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How big data limits B2B marketers’ impact

Advances in data analytics promises more access to more information than most B2B marketers could ever hope for. But will this world of big data actually make marketers less effective when it comes to driving growth?

Setting aside the whole issue that big data doesn’t automatically mean big insight, let’s look at where big data can help – and where it just might hurt.

First, where can big data really deliver on the hype for B2B marketers?

When it comes to understanding customers, customer satisfaction, and loyalty, the emergence of big data and analytics likely can perform better and deliver greater return than other methods of monitoring this information, like survey research.  Assuming, of course, that the company has systems in place to capture and mine the data in the first place.

Most companies are good at capturing detailed information about interaction with customers, whether it’s orders, contacts with account reps, or support.  Many companies are even pretty good about tracking interactions with prospects.  What that means is there will be plenty of rich data on customers – and probably on many prospects – to work with.  By mining this data, B2B marketers will no doubt be able to gain a deeper understanding of their customers than ever before.

Unfortunately, that data – as rich as it is – isn’t the whole story.

What about customers’ interactions with competitors?

What about the people who aren’t buying from you?

What about opportunities to capture new business through new use cases or integration with other parts of the supply chain?

In the diagram to the left, the shaded areas are the parts of the total market where marketers are most likely to have the data to mine.  That leaves a rather large portion of the market where big data and analytics won’t help you.

Yes, B2B marketers can drive incremental gains in revenue and profitability by leveraging data on current customer behavior. But, for most companies most of the time, the real growth comes from new products for new uses among new markets.

Big data and analytics won’t help here because the data doesn’t exist to extract insights from.

So, yes, big data and analytics should be an important part of the tool kit, but relying too heavily on internal databases will blind you to the biggest opportunities.

About the Author

Ed Erickson is the President of Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm. You can find Ed on LinkedIn and .

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