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B2B Data: Using Quality Data for Better Sales & Marketing Performance

When 2020 began, we had no idea what the year had in store. B2B marketing budgets are tighter, teams are smaller, and resources will be constrained for the foreseeable future. Yet your leadership’s expectations likely haven’t changed. Learn why data is your secret weapon for seizing control and reaching your goals, despite the hurdles caused by the pandemic.

Conferences have been cancelled. Networking events have gone virtual. Prospects are working from home. As the pandemic continues to play out, sales and marketing leaders need to rely more heavily on complete, accurate contact data to understand and connect with their audiences. At the same time, budgets for B2B marketing teams are tighter and will be for the foreseeable future. Teams are smaller, resources are finite, and yet leadership’s expectations may not have changed.

With the right data, you can seize control and reach your goals, despite the hurdles caused by the pandemic. It’s a secret weapon most sales and demand gen leaders aren’t maximizing. The key is knowing how to use it.

Use a B2B contact database to strategize and execute more effectively

To be as effective as possible, sales and marketing leaders need to focus on the channels that deliver the highest impact and the highest quality prospects. Leveraging the wealth of information provided by a B2B contact database is the best way to identify the companies and leads that are most likely to generate revenue.

Once you’ve identified those targets, you can use the richness of the data to fortify your lead generation tactics.

Focus on your core buyers

Now’s the time to get really rich data on all of your prospects. If your approach to purchasing third-party data has been to simply focus on basic contact information, it’s time to shift that. High-quality B2B data providers offer much more insight that can help you refine your strategies and target the best prospects.

By using a database of B2B sales leads that contains rich insights on contacts and companies, you can really hone in on who’s most likely and able to buy from you now. The richer the information, the better your ability to filter the data to identify your ideal prospects and segment them easily. You can run more specific filtration on your typical account target list and identify the healthiest businesses. Which ones have the highest revenue growth? What about recent funding? Do you know how much cash they have on hand or if they have high profitability?

We all know that certain businesses, such as transportation and logistics, are seeing increased demand during the pandemic. Others, such as hotels and airlines, have suffered. But that’s not enough. The economic strain caused by the pandemic has also revealed which companies are truly financially sound. The best B2B data platform should make it possible for you to assess which businesses are worth pursuing.

Massive layoffs and organizational changes mean that you need to pay more attention to the individuals you target as well. For example, if you typically go after five personas and one is an economic buyer, go after the economic buyer and the champion.

Refine your collection, database building, and data cleansing practices to focus on your best prospects

With the knowledge that you want to focus only on your best prospects right now, it’s a good time to assess your data collection and cleansing practices. Maintaining a healthy database starts with clearly identified goals. What do you need to know to identify your best leads?

Start by establishing your goals and working backwards from there. If you’re segmenting your existing audience, then you need to slice the data and prioritize it by those that are healthy and growing. Who’s still hiring and growing revenue? Who is profitable? What does their free cash flow look like?

Next, understand where your offering fits within their priorities. Businesses that are at least maintaining financial balance will continue to spend on necessities. Those that are in a financially precarious position are a frustrating waste of your time. It’s better to know that information up front before you spend time reaching out to them. You don’t need to find that out after you start outreach.

Having a well-defined idea of what you need to know will help you sort through the volume of raw data that the best B2B data providers can give you.

B2B database cleansing with third-party data

It’s widely accepted that CRM contact data decays at a rate of about 2% per month. That decay is driven by turnover, job title changes, and organizational changes such as mergers, acquisitions, and closings.

With the current economic upheaval, you should expect that number to be higher. Pandemic-induced job loss isn’t restricted to non-professional level positions. White-collar layoffs began to spike four weeks after shutdowns began. If your CRM system or marketing automation platform charges you per record, then you’re paying unnecessary costs for outdated information. Relying on a third-party data vendor to continually keep your records refreshed with accurate, up-to-date info ensures that you don’t waste budget on out-of-date records and that you don’t waste time targeting leads who aren’t your ideal buyers.

