FANGs Are Taking a Bite Out of B2B - Why You Need a Customer Data Platform

Customer Data Platforms Help B2B in the FANG Era

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (the “FANGs” as dubbed by Jim Cramer of TheStreet.com) and their brethren have changed consumer behavior forever and now they are taking a bite out of B2B.  Go-to-market teams will need to re-invent themselves in the face of this change or risk failure. Read why Customer Data Platforms will enable the transformation of B2B.

In the FANG era, customers have the information edge

In the FANG era, consumers have an almost endless number of ways that they can engage with brands.  They can browse websites, read reviews, flick through social networks, download content and watch YouTube videos.  This has had a direct impact on the way that people shop for products online. Market research from Survata shows that 49% of consumers turn to Amazon first when shopping for products online, and 36% use search engines.  Only 15% turn to a retailer of choice.

B2B customers behave the same way. They expect to be able to learn about products and services using websites, social networks, reviews and content.  B2B vendors have responded by providing information in all these channels and more, including email campaigns, ads, support chat and free trials. With all this information available, customers don’t need to talk to sales reps to get information about products and services.  CEB’s research shows that B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way down the purchase process before reaching out to a sales rep.  Forrester went so far as to declare the death of the B2B salesman and shared data showing that 93% of B2B buyers prefer buying online rather from a sales person when they’ve decided what to buy.

Taking a Bite Out of B2B

In B2B, sales people have always been there to take the pulse of the customer.  But when customers don’t want to engage with sales people, the source of information about the customer disappears and the information gap gets huge.

What about the CRM?  It’s a little counterintuitive, but the Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) system is not the answer.  Sure, the CRM can be a massive repository of data, but the data is oriented toward measuring the process by which businesses sell to their business customers.  It is great for measuring sales activity and pipeline conversion metrics. It’s also great for driving volume of sales activities. When this works, the process generates leads that turn to opportunities that convert into deals.  But industry data shows that this process is breaking down:

  1. In HubSpot’s “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics for 2018”, 80% of marketers reported that their lead gen efforts are only slightly or somewhat effective;

  2. The same list reported that 35% of sales people say that closing deals is getting harder:

  3. In the Bridge Group’s 2018 SDR Metrics & Compensation Report, the data showed that inside sales people have experienced a 36% drop in quality conversations per day since 2014;

  4. The Bridge Group report also showed a 94% increase in the number of call attempts per prospect since 2010.  The report summarized, “The data is undeniable, prospects are increasingly difficult to reach and longer cadences are required to make contact.”

When the sales process breaks down and starts to show diminishing returns, where do you turn to get the information that you need in order to serve customers better?

Silos are the Enemy

The answer is in the data, but silos make it almost impossible for B2B companies to create a unified view of the customer.  Without a unified view of the customer, bad things happen:

  1. High potential leads fall through the cracks;

  2. Opportunities to drive higher value with higher touch are lost; and

  3. Critical retention and expansion opportunities are missed.

Every time a customer or prospect engages with your business, they leave their fingerprints in the form of data.  The problem for B2B teams is that this data is spread across multiple sources, including the CRM, the marketing automation system, support tickets, usage data and the financial reporting system.  These systems are often run by different teams that are operating in silos.

Because of silos, there is no single source of data that captures all the ways that a customer interacts with your business.  In fact there has been such a proliferation of point solutions to serve the needs of different personas in different silos, that you can no longer discern the logos in Scott Brinker’s 2018 Marketing Technology Landscape graphic.

2018 marketing technology landscape chiefmartec.com

If you are overwhelmed by all the tools and data, then the chances are that you are already behind.  The reality is that all the data generated from all these point solutions can be a massively valuable source of information about customers, but it needs to be mined and refined.

360 Degrees of Customer Data Kills Silos

In response to this challenge, modern B2B go-to-market teams are re-inventing themselves around customer data.  Two great examples are Atlassian and Slack.

Robert Chatwani Chief Marketing Officer Atlassian

Robert Chatwani, Chief Marketing Officer of Atlassian:

“We see opportunity less around traditional sales force driving our growth and more in investing heavily in technology, data-driven personalization, and effectively making our marketing more efficient.”

