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B2B marketers and salespeople on average make about half of their decisions based on intuition and experience rather than quantitative data analysis, according to a commissioned study [download page] conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Dun & Bradstreet. The results bring to mind recent research from The CMO Survey, which found that B2B firms use marketing analytics for decision-making in only slightly more than one-third of projects, as opposed to more than half of projects for B2C firms.

Only Half Really Trust Their Data

The Dun & Bradstreet study identifies several areas that pose challenges to B2B firms. For example, just 49% believe their firms execute “very” or “extremely” well in having customer data that they fully trust to be complete and accurate. That’s none too surprising given Experian Data Quality research indicating that one-third of US organizations’ prospect and customer data is believed to be inaccurate.

Meanwhile, even fewer (43%) respondents feel that they’re doing very well at integrating and sharing data across the organization, and just 42% believe that they’re doing a great job of converting data into insights to quickly act on customers’ immediate needs, interest and behaviors.

Recent research has likewise shown that there’s a large gap between organizations’ access to data and their ability to derive meaningful insights from that data through careful analysis.

Data access, management and activation problems may prove to be difficult roadblocks to B2B firms’ largest priorities. About half said that improving customer experience is their top business priority in the next year. Yet, as recent research has demonstrated, the lack of sufficient audience data is considered to be the most significant challenge organizations are facing with respect to achieving customer experience enhancement goals.

What Challenges Are Posed by Data Issues?

B2B firms surveyed for the study reported a variety of data-related challenges in achieving their marketing and sales objectives. (See the chart above.)

The broadest problem faced is managing data and insight sharing across business areas, which 82% of respondents said is at least a moderate challenge for them.

But at least three-quarters pointed to a range of other factors as being at least moderately challenging to them.

For example, 80% struggle to manage the volume, variety and velocity of their data. Likewise, 8 in 10 find it at least moderately challenging to develop insights that are actionable and to take actions quickly from data and insights.

No wonder US firms are spending more on 3rd party audience data activation solutions than on the data itself

The report’s analysts point out that it’s critical to have executive buy-in, but that only half of respondents believe that their company’s top executives see data and analytics as a strategic capability and primary area of focus.

This could be further holding back more mature use of data: only a bare majority (53%) have implemented more mature analytics, such as predictive modeling. Predictive modeling is considered the most important feature that marketing technologies can provide in supporting organizations’ efforts to achieve value from their future use of data. But as previous Dun & Bradstreet research reveals, predictive data is the least-used martech feature by B2B firms.

Leaders Do More

B2B firms that don’t have executive buy-in may want to consider passing along these findings:

  • Data activation leaders identified by the analysts report significantly better outcomes for marketing and sales than data activation laggards, as well as far superior customer-focused metrics;
  • These improved outcomes include increased sales cycle speed over the past year, which leaders are more than twice as likely to have achieved as laggards, as well as increased customer lifetime value and larger average deal sizes;
  • Data activation leaders are also far more likely than laggards to be personalizing customers’ experiences and uncovering new business opportunities; and
  • Fully two-thirds have implemented or are expanding their use of predictive models, a rate twice as high as laggards (34%).

The report’s analysts provide the following 3 recommendations for data activation success:

  • “Engage external partners for data and analytics services.”
  • “Embrace advanced analytics.”
  • “Organize with an insights center of excellence.”

The full report is available for download here.

About the Data: The results are based on a Forrester survey of 500 professionals with responsibility for or influence over customer/prospect data strategy or management at organizations with 500+ employees. Respondents came from the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland. Some 52% are from companies that target both B2B and B2C, and another 39% are from B2B-focused companies.

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