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How less data can mean more success in B2B marketing

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For years, the marketing industry has relied on an abundance of data insights to drive marketing strategy and campaigns. As marketers, there was a time when we were spoilt for choice with data opt-in as standard, third party cookies and even old-fashioned data lists you could purchase and target, no questions asked!

Yet more and more of us are now coming round to the idea that more data doesn’t actually mean more growth, more leads or more sales. In fact, for by Jon Clarke, Founder & CPO at Cyance, when it comes to data, especially in this day and age, quality wins over quantity every time.

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What constitutes quality data?

Quality of data can be attributed to a whole number of things but the most vital elements are data accuracy and data relevance, and how the two elements combine. You can ascertain a lot more from 100 accurate and relevant data points than you can from 100,000 unverified or questionable data points - especially when you’re low on time, budget and resources to sift through endless volumes of data. 

The challenge though is finding these quality data insights. For a long time, third party cookies were the de facto method for tracking and understanding user behaviours, but MarTech has become more sophisticated, and so too have the range of data insights now available. Cookies can no longer give us anything like a complete picture of a customer and, as we all know, third party cookies are living their last days anyway.

As we move into 2022, we’ll see marketers ramping up their use of intent data, which inherently provides a deeper understanding of the buyer journey and how customers make purchase decisions. Importantly, they will need to find solutions which are rapidly evolving to deliver value in a cookie-less digital landscape come 2023. 

Intent data provides businesses with insight into the process users go through when they are researching content to help solve specific business problems. It does this by tracking intent from the content that anonymous users consume and engage with, where the user has consented for a cookie to be dropped on his or her device. 

Intent data notifies businesses that their customers could be in an active buying journey, allowing them to focus their marketing strategy on those prepared to purchase and boost conversions. It allows marketers to be laser focused, naturally lending itself to (and accelerating) the shift to Account-Based Marketing (ABM).

Layering data insights

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There are two main types of intent data that may be relevant to driving your marketing outreach, first-party or third-party. Third-party intent data comes from sources outside of your own website (at present, primarily through the use of cookies and universal IDs), whereas first-party is based on information collected from your own channels and platforms.

Third-party insights pick up on behaviours across a series of general websites that exist and are relevant to your business. First-party data has been around longer and comes from analysing your own CRM, social media profiles, website activity, reviews, customer feedback etc.

In my opinion, the most accurate intent data comes from a combination of first- and third-party intent. But where intent becomes even more powerful is when you start to layer it with other sources, such as firmographic data (company size, annual revenue, growth, investment and advertising/marketing spend etc) and technographic data (the technologies and software that companies are deploying to run their organisation.)

Working with a reputable partner, marketers can combine all of these points, to create a holistic view of their potential customers in a way that simply hasn’t been possible before. And with this view of the customer, they can really hone in and focus their marketing efforts in exactly the right places.

However, a word of warning - not all intent data signals carry equal value. Tighter data privacy regulation has meant that businesses have access to significantly fewer intent data signals and it’s important that marketers understand what constitutes a genuine signal of intent. 

A one-off form fill doesn’t represent true intent, nor do searches around very broad and noisy topics such as IT security or digital transformation where it’s impossible to pinpoint the user’s actual need. These data points offer very little value to marketers. 

This type of ‘intent data noise’ will only increase once third party cookies are turned off as providers will have less data to pass onto their customers. This is why it’s critical for marketers to work with partners who have a strong commitment to data accuracy and relevance and a clear strategy for delivering value through intent data even once cookies have been consigned to history.

Why using less will get you more

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Ultimately, B2B purchases often have multiple decision-makers involved, each of whom will likely have different needs and intents. Even though privacy-friendly and compliant intent data providers will only provide insights at an account level, it can certainly help you to understand the different drivers of each decision-maker and ensure that you can deliver the right content at the right time to push prospects (and clients) along the sales funnel.   

Indeed, it’s important to understand that the use of intent data isn’t limited to lead generation and new business; it can be just as powerful in retaining and growing existing clients, alerting marketers to key business milestones (such as new investment, mergers and acquisitions and senior appointments) which can trigger both opportunities and risks.

Understanding prospective customers’ and existing clients’ behaviours and future success factors allows marketers to reach them with the right content at the right time. With this knowledge, they can target specific accounts that are in the ‘ready to buy’ stage of the customer journey, massively increasing the likelihood of a positive purchasing decision. Generic marketing campaigns delivered to a random audience will simply be shut down by users who now expect to see content that’s valuable to them.  

The way that data is deployed within B2B marketing will fundamentally shift over the coming years. Accurate and relevant data will become the key to engaging and transacting with key decision-makers and that means businesses need to move beyond the ‘bigger is best’ approach. 

It may seem counterintuitive in an industry obsessed with data, but marketers today need to be brave enough to pursue a ‘less is more’ intent data strategy, putting accuracy and quality at the core of their approach.

Header image by Zac Peric

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