Stewart Butterfield CEO Slack

Stewart Butterfield, CEO & co-founder, Slack:

“Of course hard numbers tell an important story; user stats and sales numbers will always be key metrics. But every day, your users are sharing a huge amount of qualitative data, too - and a lot of companies either don’t know how or forget to act on it.”

With 360 degrees of customer data, go-to-market teams can engage with customers with a shared knowledge of the customers.  The unified go-to-market team includes sales, marketing, support and customer success, and it logically expands to include product management and finance.  In the FANG era, 360 degrees of customer data can balance the scales of information. A 360 degree customer view makes the entire team more effective:

  1. It aligns the team;

  2. It helps prioritize activities; and

  3. It tells us what’s working.

3 Homegrown Solutions for 360 Degrees of Data

Historically, there has not been a good solution for companies to buy, so people cobble together their own solution.  It is usually one of three less-than-perfect alternatives:

  1. Max out Salesforce CRM reports and dashboards;

  2. Build and maintain monster spreadsheets; or

  3. Go down the business intelligence (“BI”) path and hire an army of analysts.

Each approach has positives and negatives for you to consider.

Max Out Salesforce Data

Positives:

  1. You already own the tool and you have lots of data.

  2. You can easily integrate data from other systems into the CRM.

Negatives:

  1. The Salesforce data structure makes it very difficult to see data at the account level or slice the data by sales team, sales rep, marketing campaign or any other ways that are important for you to understand your business.

  2. The data structure makes it difficult to see how metrics change over time.  

Build Massive Spreadsheets

Positives:

  1. Excel (or Google Sheets) is great for complex analysis.

  2. You can export data from multiple systems into Excel.

Negatives:

  1. Excel spreadsheets easily get big.

  2. Big spreadsheets become dependent on one owner, so more analysis requires more people.

  3. They are time consuming to update and maintain.

Go Down the BI Path

Positives:

  1. You can integrate data from multiple sources.

  2. The data can be manipulated to overcome the data structure limitations of Salesforce.

  3. The data can be updated automatically.

  4. Data visualizations are very nice.

Negatives:

  1. It is expensive in time and money to set up the data warehouse, integrate the data and manipulate the data so it is usable.

  2. The amount of analysis is limited by the number of analysts.

  3. Analysts need to have specialized skills, such as SQL and Python.

  4. The total cost of ownership adds up quickly.

  5. Line of business managers are hamstrung by the backlog of requests to IT for implementation and analysis, which, ironically, often forces these managers to rely on Salesforce reports or monster spreadsheets.

Customer Data Platforms Deliver 360 Degrees

Customer Data Platforms (“CDPs”) offer the benefits of 360 degrees of customer data but without the limitations of homegrown solutions.  There are CDPs for both B2C and B2B. CDPs share the following common attributes:

  1. Data is integrated from multiple systems, cleaned and joined to create a 360 degree customer view.  In B2C, the data is joined at the consumer level. In B2B, data is joined at the account level, and leads are automatically matched to accounts.

  2. The data is maintained in a persistent unified customer database and it can be used for complex analysis (such as segmentation) and engagement with customers.

  3. It does not depend on IT.  The CDP Institute describes it as “marketer-managed”, which makes sense in B2C where marketing is the primary user.  In the B2B environment, line of businesses managers from sales, marketing, customer success, product management and finance will all want to use CDPs for their analysis and engagement applications.  The big point is that CDPs can scale because they put the power of customer data into the hands of the line of business managers.

In short, CDPs are the solution for the re-invention of modern go-to-market teams in the FANG era.  CDPs break down silos and enable the entire go-to-market team to work together to build great customer relationships over time.

Want to learn more?

  1. To learn about CDPs, the best place to start your research is the CDP Institute (www.cdpinstitute.org).

  2. Rekener is a CDP for B2B.  You can learn more about the Rekener Platform and Rekener applications at www.rekener.com.

Cover illustration by Erik Laats.

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Alex Laats

Alex is CEO and Founder of Rekener. Previously, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer at ZeroTurnaround and as President of the Delta Division of BBN Technologies. At BBN, Alex co-founded RAMP and AVOKE, both recurring SaaS businesses. Alex’s companies have generated $500M in liquidity events and more than $1B in sales. He’s been working on cracking the code on recurring revenue businesses since 1999 when he started an application service provider (remember those?) called Informio.

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