B2B Marketing Data


As account-based marketing and the delivery of targeted, personalized content become more prevalent for business-to-business (B2B) marketers and sellers, data is of utmost importance. Without a proper marketing data management strategy in place, B2Bs cannot execute these programs.

  • Many B2B companies cite a lack in data expertise as an obstacle to implementing a true data-driven strategy.
  • B2Bs use a variety of first-, second- and third-party data sources in order to build profiles on their audience at both the buyer- and account-identity level.
  • Marketers need to ensure data is accurate, valid and up to date. Additionally, data compliance is a big concern to multinational B2B firms in the wake of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • All data sets must be integrated in a centralized system of record. A variety of vendors claim to give a complete view of the customer, but B2Bs are skeptical and confusion remains in the marketplace.
  • Collecting data is an important first step. From there, analyzing and putting those data-driven insights to work becomes table stakes. More advanced brands are using intent data and artificial intelligence (AI) to model customer lifetime value, build lookalikes and implement targeted account-based programs.
  • A dedicated team with a data science background is needed to manage and execute against this data. This group must be aligned with business goals for maximum success.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report includes a breakdown of all the different types of data B2B brands can capture on their audience. It will also cover best practices on how to source this data and the best ways to manage and integrate it for actionable insights.

KEY STAT: Internal marketing programs, internal sales and customer service, and third-party information vendors are the most effective sources of marketing data, according to B2B marketers worldwide surveyed by Ascend2 and ReachForce in March 2018.

Marketing Data Management Strategies: In Search of ‘Perfect Integrity’

Like all marketers, B2Bs understand audience data is the foundation of any effort aimed at better understanding buyers and reaching them in relevant ways across channels. To that end, 60% of US B2B professionals are investing in data and data analytics to help achieve their organization’s go-to-market goals, according to November 2017 research from the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services.

“Data is the ultimate equalizer for B2Bs,” said Nate Skinner, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce. “The more you know about your audience, the better you can craft a message that’s relevant and deliver it to the right person at the right time in the right context.”

Unfortunately, this concept remains just an ideal for most B2B companies. While Skinner is right that data is the fuel behind crafting relevant messages and smarter targeting strategies, the reality is that the majority of B2B marketers in North America and the UK are struggling to even understand exactly who their target audience is, according to 2017 research from Dun & Bradstreet and Censuswide.

“A lot of B2B companies don’t know much about their end buyer or account,” said Brian Walker, managing director of global lead commerce strategy at Accenture Interactive.

This lack of knowledge on the buyer is a blind spot for B2Bs. A thorough understanding of the audience is the fundamental backbone of the techniques and tactics many B2Bs are focused on today: account-based marketing, programmatic advertising, personalization, targeted emails, outbound sales, etc.

Building a data management strategy, while important, isn’t easy. In fact, 78% of B2B professionals in North America and the UK said maintaining adequate data management capabilities was a challenging area in achieving marketing and sales objectives, according to March 2018 research from Forrester Consulting.

Further, four in 10 US B2B marketers surveyed by Adweek BrandShare and Dun & Bradstreet in October 2017 said their lack of data expertise was an obstacle to data-driven marketing success. Although not the only challenge named, it was the most cited response in the study. (Spoiler: The other challenges in the below chart will be discussed in this report—keep reading!)

Another major factor inhibiting B2B marketers’ ability to deliver on a data-driven strategy? Data integrity. All the data in the world will do nothing to help B2B marketers unless it is clean and accurate. The most common phrase expressed by the 30 executives interviewed for this report was, “garbage in, garbage out.” The data has to be good.

This notion is even expressed in the fine print of the Harvard Business Review study. In the greatest potential column, the asterisk indicates that the best outcomes for all the leading goals of using data analytics—like higher revenues, improved customer experience and more customers—are only possible “if data had perfect integrity, i.e., accurate and up-to-date at all times.”

Of course, “perfect” integrity is a lofty aspiration and, therefore, organizations that have a lack of expertise with data should make sure they understand how and where data can help them achieve their goals.

Camilo Lizarralde, head of digital for North America at marketing analytics provider Ebiquity, said he sees many B2B clients rush into data strategies without the proper insight. “It is essential for B2Bs to ensure they have proper know-how before developing data strategy, or they run the risk of only partially activating it.”

Marketers need a thorough understanding. Let’s start with how to build a database that achieves what you want it to.

Building a B2B Marketing Database: The Data

The foundation of any marketing database requires B2B marketers to identify and collect the right types of data needed to build identity profiles.

The universe of B2B data is finite. Unlike consumer data, where millions of consumers may be in the market for a particular product or service, the pool of prospects in B2B is much more defined.

“If a B2B company sells a widget, for instance, there is a restricted, addressable market for that widget,” said Mike Burton, co-founder and senior vice president of data sales at intent data aggregator Bombora. “That means there’s only a finite number of companies to buy that widget, and the universe of available data on those companies is limited.”

