What Kind of B2B Datanista Are You?

Admit it. You don't know your customer. Yes, there's a lot of talk about connecting with the customer and placing him/her at the center of everything you do. But if you're like most B2B marketers, you really don't understand what drives your customer.  When was the last time you talked with a customer? When was the last time you used primary customer data to make more intelligent marketing decisions? Gotcha!

Since 2007, I've had a front row seat to how marketers are using technology to transform the value marketing provides to the organization. I've worked with hundreds of companies, and I've discovered an undeniable correlation between marketers' ability to drive financial results and their use of customer/prospect data to make real-time business decisions. To generate awareness of this data-driven phenomenon, I coined the term "Revenue Marketer" in 2011. Data is the critical success factor in marketing's ability to impact revenue. And today, in an environment where more than 80% of CMOs feel increasing pressure to show ROI and revenue results, the role of data is even more critical. Yet, less than a third can report such numbers (The CMO Survey, 2016).  Clearly, it's time to examine marketing's relationship with data.

Birth of a Datanista 

Data is the critical success factor in marketing’s ability to impact revenue.

As we look into the face of 2017, marketers are sitting on a goldmine of data about prospects and customers. In my experience, most don't know what to do or what is possible with this rich data.

I recently presented to the North American marketing team of a large biomedical firm. The audience was a diverse group of professionals involved in all aspects of marketing. The theme of my talk was marketers' relationship to the customer and how it is revealed by the way they work with data. The "Datanista" concept was born.

The term "Datanista" was inspired by my love of coffee. Frequenting local coffee shops as I travel around the US is a hobby of mine, and I learn a lot about both the establishment and the coffee from my conversations with baristas. The barista's relationship to (and understanding of) coffee, along with his/her ability to effectively communicate with customers, provides a rich experience to a great cup of coffee. Similarly, "Datanista" marketers use data to derive insights that guide decisions and enrich buyer interactions.

The Datanista's Journey

Becoming a Datanista begins with the recognition that data, especially customer data, is an essential resource for today's marketer. Most marketers refer to this moment of truth as an "Uh-oh" or "Who moved my cheese?" moment. During this never-ending journey, the Datanista is instrumental in transforming customer data into practical insights and sharing these insights with a broad base of stakeholders, including all parts of marketing, the executive team and sales. The result is better decision-making and improved competitive advantage, which reflects a closed loop customer lifecycle.

That's a mouthful, so let's break it down. It takes time to become a mature Datanista, and most marketers will migrate through four stages on their journey. While on that journey, the ability to mine customer data and provide buyer insights evolves to eventually benefit a broader stakeholder group.

The Four-Stage Datanista Maturity Model

There are four types of Datanistas – 1) World-of-Mouth, 2) Aggregate, 3) Analytic and 4) Predictor. These four Datanistas represent a maturity model.  As you review the description of each kind of Datanista, take a moment to reflect on what your style is and answer the Challenge Question. (For the purposes of this article, I will focus on customer data only, not marketing performance, derived from tactical operations.)

Word-of-Mouth Datanista

"I mostly depend on conversations with sales and other internal groups, reading thought leadership and listening to webinar speakers to learn about customers."

The Word-of-Mouth Datanista depends primarily on "word-of-mouth" data from sources around them. They seek customer data inconsistently, as this type of data is not often viewed as a priority. Data collected about customers is most often used to help develop personas and shape messaging. What is striking about these Datanistas is that they have little to no direct interaction with prospects and customers – either live or digitally. (Yes, these types of marketers still exist!)

Challenge Question: When was the last time you engaged a prospect or a customer in a substantive discussion?

Based on my market observations, about 25% of all B2B marketing organizations are Word-of-Mouth Datanistas.

Aggregate Datanista

"I sometimes have a little more information about how people interact with our website, but I still rely on sales for customer data."

The Aggregate Datanista realizes digital data – at an aggregate level – can be collected and interpreted. Most of this data comes from composite metrics from website activity, such as number of visitors and most popular pages visited. Feedback from the sales team is still the major source of customer data. Data is still collected inconsistently and analytics from that data are used to improve website and e-mail performance. 

Challenge Question: What does composite data tell you about actual, individual customers? Is it enough?

Based on my market observations, about 60% of all marketing organizations work with aggregate-level data.

Analytic Datanista

The Datanista is instrumental in transforming customer data into practical insights and sharing these insights with a broad base of stakeholders, including all parts of marketing, the executive team and sales.

"I have access to digital behavioral data so I can make real-time, data-driven decisions about customer interactions while also providing key insights to a larger stakeholder group."

The data sources for the Analytic Datanista focus on the digital footprint and interaction record of individual buyers while also using composite data from other sources. At this stage of Datanista maturity, marketers begin to have a better understanding of prospects and customers than sales or any other part of the company. The data, which is collected and responded to in real time, is used by a wider stakeholder group, product marketers, marketing/program managers and marketing operations. These groups leverage the data to optimize every customer touch to improve effectiveness, boost efficiency and drive revenue.


Challenge Question: Are you mining and sharing data-driven insights from digital body language with a wider stakeholder group, especially sales?

Based on my market observations, about 12% of all marketing organizations have any analytical chops.

Predictor Datanista

"I have access to integrated and predictive and anticipatory data analysis for all points of the buyer journey, and this data allows our executive team to make better strategic decisions for the business."

The Predictor Datanista uses a wide network of data sources, including cookies, CRM, marketing automation systems, various tools and third parties. Data is available in real time and is used by executives to make strategic decisions about the business. In this stage of data maturity, marketing can forecast its impact on revenue.

Challenge Question: Do you have predictive and anticipatory data models?

Based on my market observations, about 3% of all marketing organizations use data for any kind of predictive insights.

So, what kind of Datanista are you? Is this where you want to be? The world of B2B marketing is forever changed because of new technologies and customer buying behaviors. The only way for marketing to survive and thrive in this new world is to become a mature Datanista, with a dedicated focus on all aspects of customer data. This ranges from where and how to gather data to providing actionable insights that improve decision making for everything from campaign performance to the strategic direction of the firm.  

Marketing is sitting on a goldmine of customer data. Smart companies who effectively use this data will see a direct correlation to driving credible revenue results and earning both a seat and a voice at the table.

So, tell me, what kind of Datanista are you?