Understandably, every marketer today seems to be enamoured with big data.
The insights provided by big data can affect everything, from how companies structure their online content to guiding entire campaigns. But while big data provides actionable insights into the big-picture questions, it can't provide all the answers. That’s because, in B2B marketing, the browsing behaviour of just one person can influence business decisions in a number of ways, and that's where individual analytics comes in.
Ben Graham of Clemmie.xyz discusses how individual analytics can help marketers develop a stronger understanding of a client's interests and tailor their interaction to make the most of a business opportunity.
1. You use the term individual analytics, what does this mean and how is it affecting the way marketers communicate with their clients?
Individual analytics refers to the metrics gained from how just one person has engaged with specific content. It’s also referred to as ‘small data’, because rather than providing ‘big data’ – gained through studying how everyone who engages with your content (usually your official website) – it focuses on particular individuals.
It’s affected not just the way B2B’s market themselves, but also the channels through which they choose to do it. Laws surrounding PII (personal identifiable information) prevent marketers from identifying a specific visitor to their site through data-harvesting technology, so it’s a constant challenge to understand how an individual interacts with content.
For B2C’s earning their bread and butter through high-volume, low-margin transactions, this isn’t such a problem. For B2B’s, where the browsing behaviour of a single decision maker can mean the difference between a major sale and a missed opportunity, however, this is a pressing issue. That’s why more businesses are turning to microsites to engage with prospective clients.
Marketers create a site dedicated to the specific opportunity in hand, before sending the unique URL to the client. In this way, they can be sure the resulting analytics reflect only the client’s engagement and nobody else’s.
2. What other applications, besides engaging with clients on a one-to-one basis, does individual analytics have?
There are a number of uses for individual analytics. I’ve had clients use microsites, and the subsequent analytics, to guide internal policy. Sending a financial report as a unique URL to shareholders provides quantified insights that inform future policy decisions. Likewise, employers can engage with their workers by sending out the monthly newsletter as a unique URL. The analytics won’t identify individuals, but it will give an aggregated breakdown of how the company as a whole have engaged with the newsletter content.
More and more design companies are turning to microsites for their digital portfolios, populating them with their latest designs before sending them on to leads. From the resulting analytics, they can see which designs were of most interest to the client and tailor subsequent interactions around their strongest material.
3. How has the growth in data-harvesting tools affected the way businesses measure their success rate?
These days, everything is quantified. There’s a lot less of a gut-feeling culture in marketing now, which is good for those looking to validate success rates with cold hard data. Simultaneously it’s spurned a new kind of digital democracy, where small startups can compete alongside major corporations providing they are tech-savvy enough.
But, in B2B, there’s a gulf between having the most optimised content and acquiring real leads. Too many B2B’s compete to be the most optimised, without optimising the sales funnel to convert leads into paying customers. It’s for this reason that individual analytics are such an essential element of the sales process. Getting people to your site is just half the battle, and that’s why marketers should be prepared to use both small and big data in conjunction with each other.
4. We're seeing more and more B2C's embrace big data as a means of guiding content - how do these applications differ in a B2B setting?
The very nature of B2B means opportunities can rest on just a few people, but these opportunities also offer a much higher margin. Current data harvesting tools are geared towards the collection of mass metrics – studying how large numbers find, engage with and respond to your content.
As I said before, the issues with broad-scatter analytics solutions arise when B2B’s try to implement them for wholly different purposes. Whilst it’s important to know how the public perceive your content, the majority of people visiting your site will not be buying your product or services. Leveraging big data insights is fantastic for ensuring a return on your platform, but small data provides a real glimpse into the mind of real prospects, an invaluable tool when that individual is making decisions that affect a project, company or even an entire industry.
5. What are the biggest challenges facing B2B marketing teams in the future?
One of the most common issues I’ve encountered when talking to marketing teams today is simply maintaining pace with the rapid evolution of technology. As soon as they become comfortable with new software, new technology disrupts the whole process and sends (almost) everyone back to square one.
Take mobile, for instance. The number of global users for mobile devices surpassed the number of desktop users back in 2015. The introduction of apps to the marketing process knocked firms reeling, and many are still struggling to recover. Apps are proving to be a major challenge to marketers, but they also possess huge potential. EU law requires you get consent from users for their data to be accessed, but once you have permission, you can begin to personalise the experience through the data fed back to you.
This data drills down to the most minute of details, providing real, actionable insights on individuals. The personal metrics gained from a custom app can provide the answers to questions you never even knew you should ask.
6. How could businesses be doing more to engage with their clients?
B2B’s are getting better every day at understanding and engaging with their clients, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Understanding your clients goes beyond studying the analytics. It requires constant reassessment of your approach, the channels you use to reach out to people and even the language you use.
Engaging with clients shouldn’t require guesswork – you should be able to greet them like an old friend, and understand their very unique needs. In highly competitive B2B sectors, establishing lasting relationships with clients is the only way to ensure regular business opportunities. Individual analytics allow you to build up a realistic portrait of your client’s characteristics. By compiling character profiles of your clients and quantifying their preferences according to predetermined parameters, you increase the likelihood of being able to shift from a reactionary model to anticipating their needs.
7. How has the introduction of cross-channel personalisation changed the relationship between business and client?
There are now so many different technologies at our disposal, marketers can’t hope to utilise every single one in their campaigns. Email, IM, mobile apps, PPC, social media channels – each has its own uses, and cross-channel personalisation, particularly between Desktop and mobile, has become an obligatory aspect of a marketers role. This is the multi-device generation.
While cross-channel personalisation has redrawn the lines between personal and professional, it’s also opened up a new world of data. When used intelligently, this data can influence every element of your marketing strategy. Beth Kindig of CitizenTekk explained: “Real-time data from a variety of sources pours in every second and the difference between winning or losing lies in optimising every single parameter in harmony with each other.”
8. How do you see the future of B2B marketing changing, and what role (if any) will individual analytics play in shaping this future?
We’re already witnessing a huge transformation in the industry, as businesses transition to operating through a multi-device, multi-channel model. Today, nobody is ever really “off the clock” and this is only going to become more true; our technology has to reflect these changing priorities.
Data is now integral to the marketing process. Campaigns can be quantified, strategies scaled and new concepts trialed with actionable insights. Individual analytics are gaining recognition as an important addition to a marketer’s toolkit, too. To understand it’s value, picture it as a fine paint brush. Marketers want to create a full and detailed image of their client-base. To do this, they need both the large brush for the thick strokes (big data) and the small brush for the finer details (small data).
B2B’s are finally beginning to understand the importance of filling in those finer details to get a true picture of their client-base.
Ben Graham, director of communications for Clemmie.xyz
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock