The greatest challenge for business brands seeking to drive customer value in today’s multichannel world is understanding.

Whilst consumer brands have historically taken a more forensic approach to mapping customer touch points, analysing behaviour and building personas in order to understand how, when and where people are engaging with them and where the opportunities lie, many of today’s business brands fail to explore customer needs closely enough.

The paradox? Data remains both one of the biggest opportunities and biggest headaches facing B2B marketers today. The sheer volume of data businesses have access to is seen by many as an obstacle.

How will we capture it? How will we measure it? What are the legalities? We can’t afford a failed organisation CRM effort!

It is true that in a multichannel world, more channels means more analysis. The consensus is that collecting and analysing data is time intensive, there is too much to keep track of and the data itself keeps changing.

Whilst your own data will tell you how your customers are using your services and engaging with your channels, external data sources enable you to watch and react to the market and pitch your products at the right level, at exactly the right time to the right audiences.

Being able to utilise data to analyse and monitor competitor moves, see threats in the road ahead and identify new headroom can make the difference between success and death by a thousand cuts.

So, with the arrival of big data, where should companies prioritise their efforts for the best return? Which patterns should they try to decipher and which channels should they focus on? What can data tell B2B business about how their market is changing?

Micro-market analysis

A growing body of evidence suggests that micro-market analysis is a big opportunity to use multichannel data sets in the B2B space.

Consider the case of a large chemicals company, instead of looking at current sales by region, as it had always done, the company examined market share within customer industry sectors in specific U.S. counties.

The micro-market analysis revealed that although the company had 20% of the overall market, it had up to 60% in some markets but as little as 10% in others, including some of the fastest-growing segments. On the basis of this analysis, the company reorganised its sales force to exploit the growth.

One sales rep had been spending more than half her time 200 miles from her home office, even though only a quarter of her region’s opportunity lay there. This was purely because sales territories had been assigned according to historical performance rather than growth prospects.

Now she spends 75% of her time in an area where 75% of the opportunity exists, within 50 miles of her office. Changes like these increased the firm’s growth rate of new accounts from 15% to 25% in just one year, and they came from quite simply, taking a more atomised approach to sales data.

Multichannel measurement

According to Forbes, more than 60% of the marketers polled in a recent B2B marketing survey said their greatest marketing challenge for 2012 was generating more leads, and nearly two-thirds (63%) reported that their marketing mix either doesn’t meet sales demand or they’re unsure of whether their mix is effective.

Nearly 40% of those polled cited accurate measurement and attribution of online marketing as their biggest challenge. Remarkably, a quarter (26%) of respondents said they do not track leads to any marketing programme at all or they only attribute leads to one programme. They know half their marketing spend works but not which half.

Micro-market analysis principles could just as easily be applied to using data to optimise your best performing marketing channels. Identifying where further headroom is achievable in a sales channel and identifying the impact one channel has on another.

Whether you choose to adopt a standard regression analysis model to marketing and sales data after the event, or build analysis capability into your channels and systems from the start, being able to measure each contributing channel effectively is paramount.

In summary

So, do B2B marketers really need a single customer view to leverage data? Not really, just better analytics, an appreciation of the inter-relationships between customer channels and the capability to respond effectively through flexible processes.

  • Look at your processes and identify the areas that are holding you back. What changes are necessary?  
  • Understand how data is held in your business and look at your analytics suite, could this be better integrated? 
  • Could customer sales processes be automated to drive efficiency and speed to market?
  • Be honest about whether your current operation has the expertise to support integrated analysis and whether your processes afford you the flexibility to respond quickly to opportunities and threats in this world of perpetual motion. 
  • What will your formula for success be?