Bringing transparency and relevancy to marketing data are key to effectively churn ROI from sales and advertising efforts. Even as marketing intelligence platforms become more refined and specific to every addressable customer and market channel, accurately identifying marketing attribution still eludes B2B marketers. We spoke to Monica Behncke, VP and Group Director at Sirius Decisions, To understand the dynamic nature of modern B2B marketing data landscape.
MTS: How does data enable B2B marketers to improve customer retention and empower users to have better control over post-sale expectations?
Monica Behncke: CMOs rated enhancing customer experience as the top priority that will influence marketing strategy. One of the two biggest challenges related to that priority is insufficient data. Clearly, CMOs recognize the importance of data, but for many CMOs this is not an area where they have focused their metrics collection and analysis. Some of the metrics that CMOs will be interested in at the strategy level are: Customer lifetime value, net promoter score, renewal and retention rates and brand awareness. Insights from these metrics, including trends analysis and understanding the ‘why’ behind the results, will inform CMOs’ actions. CMOs that have over-rotated their data and analytics to measure for marketing sourced pipeline are needing to correct the balance of effort to understand what is impacting the customer experience.
MTS: Accurate marketing attribution continues to elude B2B marketers. How can marketers, without mastering the art of true attribution, deliver better customer experience seamlessly along the customer journey?
Monica: The buyer’s journey and the customer lifecycle are related but different experiences, and both require the attention of the CMO. In the past decade, the buyer’s journey has taken center stage for many CMOs. But, we see a shift in consideration where the customer lifecycle is regaining the attention of CMOs, often driven by business model shifts to recurring revenue models. With limited resources, CMOs need to understand the best possible prescription for each stage of the buyer’s journey and the customer lifecycle. Best in class companies use data, either historical or research-based, to build their content and program plans. Without understanding what will progress demand or satisfy a customer at each stage, CMOs will likely be sub-optimized in resource use and conversion rates on the demand-side, and struggle to improve retention and renewal on the customer side.
MTS: According to the report, “16% of the respondents consider that disconnected marketing measurement in the business objectives” is among the major barriers to achieving marketing’s contribution. Why is there a gap between data science, analytics and final reporting in the MarTech? What are your solutions to close the gap?
Monica: The report indicates that 16% of CMOs believe the biggest barrier to successfully measuring contribution is that measurement is not tied to business objectives. We see this more as a failure in business processes than in technology, data or analytics. In many companies, we find that there is no company level interlock process to agree on how marketing will support business goals and ensure marketing is aiming resources correctly. In some cases, there are not even clear business goals, and in those cases, CMOs will often default to marketing sourced pipeline as the single accepted metric, and their analytics efforts will be pointed at reporting around that metric. Unfortunately, that leaves a great deal of marketing value ‘on the table’, unreported and unrecognized. CMOs must first find or create the forum where they can interlock with peers and stakeholders to agree on how marketing will perform and measure based on the business goals. For example, if a company is largely focused on very large customers, pipeline acceleration related metrics may be more appropriate measures than sourced pipeline. Only when the business and marketing goals are completely aligned can a CMO point their data and analytics resources in the right direction.
MTS: In the era of personalization and customer experience management, what would be the future of customer communities and B2B marketplaces? Would these communities continue to grow with the MarTech landscape?
Monica: SiriusDecisions recognizes six primary ways that b-to-b organizations can interact with customers and support engagement from within the customer base: user groups, online communities, social sites, customer advisory boards, events and partner groups. Best in class companies align community elements to customer and company goals. Company goals might include increased customer adoption, expanded customer revenue, improved customer retention, expanded advocacy or the gathering of product direction insights; while customers may seek to derive value from the investment in a product or service, seek insights, network with other clients, influence product direction or building a personal brand.
With the advent of new channels (e.g. online options, social media), customers are engaging with other customers, prospects and influencers more than ever before, and in perhaps unanticipated ways. This evolution creates both challenges and opportunities for b-to-b companies. Keep in mind that the customer evolution is ongoing, with new points of connectivity being introduced regularly. Best practice companies pay attention to these connection trends to determine how they affect their customer community ecosystems and, more importantly, how they need to adapt their community elements to optimize the engagement experience for the organization and its customers.
MTS: The report did not mention much about predictive and artificial intelligence among the marketing trends? Would you justify their omission from the report?
Monica: Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence were not omitted from the study, but they did not rank in the top three of marketing trends CMOs intend to implement in the next two years. Personalization was tied for the rank of 5th, and predictive analytics ranked 7th. While some may believe this rank to be surprisingly low, there are several considerations. First, CMOs that see business value or competitive differentiation derived from being leading edge in their use of analytics may have already begun experimentation or implementation of predictive technologies. Other CMOs may be more interested in outcomes (e.g. customer communities), or may not have begun to relate analytics technologies with their desired outcomes. If this study had been conducted with the VP of Demand Creation or Demand Marketing, the ranking may have been different.
MTS: In a largely customer-focused industry, how should the CTO view this report? What are the key, common barriers for the CMO and CTO; how should they deal with it together—as one or as siloed forces?
Monica: In today’s complex b-to-b environment, the CMO and the CTO must work together to satisfy highly empowered buyers and customers, maintain information security and effectively leverage technology. Here are five areas where CMOs and CTO can take active steps to align:
- Collaboration on culture, language, and agendas. While these may seem like ‘soft’ areas, the perception from the CTO of marketing being a ‘shadow IT’, or from marketing of IT as a ‘slow moving barrier to success’ must be dealt with head on. That may include learning the language of the other function and having a formal forum and process to align agendas and priorities.
- Customer focus. Both the CMO and the CTO must ultimately support the customer who pays the bills. The CTO must enable the organization to capture, organize and leverage enterprise customer data and analytics technologies to produce actionable insights. The CMO must coordinate cross-functional customer engagement functions (e.g. customer marketing, customer experience, customer success) that affect the customer experience.
- Technology infrastructure development. With more technology spend falling to the CMO, the CTO may need to assume an advisor role to the CMO in some areas, which makes them more easily accepted as partners than as gatekeepers.
- Prospect and customer data privacy. With the GDPR deadline less than a year away, there is renewed focus on this critical area. And, it provides an opportunity for the CMO and CTO to collaborate in a productive way, to ensure compliance and to find new legal methods of attracting and maintaining dialogues with prospects.
- Measurement. An accurate picture of the customer requires a synthesis of data that is in systems across the company. The CTO is the key to unlocking those insights, but to prioritize that effort, the CMO must be able to clearly articulate what the insights will be used for and how that will contribute to the company goals.
MTS: Thanks for chatting with us, Monica.
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