B2B data enrichment and lead enrichment

Cleanliness is one factor to maintaining a database of high-quality contacts. However, so is the completeness of your contact data. Leads are generated by various sources and the amount of data you get on each prospect is inconsistent. Lead enrichment helps you fill in gaps in the information and make the most of every lead you generate. As you generate inbound leads or those entered manually by sales, your B2B data platform “enriches” them by adding additional details for each contact and company.

This process, also known as data enrichment, enables you to make decisions on every lead in your database by starting with the same information.

Use data enrichment to make unknowns known

As companies and their employees are rapidly changing, lead enrichment has become vital to having accurate, up-to-date information on your prospects. So much is changing that you can’t effectively clean up the data in your CRM or marketing automation systems without enrichment. The high-quality lead who downloaded bottom-of-funnel content today could be laid off tomorrow.

The days when people who are disconnected from the budget owner can make decisions are gone. Everyone is watching the budget. The people who could get purchases approved in the past are less likely to get it now.

You can no longer afford to treat all accounts and leads equally. Certain accounts may look great from a size and brand perspective, but who are their customers? If their customers are in an affected industry, or their customers’ customers are, then they won’t have the cash flow to be a good prospect for you. By using data enrichment to bring that information to light, you can focus more closely on the right prospects and provide them with the right content to move them down the funnel.

B2B intent data is no silver bullet, but still a helpful tool

B2B intent data can tell you who may be in the market to buy products like yours based on their online habits. To understand what’s available, look at intent data in two ways: first-party intent data and third-party intent data.

First-party intent data reveals the companies visiting your site and content properties. Sounds ideal, right? Unfortunately, a lot of your website visitors are hard to look up via reverse IP, a problem that’s become even more challenging with the massive shift to remote work. Tantalizing as it may be, you may only get information on 20-30% of the companies who visit your site through a first-party intent data provider.

Third-party intent data is provided by publishers or intent data providers who aggregate content consumption across properties. It provides a broader view of intent in the marketplace, but it’s important to know some providers only have access to a small slice of the information available on the market.

Sites like TechTarget and Capterra can only provide information on visitors to their sites and only cover certain vertical markets. You’ll need to combine their data with other intelligence to get the full picture of intent. Instead, you may find larger aggregate sources are more efficient. Vendors like Bombora have the largest content ecosystem and classically the largest visibility of intent across the US, possibly even the world.

Choosing an intent data vendor

If you’re looking to leverage intent data, you’ll need to look for a reputable provider who has the best information on your ideal buyers who are currently in market, otherwise known as “showing intent.” To do that, you’ll need to do some research and due diligence. This differs depending on the vendor.

When assessing single websites like TechTarget or vendors that own a handful of websites, such as Gartner, who own Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice, you’ll need to determine which of your available options are getting the most organic search and paid search traffic for important mid-funnel and bottom-funnel search queries, like “[your company name] reviews,” “[competitor’s name] reviews,” and “[your service] providers.” This is a fairly easy analysis to perform using SEO software that tracks paid and organic search rankings, such as SEMrush or Ahrefs. Your SEO agency or in-house specialist should be able to set up a report to determine the best option.

On the other hand, there are providers like Bombora, who aggregate data from thousands of different websites, so the search traffic analysis method isn’t practical. Instead, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve read through their supplemental materials, including the Bombora segment taxonomy. These materials are incredibly useful. With the taxonomy, you can ensure that there are already audience segments within their data that are showing buyer intent for your specific products or services.

