Marketing and sales professionals are constantly being tasked to secure the customer’s interest, bring in new leads and ultimately close sales. But technology – and, more crucially, data – is changing how this is accomplished. In the past, persistent cold-calling or simple email batch and blasts might have landed you a promising deal. However, like traditional media – which has rapidly shifted from physical newspapers to online – businesses are now expected to go beyond traditional prospecting and become data-driven. And this can be difficult if you don’t have the right tools in place.

So what’s the solution? Invest in better data. Frequently, the data marketing uses can be out of date or incorrect. Forty-one per cent of B2B marketers cite inconsistent data as their biggest challenge to maximising ROI. Data can provide a single view of the truth – both about an audience and how to connect with them, providing a faster path from prospect to relationship. And, surfacing that data to sales teams and marketers when and where they need it can be the difference between success and failure, growth and decline.

Why data? Sales and marketing can no longer use traditional techniques

Data is everywhere. From smart homes and connected mobile devices to artificial intelligence, technology is now the driving force behind data becoming a strategic differentiator for companies. Businesses are now being forced to evolve their approach by balancing traditional sources of information (found through databases) and new digitally-led platforms (such as social media and web interactions). Combine the two together with third party data and you build a 360-degree view of the customer, which the marketing team can then use to create the most tailored experience for that individual and the sales team can use for the most optimal outreach. Importantly, data is useless if it isn’t uncovered, analysed and made relevant.

By the same token, technology is useless if not fuelled by accurate data. There are so many data points being produced every single minute that marketers need to ensure they are using the correct information; 80% of marketers see data quality as critical to sales and marketing and more than half are investing to address persistent data challenges. The key to success lies in creating an environment within the business where the same ecosystem of data courses through the entire structure, thereby aligning the sales, marketing, and customer service teams around the same information, providing a cohesive customer experience.

As marketing has matured, so too has the customer journey

All of the above is reflective of the customer relationship which is now immeasurably complex. B2B customers are interacting with the sales team much later in the buying process. Customers will categorically avoid interactions with sales professionals because of irrelevant streams of information. The emergence of technology has now changed the way that sales and marketing professionals create a path from potential prospect to relationship. Crucially, leveraging real-time data will achieve nothing if the marketing model in place cannot accelerate the sales process.

Data alone is simply the first step and organisations should understand that real-time data is the true crux in creating outstanding customer experiences. The customer now expects a much more personalised experience because the evolution of technology has made it possible to connect with customers much more creatively. Be it a personalised social media interaction or tailored call at the most convenient time when the customer signals a need, companies must find innovative ways of connecting with a prospect. What’s more, companies will now need to connect offline customer actions (such as trade show visits or sales/customer service contact) to their online activities (such as web visits) to deliver that customisation. Doing so is the only way to maximise the ROI and build a long-lasting relationship.

Good decisions on bad data are just bad decisions that the business hasn't made yet

The old adage ‘the customer is always right’ couldn’t be more fitting. While the term is often associated with retailers, businesses could learn one valuable lesson: customers will refuse to engage or buy your product if they come across poor customer service. The same applies to sales and marketing professionals – fail to reach out to your customer in the right way and they’ll put the phone down or ignore the email.

Implementing a data-savvy approach will help the business reach the right people with relatable information, enhance the customer relationship and prepare your sales team with the tools needed to succeed.


By Rishi Dave, chief marketing officer at Dun & Bradstreet

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