Merkle’s recently published whitepaper, Setting the Analytics Stage for Tomorrow’s Consumer, laid out the six key analytics pillars needed to serve shoppers of the future. How does that approach need to change when your organization’s consumer is a B2B buyer? Which tenets hold true, and which ones need adjusting?
It’s important to remember that the B2B buyer of tomorrow is also a consumer. When they’re not researching or buying professionally, they are influenced every day by the same rapidly evolving digital customer experiences as everyone else. Through Merkle research, we know that 90% of consumers are willing to share more data if they have a positive experience, and 70% expect to receive something in exchange for that data.
The overarching attributes of an experience that matter – valuable, personalized, relevant – are the same for reaching tomorrow’s B2C and B2B buyers, but the way that data supports them varies. In this first part of our multipart blog series, we’ll explore how data capture can improve the B2B buyer journey.
What Does Comprehensive Data Capture Mean?
Comprehensive data capture means recording anything that helps create a clearer picture of our buyer. Oftentimes, marketers incorrectly assume that what matters most for targeting B2B buyers are work-related characteristics. But, as we established earlier, every B2B buyer is also a consumer, so demographics, behaviors, preferences, and interests are just as important as their industry, job level, and company.
Comprehensive data capture also needs to include a variety of data source types, spanning zero-, first-, and second-party data. Below are some definitions and examples for each of those groups as they apply to B2B:
- Zero-party data includes self-identified, volunteered data. This would include name and contact information, company name and size, role, etc. – think anything that might be asked for in a form or preference center.
- First-party data is behavioral and preference data that we acquire from customers and fully own. Note that the word “customers” in this definition also includes prospects, or really anyone that’s engaged with the business’s owned domain.
- Second-party data is someone else’s first-party data, sourced from a trusted partner to enrich our existing data set. One example of this is LinkedIn profile integration with a business’s marketing automation platform.
How Do We Ensure Comprehensive Data Capture?
The first critical step for creating a robust data set is accounting for customer touchpoints across the buying journey and serving relevant content at each moment of engagement. This includes:
- Top of funnel or acquisition. This is when the B2B buyer is exploring their options to meet the business challenge they need to address.
- Data needs: At this stage, the ability to communicate is key – name, email address, and phone number are critical pieces of data for you to capture.
- Content ideas: Infographics, videos, webinars
- Middle of funnel. At this stage, the buyer is narrowing down their options by learning more about each potential partner.
- Data needs: You need to be able to grade or score your prospect at this juncture, meaning you need data around company size, location, budgets, industry, etc.
- Content ideas: E-book, whitepaper, research output
- Bottom of funnel. At this point, the buyer is deciding which business to move forward with.
- Data needs: Sales-related data, such as additional customer contacts, account-level information, and accumulated site behavior that signals intent are all valuable at this stage.
- Content ideas: Product demos, pricing calculators
- The ongoing relationship. This stage is too often forgotten, but relationship maintenance is critical. You have a continual opportunity to delight and learn more about your buyer.
- Data needs: At this stage, you likely have all of the key data about your buyer. Your primary focus should be on keeping your data current and maintaining its fidelity.
- Content ideas: Email outreach & check-ins, blog posts, UX change notices
Once you understand where you’ll interact with your buyer, the next step is creating a value exchange that will serve your customers while allowing you to acquire the data you need to give them meaningful experiences. There are three key questions you should ask yourself to craft content that can make this happen.
- How will the opt-in benefit the customer? Will the data they’re sharing allow you to contact them in the method they prefer (email versus phone, for example) or about only the services that interest them? Why would this buyer want to continue to hear from you? If you can’t effectively articulate the benefit of the data exchange, you may just be collecting data for the sake of having it – which isn’t a great reason.
- What collection method will engage the buyer? Is the collection method intuitive? Can you leverage previously gained information to streamline the acquisition of more data (a process often referred to as “progressive profiling”)? Is there a way to gamify the ask so that it doesn’t feel like just another form? B2B in particular offers opportunities to create breadcrumbs of value in exchange for data, that also serve to further promote the business as helpful experts in the space. This might look like a free pricing calculator, a downloadable template, or video tutorials to address common business challenges that your buyers face.
- How am I going to leverage the data moving forward to improve the customer experience? Typically, you’ll want to use data for at least one of three things:
- Personalization: Make the message more relevant to the customer.
- Targeting/segmentation: Ensure we’re reaching the right person with the right message at the right time.
- Analysis: Use aggregate data to identify trends across customers, shifts in product perception, and new demand in your product set.
While there are some nuanced differences in touchpoints and engagement, reaching tomorrow’s B2B buyers will largely require the same analytics foundation as reaching tomorrow’s consumers. Keep an eye out for our next blog post, which will explore how to approach data curation in a way that works best for B2B buyers. In the meantime, please check out our whitepaper, Setting the Analytics Stage for Tomorrow’s Consumer, for more ideas about how to create a data foundation for what comes next.