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2016 B2B Marketing Priorities: Stepping Stones to Data-Inspired Progress

As marketers, it's easy to feel like we're lagging behind. While some B2B marketing teams are launching their next-generation cross-device targeting and personalization programs, the majority are still barely scratching the surface in V1.

Throughout January, marketing blogs published a series of pieces on 2016 resolutions. Many spoke to improving targeting precision, running experimental campaigns in new channels and using data to make more accurate predictions. But look back to the same resolutions from 2015 and 2014 - you'll see many of the same statements repeated:

"This will be the year that personalization takes off."

"Marketers will finally be able to build attribution models that are perfect."

"If you're not using third-party data to improve your campaigns, you're lagging behind."

These grandiose goals are different from the realities that most marketers face every day. When it comes to data, precision and martech, the majority of companies are barely scratching the surface (anyone who tells you otherwise is likely all talk). That's a good thing it means that there are many emerging opportunities to have a powerful voice and be an industry leader. Success starts with knowing where to concentrate our efforts - and win. Here's how three marketing leaders describe their biggest priorities in 2016...

1. Improving Customer Profiles

Nominated by: Matthew Brogie, COO at Repsly, a mobile CRM and data collection tool

Rule #1 of marketing is that we need to understand our customers. What information are they seeking? How can we better target them with relevant, engaging marketing messages? These questions are deceptively complex to answer; few marketers have the tools that they need to target audiences with the right messaging at the right time. For most organizations (as is the case with Dun and Bradstreet), this initiative will be a complex, multi-year initiative. The technologies that many of us need might not even exist or be accessible yet.

Instead of trying to climb a mountain overnight, we need to focus on iteration. We need to take small steps and continuously build upon our learning.
Ritika Puri, Storyhackers Co-Founder

But instead of trying to climb a mountain overnight, we need to focus on iteration. We need to take small steps and continuously build upon our learning. That's why Brogie and his team are tackling marketing's attribution and personalization strategies in piecemeal. They're taking sustainable steps forward, starting with optimizing their customer profiles.

"We feel that there is never enough detailed information about the Web visitors that come to our page," says Brogie. "Google blocks the specific searches that they make to find us, and linking email addresses to accurate and detailed company information is difficult at times."

Currently, Brogie and his team are capturing everything about their prospects' industry segments, paths to discovery and on-site browsing activity. Using this data, teams within Repsly calculate a propensity-to-buy score.

In 2016, Brogie and his team plan to better to better understand "which prospects they should be spending more time and effort on, which marketing channels are working best and which buyer personas are best to target with the company's valuable acquisition budget." This process involves testing new data providers and collecting more information to build better customer profiles. Brogie and his team plan to explore new supplemental data sources to up Repsly's analytics game.

2. Boosting Customer Retention

Nominated by: Stacy Cyr, senior marketing manager at LogoMix, a software company that helps small business customers create DIY branding and designs

When it comes to customer retention, loved companies seem to have it easy. But there's more happening behind the scenes. Even though the mainstream Internet is more than 20 years old, digital marketing is still in its infancy. More and more companies are emerging to offer B2B products and services - as one report from Marketo points out, there was over $3.3 billion in venture capital invested in marketing technologies in Q1 of 2015. The Internet has created a dynamic in which there's always something new or something better, a click or two away. Customer retention is a challenge as a result.

That's why marketers are like Cyr are aiming to improve customer retention in 2016. Rather than waiting for market fragmentation to become a challenge for LogoMix, Cyr and her team are using data to begin taking action immediately.

"Data has been crucial in establishing and adapting our customer retention strategy," says Cyr.

"Our target market is micro-businesses, and statistics show that 80% of new small businesses fail within their first 18 months, which only makes it more difficult to get customers to keep coming back and purchasing from us. We use data to figure out the value of our repeat customers and how to target the correct groups of users, with the right message, at the right time of day, using the right medium."

Using data, Cyr and her team are able to come up with ideas for campaigns, messaging and even new products at a faster pace. In 2016, LogoMix will be using data it has been collecting over the years to introduce new sources of value.

"We'll be adding new products to the mix to create more diverse opportunities for upsell and cross-sell among our customers," says Cyr. "This approach will push more one-time customers to come back as regular buyers."

3. Systemizing Data Maintenance

Nominated by: Akhil Saxena, content marketing specialist at Niswey, an integrated marketing agency

Data doesn't exist in a vacuum. Marketing automation systems and customer profiles need tune-ups every once in a while. Otherwise, information can become outdated or obsolete. Companies are collecting a wealth of data, and marketers need to make the most out of these efforts. It's not enough to simply build customer profiles - maintenance will be key for a successful long-term strategy, too.

That's why the team at Niswey is building systems for more consistent email list segmentation.

"An outdated database can mess up the results, big time," says Saxena. "So, even if a fourth of the database is outdated, it will skew the results and thus never show the true insights. The engagement rate, which is one of the criteria to measure a campaign's success, is dependent on the quality of the database. Any data falling out of our target audience does not account for the engagement rate, and this outdated data is the most difficult part to track."

This iterative approach helps ensure that audiences continue to receive relevant marketing messaging.

"We have a target persona that we'd like to stick to, because we know these are the customers for whom we can create value," says Saxena.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that the future of marketing isn't yet here. Companies are still figuring out how to translate their data into opportunities, and technology is still in its infancy. The most impactful step that we can take? We need to solidify our foundations, refine our customer profiles and make sure that our processes keep us moving forward. 2016 is the year that our baby steps will begin to matter more.

Image credit: "Stepping Stone" by Jasleen Kaur, Flickr http://ow.ly/XjATT

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