Optimizing your account-based marketing campaigns with intent and financial data

Once you’ve identified the right intent data provider, use it to prioritize your ABM strategies. Start by identifying your ideal prospects based on the health of their business, as we outlined above. Next, cross-reference that information with your intent data to determine if those prospects are currently in the market for your products or services. Here’s how:

Using both your third-party intent data and first-party intent data, match the accounts you surfaced when identifying your ideal prospects with those that show up each set of your intent data. You’ll be working with multiple data sets, so if your third-party intent data is not provided through your B2B data platform, you’ll need to cross-reference the records manually. This can be done with Excel or using a database and some simple SQL queries. Accounts that match your ideal prospects list as well as any (or all) of your intent data sets will be a good fit for your ABM campaigns.

It’s not unusual for accounts to show up in both your first-party and third-party intent data sets. You should those these accounts with the highest priority, though, because you now have two sources indicating that a contact at the account is in the market for your solution. They’re looking at your company website and comparing you to other vendors on third-party sites. When you check that list against your list of ideal prospects (in terms of their ability to make a purchase), you can confidently focus your sales and marketing efforts on the deals that are most likely to close.

One last note on first-party intent and location data: see if your data provider either supports has an integration with Google Analytics or otherwise provides you information on the city, state, and country associated with the traffic from each account. If so, this location data can be invaluable to Sales, as they can use it to target their outreach efforts to the contacts located in the specific cities from which the traffic showing intent originated.

This part of the process can be time consuming and complicated, but the value of the information you’ll get is worth it. If your resources are too limited to follow the process we outlined above, look for a data vendor that enriches account details with intent scores and keywords to help you prioritize your ABM strategies.

Avoiding bad intent data

You need to sell to people, not just accounts, which is why intent data alone can be inadequate. It’s rare that a provider can surface the intent data, enrich it with additional details, identify where it comes from, and find buyers who meet your ideal persona in those locations. Without knowing which accounts you want to target, and which leads for your ideal persona are within those accounts, you can’t know whether site visitors are decision makers.

At best, it’s unclear who is behind the action indicating intent. At worst, it’s fake data and no one even works for the account at that location. Having your own data on your decision-makers helps you avoid these scenarios.

Both first- and third-party intent data providers should include the city where site visitors are located. Cross-reference that information with your data on your ideal persona to determine whether the person indicating intent is actually in the same location as your ideal buyer. If not, then it’s probably not worth pursuing.

GDPR, data privacy & protection

Buying and using data is a delicate balancing act. Data protection and privacy are under increased scrutiny. No company wants to be associated with data vendors that flout GDPR and CCPA regulations or that don’t adequately protect the data they sell. A good data provider complies with data laws and provides compliant data by leveraging publicly available sources.

We outline how to determine if a data vendor follows ethical, legal practices in our vendor evaluation blog. For now, let’s look at how data privacy and protection affect how you use data.

Data privacy laws place parameters around how you can use data based on how it was acquired. Before adding leads acquired from a third-party vendor to email marketing campaigns, you may need to give them the opportunity to opt in. Depending on where your leads are located, you’ll need to consider GDPR, CCPA, CAN/SPAM, or Canada’s CASL laws for appropriate use. Failing to consider these elements will lead to fines, bad PR, and could lead to having your marketing automation platform shut down.

If you’re going to do corporate outreach in geographies with explicit laws around personal data, you need to take them into consideration. There is one potential workaround. You may not be able to do large scale corporate outreach with those contacts, but your sales people may be able to connect with them directly. One-to-one outreach to targeted accounts can be considered a “legitimate business interest,” which is allowed under GDPR.

Using data effectively for the long term

Eventually, in-person events and meetings will return. But, the techniques you learn during this period will be useful for years to come. Using rich, detailed contact data to target and reach your leads more efficiently is good for the bottom line, whether we’re in an economic crisis or not.

Free Guide: Questions to Ask B2B Data Vendors

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Rob Weedn

Rob Weedn is Founder & CEO of DealSignal. Having worked in B2B marketing and sales for many years, Rob is passionate about helping revenue generating teams meet their goals by providing them with the immaculate contact and account data they need to target, engage, and convert prospects effectively. Follow Rob on Twitter @robweedn.

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