management difficult.
Lastly, a reactive approach to data is one of the bigger obstacles. Data is being used solely to review past strategies and discern what worked, rather than as a predictive tool to help better map the buyer’s journey.
Let’s look at overcoming these obstacles, and show you how to use big data for your own marketing efforts.
How to Use Big Data in Your Marketing
The basic premise is that you want to identify the touch points within your buyer’s journey, and analyze how data can help to optimize their experience. You’ll need to identify your opportunities, the data you need, where you can pull it from, and how it all fits together. By doing so, you can learn more about your prospects, and potentially increase sales.
For example, if you want to identify high-quality prospects, you can discover those who are likely to end up converting using your own past client data, any data from external platforms you run, and your specific prospect targeting. Essentially, the information you already have. Facebook Marketing, Pinterest, and Google Ads are all examples of platforms that enable you to import your customer data so they can analyze it, and find you a new audience that’s similar to your existing one.
You can also apply further filters to your audience to finely target prospects according to demographics such as gender, location, and interests. You can find demographic data in many places such as social media platforms, Google Analytics, third-party tools such as Clickx.io, and public consumer and industry reports.
Finally, by bringing together your own internal data on your customers (along with data from various external sources), you’re able to find more qualified leads to market to.
Many companies are overwhelmed by the amount of data they obtain, but not all of it is needed. You only need what is relevant in reaching your desired goal.
One solution is to hire data management analysts to work with your IT department in analyzing data. They can work with the goals you set to find and analyze data, and present the answers you need. However, many ‘Big Data as a Service’ (BDaaS) companies have cropped up, which makes this type of data more accessible. For example, Clickx.io provides a comprehensive software tool to manage marketing metrics across all platforms, and you get an easy user interface from which you can put the pieces of your buyers journey together.
As technology continues to advance, we can look forward to increasingly intelligent tools which improve our access to big data.
For those B2B companies who are feeling the pressure to enter the realm of big data, but are feeling intimidated or ill-equipped, there is good news. You can get started without doing anything extravagant, difficult, or hugely risky by following these tips:
- Look for opportunities within your buying funnel.
- Identify the data that can help you improve.
- Obtain the data from places such as Google Ads.
- Bring together your various pieces of data to track your results.
- Utilize a dedicated BDaaS software service to monitor marketing across all platforms.
Do you have questions about big data and how it can fit into your B2B marketing strategy? Ask away in the comments section below!
Photo Credit: geralt.