The enduring importance of knowing your customers, your data, and your ROI

Sometimes when you attend a conference, it’s not the latest techniques or tools in your field that are most interesting to hear about.

It can be seeing the approaches you’ve been applying for years still stand strong amongst a sea of new trends. It can be hearing about how often large and well-established companies continue to benefit and learn from applying what many would consider ‘industry fundamentals’. It can be a small spark that reminds you the power of getting the basics right.

At this year’s B2B Marketing Leaders Forum, there were three core analysis and insight themes which have been around for a long time, but continue to prove their place in any B2B marketing approach: 

You really need to know your customer

You have heard it before, but it is as important as ever in 2022 B2B Marketing to know as much as you can about who you are targeting – and not just the type of company, but the individual decision makers within it. This is where three tried and tested tools can be hugely valuable:

The Ideal Customer Profile vs Customer Personas vs Customer Journey Mapping

  • Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is creating an agreed view across the business of the ideal type of company you would like to have as a customer. This could be based on revenue, profit, lifetime value or even referrals. And the profile looks at things like industry, size, geography, stage of growth, organisational chart and so on. Of course, you might have more than one ideal customer type, but having at least one agreed profile is one of the most basic inputs into your ‘target market’
  • Your Customer Persona is a profile of the key decision maker (or makers) that you need to reach, typically inside the ICP you created. It is based on demographics and psychographics that brings the target audience to ‘life’ and creates a personal representation of them. This profile helps you think about how best to approach them, what content to create, where to find them, what to avoid, and so on, and should be referenced each time a new offer or marketing approach is being considered.
  • Customer Journey Mapping is the approach of thinking about your Customer Persona moving through the buying journey – from problem identification, to awareness of different solution providers, to finding out about your specific solution to engagement, purchase and post purchase. It is mapping out the questions, needs, challenges, and so on that this person will face along the way and using this to inform marketing efforts.

An interesting example covered at this year’s conference was how one large institution treats the outputs of these processes as ‘live’ documents. For example, their customer journey map lived as simple post-it notes on a wall in their office and as new learnings came in (e.g. seeing actual behaviour during a campaign), notes were moved, deleted or added to continually evolve the journey. 

And an important reminder from the conference is that while marketing is typically seen as the ‘voice of the customer’ – marketing generally drives the creation of these customer-related assets and owns the outcomes – it is the sales team that talks to the customer every day. Both sales and marketing are all trying to reach, educate and convert the same people – it is crucial to harness the knowledge and input of sales throughout all three processes and to work together on creating shared outputs. 

Another day, another addition to the tech stack and more data to analyse

One thing that is abundantly clear if you attend any marketing conference – and B2B might have been playing catch up a bit here – is that marketing technology is where it’s at. And we’re not talking Google Ads or social media here. We are talking about huge marketing and CRM tools like Adobe Marketo Engage, SalesForce, HubSpot and Qualtrics, and the fact that these aren’t just being used by the big end of town. Small enterprises are placing huge value in the data that they can collect, analyse, and use for decision making, but also for marketing automations from simple email marketing processes to content libraries for sales teams which serves up the best content, at the best time for their prospective customers all based on data collected (yes, we’re talking personalised content experiences based on the customers needs). 

They are willing to invest in these tools to get it right from the start. And we all know that getting it right from the start means collecting quality data. We’ve all felt the pain of multiple prospect and customer data sets, that sit across different business units, that collect different data points (or more often than not, no data points!) and don’t match up. How can we have a strong approach to targeting when we can’t profile our prospects and clients using our own data? It might be a job no-one wants to take on, but businesses are truly missing out if they can’t accurately capture, house, analyse and use one of their greatest assets.

Return on Investment (ROI) and giving credit where credit’s due

And finally, this year’s conference again shone a light on how to apply Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Return on Investment (ROI) metrics – as well as how to think about attribution – in a B2B marketing setting.

As many of you would know, the joy of marketing in the digital age is not just in how targeted you can get – it’s that everything (well almost everything) is measurable. There are a huge range of KPI metrics available to measure short term success; such as how a campaign has performed in terms of reaching a certain number of people or getting those people click a certain number of times on something. You can even monitor most of this in real time. And this is great. But – as we all know far too well in B2B – long, long lead times mean these KPIs have value for the initial indication of the performance of a marketing activity (hence the name of course) but they only tell the start of the story.

Linking this activity to other touch points along the way – and assigning attribution to them – needs to take over after the reporting on upfront clicks. And in turn, showing how all of these elements eventually (hopefully!) lead to a sale is critical to see true marketing return on investment. 

This is also why small and large businesses alike are investing in the tech to track these kind of things – if you can map the end-to-end process, that’s where the value lies. But don’t be scared if you can’t implement a piece of cool tech to help – this is where you can simply talk to your salespeople. And you also don’t need to over-complicate it to start with. Agree with the sales team on a simple, conservative estimate of how many leads are needed to generate one sale. Ten? Twenty? A hundred? And agree with the team what an average value of a sale looks like (yes – there could be lots of nuances here, but pick something to start with).

Then you can work backwards. To achieve that $x in sales, you needed to give sale y leads – phone calls, emails, form completions – and you need z interactions – those clicks we talked about – to get those leads. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s a starting point. And when everyone starts to see how the end-to-end process delivers, it creates a unified approach between sales and marketing which – according to the B2B Marketing Forum and many other marketing conferences we’ve attended – truly is the holy grail of B2B marketing.

If you are interested in some of the trends covered in this year’s B2B Marketing Leader’s Forum, head over to our other blog which talks all things Account Based Marketing, Creative Tone Of Voice and Focus On Employee Experience to name a just a few.