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Knowledge is Power - Tips for B2B Data-Driven Marketing

September 21, 2021 12:03 PM | Karla Doremus-Tranfield

Successful digital marketing is more than just clicking through options on a Google or Facebook ad campaign and hoping for more sales. It requires a collaborative approach between marketing, data analytics and business teams to set objectives, design campaigns, find and interpret data, and measure results. Digital tools let teams test and iterate rapidly to achieve and maintain messaging that will influence target decision makers. This is the digital marketing advantage!

Digital tools have shifted the focus of business-to-consumer marketing to resemble the long-term relationship building that characterizes business-to-business (B2B) marketing. McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey has evolved the way we think about the traditional sales funnel. It adds a loyalty loop and, as a result, resembles the iterative consensus building and problem solving required of a successful B2B firm.

As digital tools have matured, it can feel as if they are built for consumer marketers. You may ask why a 100-year-old commodity manufacturer needs to have a Twitter account. Maybe it doesn’t. Your business objectives, not the latest trends in digital technology, should drive your digital marketing presence.

I asked Joy-El Talbot, a talented data analyst, collaborator, and founder of Iris Data Solutions (, how data influences digital marketing strategies. Joy-El says, “As with traditional marketing, data is the background to all campaigns. There is data about when, what, where, and to whom content goes live. There is data about the impact of the campaign: clicks, hits, conversions. There is data about the business before, during, and after the campaign: product launches, inquiries, sales.”

Joy-El and I answer some questions, below, that you might have when considering a digital marketing campaign:

I'm overwhelmed by data - how can I start?

Start with stories and questions. Tell the story of how your company got to where it is today. Where will it go next? How will we know when we have arrived? What would it take to get there? As you discuss, you will start to identify data you already have and gaps that need to be filled.

Consider the goal, "We want to increase sales of our custom products." Questions such as which products or industries, by how much, how much we sell now, can all be answered with data. Then it is simply a matter of going down the list to find the sources for each answer - sales reps, accounting systems, delivery schedules, etc.

I’m no expert – can I just hire a data analyst and see what she comes up with?

Data analysts work magic with interpreting data and developing visualizations that help solve complex business problems. However, an analyst can only be effective if she understands the business objectives and desired results, which is why collaborating with the marketing strategist and product expert is so important. Effective digital marketing is a team effort.

The product expert and strategist will determine marketing objectives. For example, if your business objective is to increase revenue, choose a marketing program that builds awareness of your brand. If increased volume is the objective, tailor your campaign to ensure you are a top contender in the consideration set. If you are trying to shift to a higher profit margin customer base, work toward repositioning the brand or growing loyalty.

I’m not a digital native – how do I pick a platform?

People purchase from companies (and people) they like and trust. In the B2B world it is imperative to understand the user, technical expert, and buyer. They have unique personalities and rely on different sources of expert information. Choose platforms that your target decision makers use and trust.

How will I know if my digital marketing campaign is a success?

The digital marketing team should work with senior management to define what success looks like. Set goals, metrics, and preliminary key performance indicators (KPI’s) that align with the business goals early in the strategy development process. Formulate a hypothesis to help you control the process and to analyze data against objective criteria. As you analyze incoming data against these KPI’s, you will determine if your campaign is achieving the goals or needs further refinement.

I already have a website - won’t my customers get confused if they receive other digital messages?

In digital marketing, it is important to contact prospects and customers on a regular basis and in the context of when they make decisions. Creating consistent messaging across all platforms reinforces your brand during the decision-making process. As you proceed through the campaign, make limited adjustments in order to analyze which versions resonate best with your decision makers.

I’m a product manager not a data scientist – how do I make sense of all this data?

Here’s where your data analyst shines. She will work with the team to gather, analyze, and organize that data into a meaningful analysis tool. In addition, she will help you mitigate analysis bias that may creep in. Finally, the data analyst will guide you with creative data visualizations that tell the data’s story to decision makers and provide clear recommendations.

My head is swimming - what is the most important takeaway about digital marketing?

Iteration, speed, and flexibility are the hallmarks of digital marketing. You don't have to have all the answers at the beginning. Understand where you are, have a general idea of where you are going, and be disciplined to keep checking in with every iteration. Negative insights or ideas that flop are as useful as the ones that make you feel like a marketing genius! Digital marketing is so much more cost effective than tradition marketing that we can afford to take chances, analyze results, then swiftly adjust as needed.

What’s the bottom line?

In digital marketing, perfection is the enemy of good enough. Determine objectives, make assumptions, choose meaningful metrics, and go for it! Have the bravery to stick with a plan long enough to gain meaningful information from it. Your data analysis will help you perfect your journey based on actual, rapid results. Prospects and customers will thank you for it!

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