Why Data Strategy is Top of Mind for B2B Marketers
Do you remember the first time you heard the term programmatic advertising? I do. It was a warm summer day, and I was finishing some work in hopes of leaving the office early to catch the premiere of The Hangover Part II, when my boss at the time tapped me on the shoulder and calmly stated that we needed to “go programmatic.” I’m pretty sure I looked at him as if he instead announced we needed to “go to Mars.” I smiled, nodded, and raced out the door having no real clue what in the world he was talking about. On the way to the theater, I quickly looked up the term “programmatic” and what came back was a confusing mishmash of terms like real-time bidding, yield optimization, and demand-side platforms.
Fast-forward nearly eight years later, and programmatic has become synonymous with digital advertising. What was once a perplexing endeavor has evolved from a novelty into a mature industry standard. That’s not to say programmatic still doesn’t bewilder even the best B2B marketer; it remains a complex ecosystem of technologies, partners, and real-time auctions. But as we see the increasing use of data to guide decisions, marketers have become familiar enough with the basics of programmatic advertising for it to have become a common and critical component of most B2B marketing campaigns.
Based on findings from the latest B2B marketing and advertising survey conducted by Adweek on behalf of Dun & Bradstreet, programmatic use is now holding steady, but new trends and concepts have infiltrated the marketing landscape, leaving many as perplexed as they were when they first heard the term “programmatic advertising” years ago.
Marketing Data: B2B’s Biggest Challenge and Opportunity
B2B marketers unanimously understand the role that data plays in their marketing strategies, but they still need to overcome many of the common obstacles that make it difficult to activate data and turn it into actionable insights that can transform their marketing.
In fact, over 90% of those surveyed agreed that greater use of prospect and customer data and analytics is changing how they approach advertising and marketing. But many still have their work cut out for them.
Here’s a summary of what we found to be some of the biggest opportunities – and challenges – B2B marketers will have in 2019.
1. Crafting an Effective Data Strategy
While a majority of organizations (84%) are using tools like customer relationship management platforms (CRM) to manage their customer data, they are less sophisticated in their use of the technologies and platforms that can unlock that data’s value – such as data management platforms (DMP) and customer data platforms (CDP). While agencies appear to be more sophisticated in their ability to manage and analyze data – with 31% saying they are using a DMP with advanced functions compared to 17% of brands – both groups identified a lack of data expertise as a critical hurdle to overcome.
As a result, one of the biggest areas of focus for B2B marketers in 2019 will be crafting a solid data strategy to serve as the foundation for all marketing campaigns and initiatives.
“Having a solid data strategy in place is necessary to be able to efficiently leverage the data assets you have access to,” says Dun & Bradstreet’s former SVP, Audience Solutions, Anudit Vikram. “It’s not just a matter of having first-party data and supplementing it with third-party data. The deeper questions marketers need to be asking are, What are the right third-party data assets which overlap well with our available first-party data? What attributes will be instrumental in driving campaign performance? How are we measuring the performance of different data sets so we can decide where the money is being well spent? Of course, you cannot do any of these unless you have an appropriate data management platform in place with the right strategy around the collection, collation, and activation of the data you have access too.”
2. Breaking Down Data Silos
The biggest challenge with data is actually getting to it and using it. Half of respondents agreed that data silos within their organizations have become a huge headache. Similarly, a third of marketers pointed to siloed or inaccessible customer data as being top obstacles to achieving data-driven marketing success. This is certainly not the first survey that echoed similar frustrations with data silos and their negative impact on marketing efforts.
Marketing data can live in a wide range of places within the organization, and it needs to be consistent, accurate, and available. Developing a plan to connect pieces of data across systems to a common identifier is one of the major keys to breaking down the silos and will be a focus for a majority of B2B organizations in 2019 and beyond. After all, it’s the only way to get a complete view of the customer.
Once data silos start to go away, you’ll have an easier time gaining a clearer picture of the account journey. In B2B, that means gaining insights that will allow you to differentiate your customer experience in meaningful ways.
3. Getting Smarter About Account-Based Marketing
What’s old is new again. While account-based marketing (ABM) has been around a long time, it’s recently picked up steam with B2B marketers who are looking to market to their top accounts. And while B2B marketers agree it’s effective, only 37% claimed to actually be doing it.
Asked about the hurdles keeping them from embracing ABM, B2B marketers pointed to an unclear ABM strategy (35%), a lack of time and resources (31%), and a lack of understanding about ABM in general (29%).
“ABM strategies and the need for good data are joined at the hip,” explains Vikram. “You cannot run an effective ABM program without first having identified the target account set and then being confident in your ability to reach them in the right manner. This starts and ends with good data.”
With 22% of B2B marketers saying ABM is on their 2019 roadmap, there will be a continued focus on data to guide the ABM strategy and more internal education and knowledge-sharing to uncover ABM best practices.
4. Investing More in Programmatic Advertising
Programmatic has become such an important part of the B2B marketer’s go-to- strategy. While only a handful of B2B marketers were employing programmatic marketing when we first conducted this survey four years ago, today 63% said they are buying advertising programmatically. While the number of marketers engaging in programmatic buying has reached a plateau, the amount of money being spent on the programmatic channel continues to rise. Looking ahead to 2019, 61% of respondents said they plan to increase their programmatic spending, with 20% of those saying they will increase it by more than 25%.
“The stabilization in the percentage of marketers using programmatic methods of campaign execution is more a factor of the reality that programmatic strategies require a specific skill and also are effective only at a certain scale,” says Vikram. “Of those that fit the profile, different types of programmatic strategies will continue to drive benefits.”
5. Being Cautious Before Embracing New Solutions
A host of new buzzworthy terms have replaced programmatic as the next big thing for B2B marketing. One of the latest solutions getting a ton of buzz is blockchain. Blockchain is essentially a ledger of records linked cryptographically. But how it can be used for marketing remains to be seen.
Only 5% of B2B marketers said current blockchain solutions show promise. But over 40 percent said they just don’t know. Vikram believes there’s going to be a great opportunity to use blockchain effectively. “Blockchain has the potential of radicalizing the reporting/reconciliation/billing process, cutting days (even months!) from time to revenue recognition.” He cautions that we still may be a few years away from completely embracing it, but he nevertheless sees the value long-term.
Like programmatic almost a decade ago, B2B marketers will be hesitant to jump right in and embrace the latest buzzword until they have a concrete idea how it can be used within the organization. Until then, they need to get a handle on their data strategy, which will ultimately impact everything they do in 2019 and beyond.
Download Adweek’s Digital Marketing Trends for 2019
For the third consecutive year, Dun & Bradstreet has partnered with Adweek to gain a deeper understanding of how B2B brands are approaching data-driven marketing. The 2019 Marketing & Advertising Outlook shines a light on today’s biggest challenges, from ABM to programmatic. Check out the full report to see how your peers will be driving their marketing strategies in 2019.