Understanding that limited universe is what’s behind marketers’ desire to improve the depth and accuracy of their databases. That was the top priority for 48% of B2B marketers in North America in 2018, according to a survey by Demand Gen Report (DGR).

First-, Second- and Third-Party Data

B2Bs must look across first-, second- and third-party data to achieve their goals. Each is gathered differently, but all three are needed to build the type of database you want in order to fully activate.

First-party data is the data that a B2B company owns, which a prospect or customer has given a company through a direct engagement. This includes customer relationship management (CRM) data, sales data and customer service data, as well as all touchpoints tracked across owned digital properties (i.e., website, content download and email) and offline interactions (i.e., sales calls, events and direct mail).

A September 2017 survey by Econsultancy asked B2B client-side marketers worldwide which first-party data sources they were currently using. The most common answer, cited by 78% of respondents, was email data, followed by online analytics (73%), CRM data (69%) and customer survey data (59%).

An Informa Engage survey that same month found similar results. US B2B marketers relied on CRM records and customer survey responses (84%), site registrations and transactions records (76%) and web analytics/site traffic (71%) for their marketing efforts. Those three fall into the first-party bucket.

Lead generation forms are important sources of first-party data at project management software provider Workfront. The company asks for seven fields including contact information, location and title. Brandon Jensen, director of marketing operations at the company, explained that campaign interactions across channels are another type of first-party data his team captures.

For T-Mobile’s B2B arm, the collection of first-party data on enterprise targets and existing customers is a prime goal. “It is important for us to leverage first-party data, and we collect point-of-sale data from the website and our retail stores,” said Gavin Warrener, director of B2B demand generation and integrated marketing at T-Mobile for Business.

B2Bs should also capture first-party data across all stages of the buying cycle. McKinsey & Company’s Stanley said she sees B2B clients “often overemphasize data collection at the early stages of the funnel at awareness and less at middle- to late-stage opportunities in the pipeline like customer loyalty.”

Second-Party Data

This data comes to a B2B company from its partner ecosystem. It is acquired through a mutual agreement with a partner to exchange their own first-party data with one another. Types of partners that participate in such arrangements can include agencies, publishers, data cooperatives and advertising platforms, such as a demand-side platform (DSP) or data management platform (DMP).

A March 2018 survey by Ascend2 and ReachForce found that 36% of B2B marketers worldwide named trusted marketing partners as an effective source of marketing data. For comparison, internal, first-party data sources and third-party data (covered in more detail in the following section) were named effective by roughly half of respondents.

MediaMath, for instance, enhances its own first-party data with its second-party data assets called MediaMath Audience. “This is the data that our clients opt in to share across our whole user footprint,” said Dan Rosenberg, chief marketing and strategy officer at the programmatic marketing technology company. “It’s our proprietary data we capture through their campaigns which we serve.”

Warrener sees second-party data as a way to enhance gaps in T-Mobile’s first-party data sources. “We evaluated several different partners to see which could strengthen our current data set,” he said.

Implementing second-party data is on the radar of B2Bs with strong partner ties. For Informatica, an enterprise cloud data management company, the use of second-party data isn’t an actuality just yet, but the company is looking to “initiate that conversation” in the next quarter with their partners, which include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Adobe and Amazon Web Services. “It’s very easy to exchange data and vice versa,” said Anish Jariwala, senior director of digital marketing strategy and insights at Informatica. “Then our partners will get access to Informatica cookies as well.”

Third-Party Data

As B2Bs identify holes in their data sets, they work with third-party data providers to augment the data they already have. B2B companies buy third-party data from a data provider when they don’t have an existing relationship with that audience firsthand or through a partner.

Roughly half of B2B marketing and sales professionals in North America use data append vendors and data enrichment to supplement their in-house customer data, according to November 2017 research from DGR. Social media data was also used by 30% of respondents.

At video collaboration tool provider Frame.io, first-party data is enhanced through third-party provider Clearbit. “Once we have an email address, we’re enriching our data to get more information about the buyer, like industry, company size, employee count and revenue,” said Kyle Gesuelli, head of growth at Frame.io.

Workfront employs DiscoverOrg to supplement its first-party database. “We enhance the data gaps with more insights about the company and industry using third parties,” Jensen said.

There are a few caveats to keep in mind with third-party relationships. Sourcing is one, noted Dmitri Lisitski, co-founder and CEO of Influ2, a person-based marketing solution provider. “Tracing the source of the data is important because some suppliers are less accurate than others and typically not all of them disclose how they source the data,” he said.

Another is that often one service just isn’t enough to give B2Bs all the insights they need. Bombora’s Burton explained that no provider, including his company’s data cooperative, is perfect. However, he said a number of best-in-breed third-party data providers, when used in conjunction with one another, can provide a B2B company with a holistic view of the buyer.

B2Bs must use caution, however, when combining data sets to make sure they can and should be married. Failure to do so can result in significant data inaccuracies.


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