Brand is still important. However, modern marketers need to be comfortable using data in order to help their organization engage high likely buyers.
Four of the top five most valuable brands are technology companies, according to Forbes. Apple tops Forbes’ list, and is followed by Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM. Ultimately, a great brand drives sales, high margin and profitability (as the lines outside Apple Stores show over and over again).
Where did all of these branding dollars go?
However, getting a strong brand awareness that pulls buyers in is a long and hard journey. Becoming top of mind for potential buyers takes a lot of upfront investment and a long time to show results. However, unlike B2C companies that address a large audience, B2B companies target a relatively small and well-defined niche.
In B2B organizations, sales-marketing alignment is critical for the organization to be able to meet its revenue target. Branding activities are typically viewed unfavorably by the sales organization that questions their contribution to revenue. This is further exacerbated by the fact that measuring branding results is not straightforward—organic traffic, branded keyword searches or brand surveys may have value, but they don’t show contribution to business and revenue objectives.
Therefore, B2B marketers that are too focused on branding find themselves facing questions from management and specifically Sales about the value that they bring to the organization. This puts marketers in a defensive position of being a “cost center” rather than having a seat at the revenue table.
Still, marketers are focused on branding, as branding is what they are trained to do. According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the most important objective for content marketing is brand awareness. Lead generation only comes second.
In an age where marketers are tasked with doing more with less, generating brand awareness without real accountability for revenue hurts marketers’ credibility. In fact, most organizations would find it hard to add more resources to branding without any hard evidence that it contributes to revenue objectives.
Engage the people who matter
Enter marketing data. Data lets marketers optimize all of their marketing efforts towards revenue objectives and get back the credibility that they deserve. Using marketing data that is collected inside and outside the organization, marketers can now prove that they are bringing in relevant sales leads (and ultimately customers) and that these leads have multiple touches with the brand before they are passed to Sales and turn into revenue.
In B2B, where target audience is typically very focused and well defined, Data lets marketers prove that they are engaging relevant potential buyers. In addition, it lets them prove the value of branding campaigns and their ability to push prospects down the funnel towards purchase.
In fact, in B2B, general brand awareness is meaningless without the data. A student who is very interested in working for a company and has downloaded a whitepaper is a very different lead than a qualified buyer. Our ads and brand message may resonate with a wide audience, but is it really convincing potential buyers? These are the questions that can be answered with data.
One great application of data-driven marketing for B2B is predictive lead scoring, which is a part of predictive marketing. Predictive lead scoring allows companies to identify people with high likelihood to buy and invest more money and effort in engaging them.
Predictive lead scoring takes advantage of data from the company database, which is enriched with data from the web and social networks. The data is then crunched using sophisticated machine learning algorithms. The result is a score that signify the prospect’s likelihood to buy.
For example, ReadyTalk, which makes high quality web conferencing technology, was looking for a way to generate campaigns that resonate with potential buyers. The marketing team decided to apply predictive marketing. Using Mintigo, ReadyTalk identified potential buyers in their database and targeted them with a top of the funnel email campaign.
Results were impressive. Email open rate increased by 33%, from 15% to 20%, as compared to targeting their full database. Email click-through rate increased by 118%, from 1.65% to 3.60%. Unlike brand awareness alone, engaging qualified buyers has a direct contribution to revenue. These prospects that clicked were pre-identified as likely buyers. Now, they can be sent to Sales, with higher probability to convert into paying customers.
Branding is powerful and ultimately contributes to sales and your bottom line. However, marketers need to gain credibility by showing that they are engaging the right people and that these people have high likelihood to end up as customers. Predictive marketing helps to ensure that top of the funnel campaigns are not only engaging, but are also bringing your next buyer.
About Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne Hopkins is the Senior VP of Marketing and CMO at Continuum Managed Services. She was Vice President of Marketing at HubSpot, where her marketing leadership helped the company become the second fastest-growing software company in the Inc. 500, by generating over 50,000 net new leads each month. She was also CMO of SmartBear and MECLabs, owner of MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments and InTouch, as well as Senior Director, Marketing Programs and Communications for Symmetricom.
Follow Jeanne on Twitter @jeannehopkins.