How B2B Marketers Can Use Data For Really Understanding Buyers

Business is pretty simple when you break it all down: brands need people to buy their products or services.

If you mess that part up, chances are, you aren’t going to be in business for all that long.

So why does something so obvious end up being so difficult for many marketers?

Well, the truth is there are actually a couple of answers.

The first is the changing nature of both the sales funnel and consumer behavior. Let’s face it, the internet has changed everything, especially the way people buy. This has caused a lot of problems for more traditional marketers who are trying to stick to the “old ways” of doing things.

Also, marketers are having problems connecting their target buyers. A lot of this lies with the consumer persona. Many marketers just aren’t spending the time to really dig deeply into exactly who their target buyer is, how they operate, and what their brand can do to really reach out to them.

However, one of the most profound issues lie with data. Once again, you can thank technology for that. Now, we’re blasted with data from every angle, sounds like a good thing, right?

Yup, it is, except that most marketers either don’t have the time or the know how to break all those gems down and take the right action.

Here, we’re going to cover all that, giving you a general overview of the types of data out there that marketers can use and how that data can drive deeper and more insightful buyer personas.

Digging Out the Right Data

Marketers are smart. They know that they need to be embracing data and tying that information in with their consumers, the problem goes beyond the how, it also relates to what data needs to be used.

Here’s the thing, though.

A recent study by Gleanster and Yesmail Interactive highlighted that with this amazing stat: “80 percent of consumer-facing companies don’t understand their customers beyond basic demographics and purchase history.”

Too many marketers are relying on a traditional model, they are looking at a tiny pocket of data, things like past transactions and behavior, to predict the future. And while that might have been effective 30 years ago, today, brands who do that are missing out on both potential customers and revenue over the long term.

So how fix it?

Look at the types of data you’re collecting (chances are you can get more), then look for the patterns and connections you see and jump on that.

There are plenty of creative ways your brand can connect with customers and gather data in a way that will provide you with great information, without turning them off.

Big Data vs Little Data

While Big Data (all that quantitative information) is the most popular trend being embraced in marketing offices around the world, there is something to be said for understanding the “little data” as well.

Marketing has one big problem that data can’t solve, it involves humans. Humans, as you’ve probably experienced, can be very unpredictable (not to mention irrational), especially when it comes to buying behaviors and decisions.

So no matter how fancy your big data algorithms might be, the habits, motivations and behaviors of your target buyer could throw all that data out the window. That’s where little data comes into the picture, it’s really important to think about the small stuff as well when it comes to marketing.

No amounts of quantitative data can help to predict those movements, it’s only from close observations and interactions with potential customers that marketers can try to understand them.

Start by collecting the little data by watching your potential customers, see how they act and interact in the marketplace. Also, look to make the product or brand an extension of something your potential customers already like, do or are interested in.

It’s not easy to leave the traditional systems and jump into data and human behavior, but the brands that do will have the best results.

How to Start Embracing Data

Alright, let’s say you’ve been convinced you have to start pulling data in to start really building out solid ideal customer personas, so how do you actually do it?

In order to get started embracing the data, there are three things marketers and brands can do in order to get started.

Make Human Centered Decisions

Yes, there is no doubt that the numbers can be helpful in building a predictive model, but it can also be very difficult to judge actual decisions and behavior based just on that.

Using techniques like tracking how users interact with a brand’s website, or using heat maps to see clicks can provide quite a bit of human based data that can be helpful in understanding the underlying human behaviors.

Getting at the Truth Behind Customer Behavior

It’s not uncommon for words and actions to be different, consumers say they do one thing, and then do the complete opposite. That’s why just relying on surveys and data alone cannot accurately build a complete picture of customers actions.

Sure, information from surveys can help, but don’t rely on the information straight from the mouth of consumers. Instead incorporate whatever information you can about their actual actions as well.

Discovering New Personas

More often than not it will be the qualitative or little data that will reveal something no one had considered about the customer persona.

Looking at both the numbers and the real person behind the numbers can help marketers not only build out very deep and detailed personas, but also highlight new areas the brand might want to explore.

Now that you’re armed with the right data, how can you understand your prospective buyers and start gathering that all important data.

How B2B Businesses Can Connect with Buyers

Today’s buyers are savvier and more well connected than ever. The fear that many marketers have is that they aren’t able to reach buyers as well as they used to.

Not to mention, buyers are also doing quite a bit more research on their own before they buy. In the past, a buyer might have relied on a sales or marketing team to communicate what a product does and how it can work for them, now they can find out that information themselves.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Base One found that upwards of 87% of business to business buyers first did their own research before choosing a supplier.

So the question is, are marketers doing enough to connect and engage with buyers?

Too Many Choices

Buyers now have more choices than ever when it comes to choosing suppliers. And while that is great for the buyer, it can be a problem for suppliers, they can end up getting lost in a sea of choices.

Since buyers are using a number of sources for information now, counting on everything from referrals, web searches, social media to community forums, marketers can end up being at the mercy of others.

Connecting with the Buyer

Buyers are moving deeper and deeper into the buying process before they ever reach out to the supplier. Now suppliers have to be much more involved in producing a huge amount of high quality content.

Frankly, it’s not enough to just toss a few posts up on the blog, it has to be a lot more than that, including guest posting, social media, forums, white papers, webinars, and communities to name a few.

Understanding the Buyer’s Process

There are multiple stages the buyer goes through during the buying lifecycle and at each stage the buyer reacts in a different way. Generally, in the earliest stages, buyers are gathering their own information; reading blogs, checking social media, reading reviews or white papers.

In the later stages, buyers are much more focused on  finding products and services that can fully solve their problem. Once they have that information, generally the focus is directed to comparing and contrasting supplier’s solutions.

Tying it Together

Once you understand how to not only start embracing the data that’s out there, but also using it in the right way to understand and attract customers, you’re going to find your brand ahead of the game.

Instead of relying on old information, or guessing about your ideal personas, dig deep and find out exactly who they are. Then, go out into the places they gather, both on and offline, and target them directly.

You’ll be surprised how much you’ll be able to connect with potential customers and guide them through the sales funnel when you’ve got all the right information.