Data plays a critical role in modern B2B marketing, especially during the planning stage.

You can’t do B2B marketing without insights from analysis. Still, many make the mistake of underestimating its importance because they need to learn more about it or aren’t willing to put in the hours to unlock its full potential.

I’ll break key elements down for you below, starting with what data-driven marketing means. I’ll also cover how to collect data for a data-driven B2B marketing plan, which can take considerable time and effort, but produces great results.

If you prefer to watch, you can check out my video on the topic.

1. What does data-driven marketing mean?

The goal of data-driven marketing is to put data first before you plan your marketing outreach. We, the B2B marketers, tend to put campaign ideas, creative, copy, and storytelling first. (Or at least I tend to do that first.)

If we need to push out an email campaign, we immediately start thinking about what we want to say and what the email will look like, so we don’t necessarily put data front and center.

We may set up goals and success metrics in advance. Still, we wait much later to start talking about how to collect analytics from the actual results of our marketing campaigns. I do that all the time.

And I get it; the bells and whistles are often more fun than getting into the nitty gritty of what many consider boring, tedious, or even hard-to-interpret statistics.

But the logic behind data-driven marketing is to align the process of tracking the end goals at the same time as you start creating your campaign plan.

This kind of thinking sets you up for long-term success, and I guarantee that’s something you’ll appreciate down the road.

Make things easier by proactively thinking ahead about where the actual data will come from, and make sure you know where to get the data so that you can provide management with updates in real-time or regularly.

If this differs from your area of expertise, enlist the help of a dedicated data analyst. If the budget doesn’t allow for such a specialized position, enlist the help of someone from your team who may be better equipped to crunch the numbers.

Don’t wait until the last minute to do so. Content and creative concepts are essential, but data collection and analytics are equally important, especially in the digital world. It’s time to shift our mindsets to match the current marketing landscape.

2. How should you go about gathering data for your plan?

There are two straightforward ways to gather data for your marketing strategy.

If you know what you want to accomplish and what metrics to use to measure your success, you can gather data based on that.

If that’s the case, you’re lucky to save some time and effort, but in most cases, you might need to do more legwork to determine what you’re looking for.

When you don’t know what you want to accomplish and how you want to measure your marketing efforts, you need to talk to your internal stakeholders and management team to understand their expectations.

You don’t want to be going in blind circles, so take adequate time to set up chats with key players. Also, be sure to do your homework beforehand, so you’re coming into your meetings well-informed and prepared to make the most of your discussions.

The data-driven insights can also be used to communicate with your management; you can quantifiably show why you’ve decided to make certain recommendations about your marketing efforts. That way, you’ll be able to back up your decisions and make even better choices in the future based on concretely proven successes.

Here are some examples of internal data that will help your marketing plan:

  • Your company’s goals and business objectives.
  • The organization-wide marketing objectives, if any.
  • Primary marketing research conducted by your product or marketing research teams, messaging testing, persona research, etc.
  • Past campaign results.
  • Your stakeholders’ and management’s concerns and expectations.

In addition to sharing your marketing recommendations, a big part of your B2B marketing plan should be based on addressing stakeholders’ needs and concerns.

Of course, you’ll only know those needs and concerns if you take the time to engage with your stakeholders in interviews. I gave a rundown of tips and tricks to use when interviewing your stakeholders in my YouTube series Coffee Break with Pam; check out the video here to ensure you make the most of everyone’s valuable time and insights.

External data, meanwhile, could look like the following three examples:

  • Technology and trend reports
  • Competitive analysis
  • Industry case studies or best practices

In general, talking to your customers to understand their expectations and the existing gaps and studying the trends and past results will give you ideas on how to lay out your plan more effectively.

Once you have ideas on what to recommend and address, you’ll know what data to use to substantiate your recommendations.

Think of your plan as a way to answer a list of questions your stakeholders have logically and coherently.

3. How can you analyze and correlate the data?

This question is a bit harder to answer because it depends on what data you gather.

Obviously, that will look different for everyone, so it’s difficult to make a blanket statement about how to analyze and correlate your specific results. The key is not to look at the data points separately.

For example, say the website traffic increased by 100%, yet contact sales requests went down. You want to find out why, but there could be multiple reasons that you need to take into account.

As such, you’ll need to go into doctor/detective mode to investigate various possible causes. It’s often more than a one-and-done deal.

For instance, you may need to look into the number of blog posts produced or pieces of content created during that time. Maybe the website traffic has something to do with the increased frequency of new content or social media posts. Most pieces of content focus on building brand awareness without strong calls-to-action of contacting sales. Or most sales requests come from webinars, but you haven’t done any webinars for three months.

You need to be able to look at data collectively to explain what you will do to improve and why.

This will help you to build realistic long-term marketing goals. There may be a lot to comb through in making a proper diagnosis, but taking the time to do it well should help you take the right steps towards success moving forward.

Remember, studying the data you gather is just as time-consuming as gathering it. Allow your team adequate time to analyze and internalize the information you gather, or there isn’t much point. It’s not always the most glamorous job, but the payoff is huge in most cases.

Here are AdRoll’s top picks for the best data-driven marketing tools that will help you raise your ROI.

The plus side of data-driven marketing is that it allows you to take the time to gather and analyze the data properly; as a result, you can create a plan that is sensible and supported by various data points, which will set you up for success.

Of course, gut feelings still count here, and hunches aren’t irrelevant. However, you still need to find a logical way to explain why the team or management should go with those gut feelings and hunches. To demonstrate that, it’s essential that you back yourself up with strong data.

All is possible with data-driven marketing. Even if it can feel boring or daunting to dig into data analytics, it’s a step that should never be skipped or underestimated. Remember, data is your BFF when you create your marketing plan.

I’d love to hear the results of your experience shifting to data-driven marketing, so don’t be a stranger – drop me a line on social media or email me.

What can Pam Didner do for you?

Being in the corporate world for 20+ years and having held various positions from accounting and supply chain management, and marketing to sales enablement, she knows how corporations work. She can make you and your team a rock star by identifying areas to shine and do better. She does that through private coaching, keynote speaking, workshop training, and hands-on consulting. Contact her or find her on LinkedIn and Twitter. A quick note: Check out her new 90-Day Revenue Reboot, if you are struggling with marketing.