Data-driven, agile, automated marketing

Data-driven, agile, automated: new contours of B2B marketing

The acronym SO-LO-MO for Social, Local, Mobile characterizes the emergence of new strategies and techniques in the B2C field. What about B2B marketing? It becomes obviously data-driven, agile and more and more automated.

If the use of social networks in B2C marketing is now inevitable, recent surveys show that social represents less than 5% contribution to B2B websites traffic. However, they should not be overlooked, especially as vectors of re-assurance and interaction with prospects and customers, or as a tool for gathering information on the brand and its products and services. There remains that investments in social networks remain marginal in the B2B field in France.

Regarding the “local” axis, there is no need to remind that internationalization is a key factor for enterprise development. This axis must therefore be interpreted as a process of local implementation of global strategies.

Tools of nomadism, smartphones and tablets, are widely used by players in B2C where strategies are now not only “multi-channel” but “omni-channel”. These actors seek to interact with consumers through all possible channels, including when they are in a pre–purchase step (approach to connect to the “Local” axis when the physical distribution network is involved). In the field of B2B, the purchase decision process is longer and involves several stakeholders. In addition, the equipment rate of corporate executives in tablets is still low and most of the connections to the web are made from a desktop PC. The “mobile” as a channel in B2B is therefore of lesser importance than in B2C. However, its growth must be put under control.

The new contours of B2B marketing are different.

Data-driven marketing

Before anything else a “state of mind”, data-driven marketing focuses on Data on both analytical and predictive levels. Of course, marketing has always been quantitative and many companies had – and still have – use of quantitative surveys: pre- and post-tests, satisfaction & NPS surveys, trade-off, panels … What has changed is the diversity of the sources of information now freely available, the volume of such data (Big Data) but more importantly, the frequency of disruptive events (Schumpeter’s famous creative destruction) that undermines the traditional approach of marketing planning.

The time where marketers carefully build long term marketing plans and their annual updates seems over. B2B marketing must now be data-driven and agile. In other words, mastering Data is inseparable from the agility that must now prevail in B2B marketing in order to allow the company to adapt to the increased frequency of the events of creative destruction.

The benefits of data-driven marketing can be observed in the following fields: optimization of acquisition and conversion  (SEO, SEM, web-forms), relevance and capping of the interactions with prospects/customers (triggered emails) performance of digital media planning, overall control of digital campaigns ROI.

Agile marketing

For several years, IT teams put into practice a development approach known as “agile”. Agile development is defined as: “An iterative and adaptive process where small, highly-collaborative teams work in a series of short cycles, incorporating rapid feedback, to deliver emergent solutions, emphasizing transparency among all stakeholders”.
Beyond this definition, one particularly notes the difference it introduces with conventional “waterfall” development methods. Thus, the agile practices value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Efficient software or solution over detailed documentation
  • Customer interaction and collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change (once again Schumpeter’s gale) over following a plan

The adaptation of this approach to marketing is not only possible, it is efficient in that it abandons an obsolete and traditional marketing planning and favors adaptation to a fast-paced environment. The iterative cycle of agile marketing includes several phases of planning, testing and measurement. Let’s remind that Big Data implies Big Testing! Skills in business intelligence – especially in datamining – are therefore highly stressed. In the planning phase, one uses predictive analytics and in the measurement phase, performance analysis.
In this context, Data integration is a KFS of the process, this is where the data-driven approach is inseparable from agile marketing. By adopting this approach – highly inspired by the Deming circle –  the company is committed to a virtuous process of lifelong learning in the field of marketing.

Marketing automation

Process automation is used in many fields. It now affects marketing, very recently in B2B in Europe. In the USA, 46% of firms acting in B2B report using marketing automation solutions.

Until now, Business Intelligence sought to convert Data into Information and then into Knowledge :

37.537.5 °CIf my temperature is above 37.5°C I am sick with a fever

Now, this approach is incomplete and should be added “Action” > Call a physician (to stay in this chilly example…). From Data to Action, it is the field of marketing automation.

Its main benefit is observed in leads generation and nurturing. Marketing automation solutions allow to automate the best practices in the field of PRM. It helps to optimize the conversion funnel, to convert prospects to customers and to turn existing customers into loyal customers. The development of the interaction process is iterative and needs strong data analysis (especially leads behavior in response to different stimuli) .

If the results of these approaches are evident, one needs to avoid a pitfall quoted with humor by Bill Gates:

”The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Data-driven, agile, automated, … one thing is sure, B2B marketing is now technologic. As a result, marketers must endeavor to bridge the gap which still exists, not only between marketing and sales – eternal task … – but also between marketing and IT.

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