Companies have recognised that big data is the segue for a strategic competitive advantage. Data has become the accelerator that has enabled businesses to gain a 360-degree view of their customers, allowing for greater control of the customer journey, increased influence on buying propensity, smarter analytics-based decision making and data-driven sales. Data processing techniques are becoming more sophisticated and are providing companies with the opportunity to discover massive efficiencies, cost savings and sales opportunities. The question for many organisations is: do they have the right technologies in place to leverage big data for alignment of the sales and marketing functions, ensuring better selling capacity?
According to a recent report by Forbes (summarised in this article by V12 Data):
‘Companies who adopt data-driven marketing are more likely to have an advantage over the competition and increase profitability. In fact – they are six times more likely to be profitable year-over-year. ‘
The significant opportunity is through a much more comprehensive integration of sales and marketing. Adopting a data-driven approach to both and having these two, sometimes disparate, functions work closely together is crucial to enterprise sustainability in the future. Analysis, predictive analytics, machine learning, sentiment analysis and seamless IT solutions are critical for innovation and growth.
Current market trends and what they mean for business
Buyer behaviour is in a constant state of evolution. The internet has been a massive disrupter, and enabler, in providing consumers with information at the tips of their fingers, anytime – day or night, with the ability to compare prices, service offerings, products and reviews. Social media has changed the game yet again. The rise of the social influencer has sparked an unprecedented change in how people interact online, including what platforms they use, how information is shared and importantly how it has influenced the buyer journey. Incredibly, laypeople can now develop followings of tens of thousands of people and attract the advertising spend of big business.
The result is an increasingly empowered customer with a lot more choice about how and when they purchase with a lot more information on which to base their decision-making. Although the examples given above sit mostly within the B2C market, they also hold true for B2B consumers, as buyer behaviour paradigms also carry over to their professional lives.
Innovative businesses are evolving and proactively seeking to understand the buyer journey better, thus expanding their market share via better alignment with real-time customer needs and wants.
A strategic business vision that seeks to understand customers and accounts better, that looks at sales timelines and addresses who and what is influencing buying decisions is paramount. This knowledge helps direct communications to customers at the most influential touchpoints along the buying journey. This laser-like alignment of value with the needs of the customer delivers increased value and positive customer experience, in turn resulting in stronger sales and most importantly, greater customer loyalty.
It is the task of every business to understand the buyer journey and communicate with customers at key stages to stay front of mind so that they remain within their consideration set.
The alignment of sales and marketing provides the basis of a competitive advantage
The outdated sales and marketing paradigms that include batch and blast marketing followed by pushy sales techniques are no longer relevant. Companies must be agile and leverage other ways that provide useful and meaningful interactions and content.
Marketing plays a key role in overall business strategy and planning. A challenge for many businesses is that they do not see marketing as a profit centre that contributes to revenue. This becomes hugely apparent when looking at multi-million-dollar companies with small marketing teams. This position exposes the underbelly of an organisation as it indicates a lack of innovation and investment, opening it up to competitive ploys that seek to wrest market share via more assertive repositioning strategies.
This shift requires more than a revised strategy is also requires technology to support it. For example, in creating bespoke customer journeys, a sophisticated Marketing Automation tool is required as manual processes will not cut it when attempting to build scale.
The bottom line is that with the successful implementation of marketing technology such as automation, predictive website content and personalisation, companies can see double digit increases in conversion.
Getting serious about customer experience
According to the Customer Experience (CX) Benchmarking Report 2019: APAC (Customer Experience Asia Summit 2018), the number one global CX challenge for 2019 is: ‘Building a customer-first culture’ and the number one global CX investment for 2019 is: ‘Customer journey mapping’. This mapping is critical as it allows companies to better understand their customers needs and wants. Without these insights’ companies are relying upon often personal or unsubstantiated judgment as to what customers want.
Companies that fail to deliver experiences that meet the expectations of consumers will create a misalignment that will be interpreted by the consumer as a loss of value and utility. This gap will manifest as dissonance that will eventually erode brand equity and goodwill. The gap may be slight, although over time the consumer will start to distance themselves with brands that don’t align with their values. This distance may lead to a chasm that eventually will require significant shifts to mend and which may not even be achievable in the future.
