B2B Digital Marketing Data — Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It.

B2B marketing data, let’s talk about it. It’s a real buzzword anymore, especially for every B2B digital marketing agency in Philadelphia. Marketing automation software has made data collection easier than ever. All the quantitative research you could ever want is at your fingertips, and this is great because marketers live in a data-driven world. It guides your ship across the raging sea that is B2B digital marketing.

Executives cling to bar graphs and pie charts to prove their actions either weren’t failures or aren’t going to be. I’m not telling you that data isn’t important because it undoubtedly is. But rather that the numbers alone don’t tell you the full story. A majority of companies that rely too heavily on data find themselves in situations like this:

The captain of a pirate ship walks past his 25 crew members as they are finishing their dinner. He notices that 5 of his deckhands are getting sick in the corner. He quickly does the math, as any smart pirate would, and figures out that 20% of his crew is sick because of the meal served that night! Using his analytics, the captain decides that he will make the chef walk the plank to prevent this from happening ever again.

Did the captain make the right decision?

(No, he should have finished school and not been a pirate… but that’s a different blog)

What the data doesn’t show

The captain failed to realize that there are other factors that could be affecting the results of his study. It could have been seasickness from the abnormally large waves that night, or the adult beverages his crew had been excessively consuming earlier.

Similarly, B2B marketers need to realize that analytics are not always what they seem to be. You may attribute the huge number of website visits this month to your search engine optimization (SEO), when it’s really your clients typing your URL into Google, instead of the address bar. Or maybe, it was caused by your CRM (customer relationship management) analytics not being set up to filter out web-crawling bots, and that grossly inflated your website data.

There is a false notion of correlation implying causation that is seen time and time again. B2B digital marketers must be careful not to accept that A causes C, when in reality, B is causing C.

Something software can’t provide

There is valuable knowledge embedded within B2B marketing data, that even the smartest computer programs couldn’t reveal. If you are tracking the open rate of your most recent eBlast, the results are in black and white. It is either yes, “Opened,” or no, “Not Opened.” What the analytics fail to tell you is, why did someone open your email? Or more importantly, why not?

Numbers need interpretation. You must have a team of B2B digital marketing experts who can understand and decipher your marketing data. These trained individuals are able to extrapolate the evidence not found in the analytics section of your CRM software. Customer behavior, attitudes and nuances are hiding behind numbers. These B2B experts find out why an individual is actually taking a certain action, and that is vastly more important than the binary mindset of “yes or no.”

Marketing professionals are also able to provide qualitative insights to back up, or disprove, their quantitative research. They ask questions, do focus groups or use any qualitative method that can uncover feelings and attitudes (which, after all, is important since people are often more driven by feelings than logic). Marketing has always been a behavioral science, and any B2B digital marketer or B2B digital marketing agency that makes decisions strictly based on quantitative data and algorithms fails to realize what marketing is really about. People, not computers.

How to use a lamppost

Marketing research has become overly mechanical. It is, unfortunately, heading down a path that is void of any real thinking or true analysis. Despite the growing unwillingness, there will come a point when every B2B agency has to make a decision based on their own expertise. That is why it is crucial to have a deeper understanding of your customers further than what the data tells you. It’s only scratching the surface.

Use your marketing data to stimulate activity and as supplementary evidence, not the be-all and end-all. If your analytics show that your marketing tactics aren’t reaching your goals, don’t just say, “This isn’t working, case closed.” Find a solution, conduct qualitative research, and use your creative potency.

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, eloquently stated his findings in his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. “I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination.”

Don’t be a drunkard… or a pirate.

All marketing tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating all marketing tactics, the marketing programs become more effective and cost efficient. As a B2B agency, we developed B2B 360 Integrated Digital Marketing to meet this improved performance need. To learn more about B2B 360 and how it will benefit your business, download our free eBook: The Better Path to Top-Tier Tech Marketing.

Mitch Mathern is a public relations executive at Schubert b2b. Mitch graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Marketing. When not at the office, Mitch enjoys spending time at the beach with his surfboard, or binging on the latest season of Vampire Diaries.

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