We all know that data is the key to digital marketing but there are some significant distinctions between B2C and B2B digital marketing that often get glossed over.

What’s more, when business marketers use techniques and technologies built for the consumer world, it can put them at a major disadvantage.

Think Companies, Not Individuals 

That’s because B2B marketers can find themselves working in a digital space that has been built to target individuals in households rather than individuals within an organization. 

When B2C brand marketers target customers, they usually seek out large groups to target against one or two disparate data points. For example, they might look for millennials who work in New York City or soccer moms who live in the suburbs of Chicago.

By contrast, what matters most to B2B marketers is the ability to create a context for where individual information fits at the company level. So instead of targeting attributes, B2B marketers must develop a 360-degree perspective that incorporates not only individuals, but the organizations they work for as well.

Don’t Buy Lists

Past iterations of B2B marketing — particularly account-based marketing (ABM) — would simply try to reach anyone within an organization. Marketers would buy lists of email addresses and phone numbers that might include anyone from the mailroom clerk to the CEO, often without identifying information as to titles and departments. 

This tactic was virtually guaranteed to be inefficient and wasteful, to say nothing of its potential to annoy many uninvolved parties along the way. 

Find the Purchase Influencers 

What B2B marketers should be doing instead is striving to reach the precise individuals who can influence purchase decisions relevant to the products or solutions they’re selling. For instance, a company selling cloud security solutions shouldn’t target everyone with an “@company” email address but rather, make an effort to identify only relevant individuals in the IT and purchasing departments.

But that’s no easy task.

Beware of Retargeting

The B2C practice of retargeting illustrates the challenge. If a customer shops for a pair of headphones at an online store, he will see ads for those headphones across the web for the next 90 days. 

Unfortunately, the account-focused B2B marketer can’t just retarget a single shopper and expect results because there’s no easy, reliable way to tell whether that shopper is an influential part of a company’s buying committee or a summer intern. The shopper may not even work at the target company or have moved on to another job. 

Assemble Multi-Source Data

That’s why it’s so vital for B2B marketers to combine data from a number of sources to identify the exact individuals who play an active role in purchase decision making and approval at a prospect company.

To do that, the B2B marketer must know which individuals have clicked, what they clicked on and which company they’re from in order to recognize whether they’re in the market and if so, target them with appropriate messages.

Build a 360-Degree View 

Fortunately, there is a tremendous amount of B2B data available. B2B marketers need to rely on first-party data from their own CRM as well as site analytics, but they must also be prepared to supplement those inputs with generous amounts of second- and third-party data to build out a comprehensive customer view.

In addition to data — and a Data Management Platform (DMP) robust enough to process it — it’s paramount to have a strong overall understanding of the market. With that knowledge, B2B marketers will have the ability to select data points that are relevant, rather than getting overwhelmed or lost in the weeds.

By being strategic and choosing the right data sets to build out those profiles, your B2B marketing efforts can yield the necessary 360-degree insights to drive powerful results. 

Title image by Fabian Blank