A Data-First Approach Drives Business Growth

While Cautions Remain, Businesses Look Ahead With Optimism

These days, you may feel an unexpected vibe coming from the C-suite: hopefulness. After three years of trudging through disruptions that continue to evolve, B2B organizations are increasingly focused on getting back to business and are shifting from crisis mode to proactive strategy. Planning for uncertainty is more and more becoming part of our ongoing strategic plans.

Take the Measure of CEO Confidence1 survey, for example. According to this annual report from The Conference Board that analyzes CEOs’ perceptions of current and expected business and industry conditions, CEO confidence improved in Q1 2023 over the previous quarter, a sign that CEOs are feeling a bit better about their organizations’ futures. And a study by NTT DATA2 supports this, finding that businesses’ strategic focus is now on driving growth, controlling costs, and developing engaging customer experiences.

When it comes to creating growth, executives pegged digital transformation as their most critical growth driver in 2022.3 And they’re putting their money where their mouth is, investing in head count and digital initiatives. To succeed with these plans, a data-centric approach that unifies teams around a single source of truth is paramount. Data is the motor that drives meaningful customer interactions and impactful digital-first initiatives, but too often this is where the disconnect happens.

Data’s Impact on Business Success

Despite the best of intentions, B2B businesses are still struggling to leverage their data. The NTT DATA survey revealed that only two in five business and IT leaders in North America said data creates value for their organization, and 43% called their data inaccurate and useless, a sobering statistic! Dun & Bradstreet research revealed a similar outlook, as fewer than half the sales, marketing, and data leaders we surveyed indicated they were completely confident in their data-driven decision-making. Furthermore, they identified “accuracy of customer data” and “cost of third-party data” as major obstacles to succeeding with data-driven marketing.

For some B2B organizations, data quality continues to be a pervasive problem. One-third of organizations in our study reported that they struggle with data accuracy and consistency across platforms. Perhaps driven by these data challenges, the vast majority of organizations have been investing more in data quality over the past year and expect to increase this investment throughout 2023. Nearly four in five sales, marketing, and data leaders who responded to our survey said their company’s investment in data quality had increased in the past 12 months and expect their organization’s investment in sales and/or marketing data quality to increase through 2023. 


historic data quality investment


future data quality investment


Get the Most From Your Data Investment

So where should teams focus their efforts for the best results? In the Dun & Bradstreet 9th Annual B2B Sales & Marketing Data Report, we discovered a group of sales, marketing, and data leaders, dubbed “The Confidents,” who expressed confidence in their overall sales and marketing performance. We found that they tend to approach go-to-market tasks differently from their less confident counterparts.

Best Practice 1: First-Party First

Customers have become increasingly concerned about how their data is used, and that, along with an increasing number of privacy laws and government regulations, is having a big impact on the data available to B2B. High-performing teams are planning for this with a focus on their first-party data.

The Confidents recognize this; 85% reported faith in their organization’s first-party data, compared with just 48% of the less confident responders.

Best Practice 2: Data Before Tech

When struggles exist, many sales and marketing teams are quick to introduce new tools in an attempt to solve the problem. Yet even a wealth of technology can’t make up for underlying data quality challenges. Our tech stacks and IT tools can be huge time-savers, but they should serve us and not the other way around. A data-centric approach to IT modernization and tech tools that invests in data as an organization’s most important asset will set teams up for success.

The Confidents understand this and are focused on improving data quality and internal processes instead of resources.  

Best Practice 3: One Aligned Team

Revenue teams aligned around data can weather any storm. While most of our survey respondents admitted this was a work in progress for their organization, The Confidents were much more likely to rank their teams high for metrics such as transparently sharing information, working cohesively without finger-pointing, and alignment around business metrics and revenue targets. If you need another reason to prioritize your organization’s data health, consider that most teams rank data quality issues as the biggest roadblock to achieving alignment. Let quality data set the tone for your organization, and the results will speak for themselves.

Let the Optimism Continue

It’s reassuring to see more executive optimism and a renewed focus on driving growth over mere survival. As the world we do business in will always fluctuate, data and its underlying strategies will continue to evolve. Teams that are aligned around quality data will be up for the challenge.

Download the 9th Annual B2B Sales & Marketing Data Report.




1 CEO Confidence Picked Up in Q1, but CEOs Remain Pessimistic. The Conference Board. https://www.conference-board.org/topics/CEO-Confidence

2 Innovation Index: Are You Ready to Shift from Survive to Thrive? NTT DATA. https://us.nttdata.com/en/engage/innovation-index

3 PwC Pulse Survey: Executive views on business in 2022. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/pulse-survey/executive-views-2022.html