A brand that successfully navigated change in response to an evolving marketplace and customer demand is Kodak. The advent of digital cameras and online software could have tolled a death knell for this company, and certainly, they had to re-invent who they were and what they meant to customers. From being a company that made cameras and developed photos, the brand has evolved into the following:
Science meets creativity. We deliver scientific innovation that helps everyone create. Water-saving offset printing plates. Efficient print workflow software. The world’s fastest industrial inkjet printing solutions. Advanced materials for healthcare, light management, 3D printing and alternative energy productivity. Film for industrial manufacturing applications. Film and digital imaging for movie directors, photographers, and you.
The key to transforming customer experience is available to all companies
If the above ‘state of play’ feels overwhelming, the good news is that nearly every business already has, or has the potential to tap into information that will help create and nurture much more positive and meaningful customer experiences.
Capturing data and unifying systems
The most powerful solution for most businesses is the unification of front and back-end systems including drawing together data and processes from systems such as ERP, CRM, marketing automation, field services and commerce. Once these systems can all ‘talk’ to each other and – more importantly – provide insights with precise, relevant and real-time information about customers – businesses will be able to reap the benefits of data-driven marketing and sales.
Unifying these systems can be one of the most expensive and challenging undertakings a company can embark upon. Often, it’s not a question of if, rather than when this will be done, and the answer will have repercussions for years to come and will inevitability influence future revenue.
The technology chosen will also impact success although in the short term it’s the chosen implementation partner that will play a fundamental role in determining the cost of any implementation – which can blow out rapidly with the wrong choice, as history shows.
Leveraging data to give a clearer picture of what customers are doing and how they behave and respond will arm businesses with an ability to act on factual intelligence, gain greater market share and significant competitive advantage. Once the framework and systems requirements have been established, leveraging the technology stack to process and analyse company and customer data becomes crucial to success.
As discussed, the marketing function must act as a profit centre and to deliver upon this, it must contribute to bolstering sales pipelines via increased lead generation, as well as the delivery of data visualisations to sales teams. For example, Marketing Automation is much more than a tool that is used to automate communications – it also delivers many powerful analytical tools that enable sales teams to be more effective in the field through the manipulation and analysis of customer data.
The ultimate solution will invariably include integration between CRM and MA platform where MA platforms will perform various calculations and apply predictive models and machine learning. This data once computed will then be pushed to the sales teams via the CRM as usable tables, graphs and actions.
For example, Whitespace Analysis allows businesses to compare an existing customer against a ‘lookalike ideal’ customer. If existing customers are spending less than their ‘lookalikes’, it can be assumed that they are either unaware of a particular product or service, or they could be buying it somewhere else. This Whitespace ‘gap’ presents a significant opportunity for business to enhance their customers’ experience through greater product and service offering and awareness, enhanced brand recognition and in turn, maximise company revenue and profit.
Relationship analysis allows the analysis of the real strength of customer connections. Using key performance indicators (KPIs) including customer revenue and customer loyalty, this provides a visual, interactive way of seeing very clearly the relationships that customers have with the company throughout their journey.
Margin decomposition allows for detailed reports regarding how pocket margin is achieved for every invoice and every customer. It includes a breakdown of all invoices, revenue and gross margin. Pocket margin analysis shows the true profitability of any transaction, which is invaluable in how it informs and influences sales strategies.
Customer stratification provides visibility into best-performing customers and those who have the most upside potential. Via a portfolio analysis, you can see a ‘scorecard’ of each customers’ performance. This can help devise target marketing messages and sales approach in a much more focused and effective way. By ranking customers, executives can then make informed decisions about where to pitch higher-priced products, who is innovating, what legislative changes may come in to play and where to pitch core products …all in all enabling a drill down into where the opportunities for new profits lie.
Why companies fail to adopt a data-driven sales
There is a misconception that marketing technology is only relevant for consumer brands. This is a dangerous belief as over time the misalignment between the business offerings and customer expectations will grow.
The challenge business face is like that of the boiling frog.
The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
(Web source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog)
The problem with this is that it takes time to innovate, adapt and develop maturity with data-driven technologies such as Marketing Automation. If companies delay, they may not have the required time in years to come.
Many companies stumble when there is a lack of strategic planning placed upon the implementation of their systems. Without planning and foresight with their various IT systems, they will not be able to take advantage of all the data sources and therefore lack a complete view of their customers.
Aligning sales and marketing through technology that leverages data to gain a 360 view of the customer is integral to new age business success. Data driven sales enable competitive advantage in an ever-evolving and sophisticated market. By accessing and analysing customer behaviour throughout the buyer journey and optimising strategic touchpoints along the way, businesses gain a far greater chance of enhancing customer experiences and gaining customer loyalty than ever before.